How To: Turn first-time guests into fully engaged members

How long does it take for a first-time visitor to formulate an impression about your church? Seven minutes.

While effectively engaging first-time guests is something that most churches would say is a priority, many are still searching for ways to make it a reality. Connections is something I discuss a lot with both seasoned pastors and church planters. At the end of every conversation, I’m reminded that turning first-time guests into fully engaged members isn’t something that you can "will" to happen—it takes a defined process and commitment from volunteers.

Last month, Church Community Builder released a resource with seven steps to engage first-time guests, from your initial hello to their return and—hopefully—active involvement. Today, I thought I would highlight three of the seven that I think are ideas that some churches overlook. These steps aren’t any more important than the others, but are equally essential for effective connections:

  1. Define your church’s first-time guest process.
    Now that we know that it only takes seven minutes for visitors to form an impression, we can strategically create an experience that will make sure it is positive.

    What will guests encounter in those first moments? Are the right people with the right information and attitudes in the right places at the right time? These important questions can keep you on your toes and help you continually evaluate your church from the perspective of the guests and make adjustments as needed.

  2. Encourage feedback via social media.
    Have you ever thought about asking for feedback from first-time guests? Guests have fresh eyes with which to assess your church—from the parking lot to the children’s classrooms, from navigating a new building to listening to the pastor for the first time.

    The truth is people will remark about your church, either offline or online. Because people are familiar with using social media to share feedback or customer services issues with other brands, your church has an opportunity to make guests feel valued by valuing their opinion. If first-time guests have a negative experience, you’ll be able to understand why and make the necessary changes. If they have a positive experience, the buzz generated could pay huge dividends.

  3. Connect guests to your church community.
    Your guests may enjoy their visit, feel welcomed by your team, and feel at home in your church, receive proper tracking, be prompted to tweet something nice about you, and receive proper follow-up—but if they do not move from guest to committed community member, all this work is a loss.

    Make it easy for them to find and get involved with a group similar to them demographically and/or geographically. Once they have established some relationships, guide them toward taking responsibility for their own spiritual development and for a portion of one of the ministries within the church. When people begin to take responsibility, they are on their way toward becoming members, which is the final step in the connections process.

By combining these 3 steps with the others outlined in Accelerate Church Growth: 7 Steps to Engage First-Time Visitors your church will have a detailed system for ensuring that every first-time guest becomes a fully engaged member. You can download the entire piece for free by liking

By taking the time establish this process, your church could experience a huge return in growth, discipleship, and community impact.

What other creative ways does your church engage guests during the first seven minutes? What have you found to be the most helpful step in connecting first-time guests?

Topics: This entry was posted in Administrative Support, This entry was posted in Discipleship Ministry, This entry was posted in Connections Ministry, This entry was posted in Small Groups Ministry

Posted by Steve Caton on Feb 20, 2013 10:23:21 PM