Anticipation? Expectation? A little bit of nausea? A combination of the three? Someone visiting your church for the first time can experience a wide variety of feelings and emotions as they enter the unknown abyss.
Will they know anyone? Will the things they’ve heard about your church prove true, or will they be surprised by something different?
As church leaders, it is paramount that we develop healthy, organic responses to first time church visitors within our church family.
Here’s a brilliant thought…
Your church cannot possibly grow unless it has first time visitors that come back.
So how will you handle them? Will it be an obligation or a delight? Will it be accidental or intentional?
In your quest for church growth, here are 7 simple but attainable ways to make sure those first time church visitors don’t become one time church visitors.
1. Remember their names.
I’ll admit it, I stink at this. I will literally ask a visitor for their name, and by the end of the conversation I will have forgotten.
Unless, of course, I’m intentional with my memory.
If I walk into the introduction with the goal of remembering their name, it’s much more likely to happen.
Do whatever it takes. Write it down, tap it into your smartphone notes, record a voice memo, etc. If you greeted that guest on their way in, and you say goodbye to them by name on the way out, it speaks volumes. It says “You’re not a number, you’re a life, and you matter to us.”
2. Give attention to the workflow.
This is such a key point. We’ve got to think through the visitor workflow in our churches. Are we saving our best parking spots for them? What questions will they have upon arrival? What are their needs? How will we interact with them?
Take the time to think it through, plan it, and empower your church to live it out.
Determine where the potential snags are in your visitor workflow. Where could they potentially get “stuck?” Then, plan on ironing out those friction points to maintain a smooth journey.
3. Make sure their kids have an amazing experience.
If junior leaves the nursery screaming and crying with a dirty diaper, what kind of statement has that made?
Alternatively, if the kids come out of children’s church with the royal treatment begging mom and dad to come back next week, what message is that going to relay?
This doesn’t typically happen by accident – it’s got to be planned. Empower your children’s ministry workers to have a visitor workflow as well. Make sure those kids have a fantastic experience, and everybody will win!
4. Don’t do weird things.
Your church family may love the tradition of calling out first-time church visitors and having them bring their families up on the platform for introduction, but listen … don’t do it.
If you embarrass that first time church visitor or their spouse (even worse), you can pretty much bank on them not returning.
I understand there are cultural variances on this, but for the most part, plan on respecting the privacy of first time visitors. You’ll certainly want to get their contact information, but keep it really simple.
If the visitor’s card feels more like a home mortgage application, it’s not going to happen. Usually a name, address, and email address will suffice. If your email game is on point, you may even get away with collecting only a name and email address.
5. Be real.
While I understand the ambiguous undertones of this statement, my point is this: be yourself and allow others to be themselves. Now if you are weird, there will definitely be a conflict with my previous point, but keep yourself in check!
If your treatment of first time church visitors feels canned, routine, or forced, it will be obvious.
When it comes to first time visitors in your church, nothing will substitute for a genuine heart that is full of the love of God. If you love God, you will love who He loves, and He loves people. If you don’t love people or at least have a desire to love people, consider a career change!
6. Answer their questions.
Those visitors have questions. They may not be asking them, but they do have them. Answer as many of them as you can through the various touch points during the workflow.
Enlist your greeters to share key information with visitors such as child care specifics or restroom and sanctuary locations. If you can answer those questions before they are asked, you’ll communicate great organizational vibes.
7. Pray with them.
They didn’t come to be entertained. If they wanted to be entertained, they could have stayed home and watched television. They are here at your church because they have needs, burdens, and life issues, and they are hoping that God can help. Ask them what those are and pray with them about them. Connect with them on a spiritual level, not just a customer level.
This blog post has not entered into gifts and follow-up procedures, although they certainly have an important place in the visitor workflow. Check out one of my other posts to read my thoughts on those.
The main goal of this article is to deliver easy actionable reminders on interacting with the first time church visitors in your place of worship. Be in tune with the Holy Spirit of God, and allow Him to direct your steps, thoughts, actions, and reactions.
Love people where they are, and prepare yourself to be involved in taking them to where God wants them to be!