We’re hearing from many churches across the country that attendance is increasing and new people are attending every week.
The first time someone visits your church, the primary decision they’re evaluating is whether or not they’re going to return the following weekend. So how do we truly connect with these new guests and increase the likelihood of them coming back?
In our work consulting with hundreds of churches, we’ve found some common practices that can help you make a successful, lasting connection with a new guest:
#1: Make sure they know you’re expecting them.
When it comes to welcoming new guests, the goal is to put them at ease and make them feel like this is a place where they fit in. That’s why it’s important to find that balance of not overwhelming or underwhelming them as they take their first steps to attend your church. You make people feel welcome when you:
- Select the right team members. The best guest services team members are those that have a high EQ, have the gift of hospitality, and reflect the diversity of your church.
- Train your guest service team well. If you want them to do more than open a door and say hello, it’s important to cast vision around what you want the experience to feel like and train them on those expectations. When not trained well, it’s common to see guest service team members more actively talking to one another than keeping their focus on new attenders.
- Remember that not every guest wants to become known immediately. When designing your “parking lot to seat” experience, instead of trying to call out new people (“flash your lights if you’re new”), put your focus on creating a welcoming experience that is remarkable for all attendees.
- Welcome them in your service, and help them know what to expect. Do this early in the service, not after they’ve already stood through 30 minutes of announcements and singing.
- Evaluate all of the language you use through the lens of a new person. “Church people” tend to use words and terms that are unfamiliar to people outside the church. Picture someone you know outside the church or faith: What words would you choose when talking with them?
#2: Communicate a clear, easy next step.
Rarely do guests come to a single church service, decide to follow Jesus, and then sign up to serve or join a group. It could happen, but most people attend several services before they are ready for a next step. When it comes to helping people take their first next step, we recommend you:
- Think smaller. Instead of joining a serve team or a small group as a first next step, what are some smaller engagement steps people can take towards getting involved in the life of your church?
- Make your first steps low commitment and low relationship. Time is a huge commodity for people, and being around new people can be stressful. What experience could you create that minimizes people’s initial time and relational commitment?
- Focus on “becoming known” by simply asking for their name vs. an email, connect card, etc.
- Offer a step that can be acted on immediately (ex. Victory Hill Church offers “New to Victory” a 5 minute follow up after every service).
- After they take their first step, don’t miss the opportunity to clearly communicate the opportunities for another step.
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#3: Give them a good reason to come back.
People are drawn to the remarkable, and if they walk away from your service feeling like they learned something relevant and meaningful, they’re more likely to come back. Rather than focusing on creative strategies to make sure guests return, make sure you:
- Offer a relevant, applicable message every single Sunday.
- Use humor and illustrations to make your message accessible.
- Tailor your message to those both new and old in the faith.
- Invite them to join you again next week, and make your invitation compelling—explaining what value they can expect to find at next week’s service.
Curious what your first-time guest experience is really like? We include a full “Secret Shopper” report at the beginning of the Unstuck Process. Learn how it works.