I saw an ad on Facebook for 52 Churches while scrolling one night. The premise of visiting a new church every week for a year interested me, so I quickly picked up the book and began reading.

From the first chapter, I was sucked in. It ended up being the perfect book to pick up and read between tasks. Since it was a narrative about his experience instead of a heavier theoretical book, it was easy to get into and easy to concentrate on.

Peter DeHaan and his wife, Candy, set out to visit 52 different churches in one year. They visited Christian churches of different denominations, all within ten miles of their home. Some of the churches were extremely small and a few churches on their journey were extremely large.

Throughout their journey, Peter reflects on what each church did to invite or alienate guests. In many cases, the lack of human connection was the biggest obstacle for churches to make guests feel welcome. While having assigned greeters is nice, he felt that more people should have been making an effort to welcome newcomers.


Impressions Before Visiting

Many churches are scaring away potential visitors before they even enter the doors. Out-of-date websites and poor communication proved to be an issue during the DeHaans’ journey.

In several cases, emails and phone calls were left unreturned and they had to hope the information online was up-to-date enough that they wouldn’t be late. One of the churches replied several months after their visit to confirm the time. That certainly doesn’t help!

Most shocking was one church that intentionally misled them about the service time. When Candy called to confirm the time, they were adamant that it was an earlier time. The DeHaans showed up to a “service” that had music and a lesson. At the end of the hour, the speaker announced that the service would start in ten minutes.

The person Candy talked to on the phone had tricked them to get them to go to Sunday School! Peter writes that he probably would have left, had it not been for their commitment to see the service and document it for his journey.

A Good Read for Church Staff & Board Members

I highly recommend this book for church staff and board members to read together. It’s easy to read, which means people who aren’t usually big readers will have an easier time engaging with the material.

This book provides a lot of insight into what visitors are seeing when they visit a church. It covers things like friendliness, facility layout, church cleanliness, and congregational practices. If your church is looking for ways to better engage guests, the insights in this book would be a helpful place to start.


Overview: This was a very good book! It kept me engaged from start to finish. I also found myself relating to the author a lot, as some of his pet peeves about things were very similar to my own. His insights and feedback for churches would be extremely helpful for church leadership.

Writing Style: I would describe his writing style as cleaned-up conversational. It was polished but also felt like he was just sitting across from me and telling me about his experience.

Intended Audience: Church-going Christians

Theological Tradition: Protestant. He really dislikes the idea of denominations and finds value in many expressions of faith, but his upbringing is Protestant.

Mature Content: None

Other Books by Author: There are too many to list. A few include Jesus’s Broken Church, Women of the Bible, and Shopping for Church.

Recommend? Absolutely! This is going onto my list of great reads for church leadership to consider.