What every executive pastor should know about retaining first-time guests

I mentioned in my last post that I enjoy visiting new churches and observing how they operate. I highlighted the importance of the offering in that post. Today, I want to focus on first-time guests. Paying attention to first-time guests is often the difference between a dying church and a growing church. It’s also a stewardship responsibility! For those reasons, I am stunned by the low percentage of churches that follow up with me (and I always fill out the visitor cards).

If you’re the Executive Pastor at your church, is this OK with you? How often do you think about the process of turning first-time guests into fully engaged members? Here are a few statistics from Tony Morgan that may surprise you:

  • For a church to experience growth, it must have more guests each year than people in total average attendance. In other words, a growing church of 500 will need more than 500 guests in a year to continue growing.
  • The typical growing church sees 20 percent of first-time guests become part of the church.
  • Growing churches see nearly 40 percent of second-time guests become part of the church.
  • Close to 60 percent of people will become part of the church after their third visit.

What every executive pastor should know about retaining first-time guests

It isn’t always easy to turn first-time guests into committed, thriving members of your church. It requires good processes, intentionality and accountability. Here are three principles that will help a lot:

  1. Review your first-time guest experience and improve it. Do you know what it feels like for a first-time guest to attend your church? Do they get lost in the crowd? Does anyone make eye contact with them? Do they fill out an information card only to never receive followup? Go undercover and step in their shoes. You’ll immediately see what’s working, what’s not, and ways to improve.
  2. Use the tools available to identify key metrics and trends. Technology affords us an incredible opportunity to learn more about our churches and the souls we shepherd than ever before. Utilize your ChMS to track information about first-time guests. Our memories can’t always remember every detail of each person we meet, but technology does.
  3. Eliminate the aspects of your first-time guest experience that aren’t working. There’s no rule that says that first-time guest outreach has to be laborious or complicated. What can you do to simplify it? Is it simply a matter of putting the right people in place? Can you move the registration process to iPads instead of information cards? Consider what you can do to simplify the process.

Retaining first-time guests is critical to growth, but reaching first-time guests does not have to be an arduous task. Look at your first-time guests process today and consider how it can be improved. If you’ve never had an outside assessment of this process in your church, consider talking to a Church Community Builder Coach.

Do you have some first-time guest success stories? We’d love to hear them in the comments.

Topics: This entry was posted in Leadership Roles, This entry was posted in Connections Ministry, This entry was posted in Blog, This entry was posted in Executive Pastor

Posted by Steve Caton on February 11, 2015