Will the guests at your worship gathering this weekend come back? There is no way to guarantee that everyone who visits will become actively involved in your church. But if you can surprise and delight them by adopting this simple strategy, they will have a good reason to show up again next week.
Put Friendly People At The Front Door
Walking into a new place is a stressful experience. As a military kid, I have walked into more than my fair share of new schools. And as someone who prefers introverted behavior, walking into unfamiliar environments is anything but awesome.
So let's assume that your guests are nervous walking in the door. Will this be good? Will anyone talk to me? Will they try to, I don't know, hug me? A simple solution is to have a team of people whose goal is to help every person feel like they belong.
Choose friendly people who smile, make good eye contact and are not afraid to say 'hello' to strangers. And because these are strangers avoid culturally intrusive practices. If you live in a city where strangers hug and kiss each other, then by all means recruit some huggers and kissers. But for most of us, both hugs and kisses from people we do not know is irksome. And you don't want to be irksome, right? Most likely, a hello and a handshake will suffice.
A few basic principles to teach and reinforce with this team:
- You are responsible for anyone within ten feet of you.
- Focus on people whose names you do not know. Do not ignore friends and acquaintances but they are not your primary target.
- Walk them to their next step. Walk families to your children's ministry area. Keep up the conversation from the front door to the entrance into your gathering space. If you are in the gathering space, give them a simple overview of the gathering ('There will be some music. We'll have a message from the Bible. We usually finish at 11:15.').
- Always thank them for being there. Every single time. It is a gutsy move to show up at a church gathering for the first time. And they may be there to give God one last shot. Never take that for granted.
Provide A Non-Threatening Way To Connect
Adopt these two goals for guests: 1. We want them to hear the gospel during the gathering; 2. We want them to come back again next week. One easy way to help convince them to come back is to provide a non-threatening way to connect with your church.
Avoid isolating them by asking them to stand during the gathering. Consider the demands on their time if your connecting point for first-time guests is a welcome table or brief meeting after the gathering. Start with something like this:
- Use a two-sided connect card. On the front is space for the contact information you need to follow up with them. On the back are check boxes that let you know a) if they are a guest and b) if they want to take a next step. Also include space for them to share prayer requests.
- Take time during the gathering to invite people to fill out the card. Let them know that using the card is a great idea if a) they are a guest and want more information about the church, b) they want to take a next step and get more involved in the church, or c) they have a prayer request.
- Provide a clear place for them to leave the card with you. That might be during the offering or in a box in the back of the room when they leave. Don't assume they know what to do with the card after they fill it out.
Use Handwritten Notes To Say Thank You
By mid-week, every guest should receive a handwritten thank you note. Keep it simple. 'Thank you so much for visiting us last Sunday. We hope to see you again soon.'
Automate the Rest of Your Follow Up Process
Take the information from the guest card and put it into your preferred Church Management Software (CMS). Create a simple process that allows people to opt-in to mailing lists for further information and opportunities to be involved with the church. If you do not have a CMS, I recommend using Church Community Builder.
Do The Next Right Thing
Which one of these practices can you incorporate into your strategy this weekend? We live in a time where people living in your city are increasingly unlikely to show up at your gathering. But when they do show up, you should be ready. A simple, sustainable process like the one I just laid out for you may change the course of someone's life.