As a new member I was turned off by having asked questions that were either voted down right away, put on hold, and have just now gotten to the pages defining what is and is not acceptable on the site. Would it not be better if new members were sent to a page which would help them before they feel insulted because their questions or answers were voted down or put on hold? It's just a thought that it might be beneficiary for the site.
You raise a very good point.
In addition to what the others have said, There is, for users with enough reputation, a "review" queue that exists solely for the purpose of providing more experienced members a place to help moderators out. One of the items that reviewers can look at is "First posts". when a new user posts anything, they show up in that queue, and a more experienced user can provide some guidance to help newcomers "learn the ropes".
I spend most of my time reviewing new posts for just that purpose. I'm not sure how long it took me to "get" this site but I know it wasn't in the first month, or even two. I, and several others do our best to try to welcome new users and guide them to posts exactly like what you're asking about. My typical greeting includes links to at least the first two, if not all three of the following posts:
I have to apologize because it seems you weren't pointed to these links. I went back and took a look at your question/answer history, and I see no links pointing you to these at all. My guess is that your original posts were of sufficient quality that nobody thought you needed the guidance.
At any rate, I'd like to suggest and ask that more of the regular users, with sufficient rep to do so and a desire to help newcomers learn the ropes, also take time to visit the review queue to help newcomers. before doing so, please see fredsbend's post Why are some people reviewing new posts and not directing them to the meta and help pages? - I think it also raises a very good point.
I think the best thing those of us with sufficient privileges can do is to consistently point out the guidelines in as friendly a way as possible, to help newcomers get it without making them feel "picked on." The review queue is a good tool for identifying newcomers and posts in need of assistance.
For those of you that do not yet have enough reputation to see the review queue that I'm referring to, here's a screenshot:
(The blocked out section is just the list of users who have recently completed reviews. I didn't think it appropriate to share those without their express permission.)
The link on the word "you" in "Christianity.StackExchange is moderated by you" points here.
It's a really good thought actually, but you aren't the first to think of it. In fact just such a system is already implemented. First time visitors are greeted with some very prominent banners and other redirects pointing out some site basics. Whatever page content you came for is still there but there is a huge push to get new visitors familiar with the system.
The issue is that people really don't tend to care because they think they know how all internet communes are. It usually isn't until they've actually stumbled around a little bit before they start paying attention to the documentation.
You might try it in a browser that is logged out of your account. Drop by using your browser's incognito (or similar) mode to see what a new visitor sees.
Caleb made a great answer. I would just like to add a thought:
Most people are just after cake. Combine that with the near instant gratification that the internet provides, very few users are willing to do anything that is not exactly what they want to do anyway. If they are the kind of person that starts fiddling with the DVD player before looking at the manual (which most people are) then they are not going to read the intro pages until after a few users tell them they made a crummy post and show them why.
It would be great if everybody read the about page and a few select meta posts before posting, but that is just not going to happen, pretty much ever.
What does happen and is somewhat easy to do is that they post something that is close to site policies and can be salvaged. Simply comment, link to a relevant meta post, link to the about page if they are new to SE, and encourage them to come back and try again or work on the post that is crummy.
Perhaps we could implement a captcha that asks multiple-choice questions about site policy. Not to weed out robots, but to encourage new users to read the introductory material. Example:
Based on the help page "What topics can I ask about here?", which of the following is not on topic for this site?
1. History of Christianity
2. How specific groups interpret passages from the Bible
3. Which denomination is the best
4. Opinions of famous Christian theologians
This is comparable to how, in the exciting world of tertiary education, students may be asked to complete a short quiz at the beginning of the course, based on the content of the syllabus. (Questions like: What is the name of your professor? What procedure do I follow for grade disputes? When is the final exam?)
Just an idle thought.