Retaining Your First-Time Guests: The Essentials


Easter marks a time of year when you know your church is going to see a massive influx of first-time visitors. But just because you know many won’t return until Christmas, you should still capitalize on the incredible momentum of Easter by moving those first-time visitors to fully engaged members of your church.

And assimilation, the process through which we forge connections, plays a critical role in creating disciples. It fosters intimate relationships and interactions, and lays the foundation for meaningful connection to the church, and subsequently, intentional discipleship.


It begins with a person’s first visit to your church and ends when that person connects with your church. But it is possible for someone to join a church without ever truly making a connection.

So how do you ensure that everyone God brings through your doors makes a connection? You make sure that you have an assimilation process in place to give you and your church every opportunity to connect and engage your visitors.

Your  assimilation process should cover four basic areas:

1. Hospitality

Church hospitality is like home hospitality – you greet every guest at the door and warmly welcome them. Directional signs and information for newcomers that make navigating the church easier work well, but active, intentional hospitality calls for us to welcome newcomers with people available to greet and help anyone entering our doors.

2. Information Gathering

When churches gather information, they often find they had more visitors than they realized. And churches that gather information will uncover ministry opportunities to make each person feel more valued and important.

3. Follow-Up

Follow-up is recognizing what people need, when they need it, and provides you the tools and insight to connect with them intimately. It also helps identify opportunities for pastoral ministry through information gathering that provides the dates, milestones, and prayer requests that connect people when it matters most.

4. Connection

People often connect to church when they develop meaningful relationships, and when people feel their church is intimately invested in them, they are more likely to sacrificially and intimately invest in their church – becoming members, givers, servers, volunteers, and ultimately, intentional disciples.


It isn’t always easy to turn first-time guests into committed members of your church. It requires good processes, intentionality, and accountability.


So here are eight ways you can set the course to evolve every church member’s attendance into active engagement in ministry:

Measure people, not tasks.

It’s easy to focus simply on finding someone – anyone – to assign an item on a to-do list. But comprehensive church software places value on people over tasks and can track all the different areas of someone’s engagement in one central place that then helps you keep your focus on what really matters most – your people

Encourage service.

People who serve are people who are engaged, so while our goal may be to get everyone into a group, encouraging only group participation may ultimately promote a more self-centered agenda – whereas serving is almost never individualistic. Engagement requires a healthy balance of both.

Establish a clear path for involvement.

It’s all too common for someone to want to be involved but not know how. And when faced with too many choices – or too few – people will often choose nothing. The more you make your path a simple ‘do-this-to-help-us-accomplish-that’, the more people will be inspired to get involved.

Eliminate information vacuums.

A comprehensive church software system can connect data and members, allowing you to then leverage the information you’ve gathered for your new guest follow-up process, your connection process, your membership process, your discipleship program – and more.

Focus on your mission.

With so many moving parts, it’s easy for your mission to get lost in the shuffle. Your focus should always be on the church’s mission and ministry, and trimming the fat and simplifying your model helps keep focus. Because again, when faced with too many choices – or too few – people will simply choose nothing.

Preach action, not knowledge.

Every Sunday, pastors have the opportunity to either give people information or call people to action. But the latter is far more effective. A pastor’s words can convince – or remind – members that the goal of their faith is not to know something but rather to do something with what they know.

Share ownership of your ministry.

When people feel ownership of a particular initiative or mission, they are more inclined to take every opportunity to get involved – and recruit others – to see that mission through. Because when you empower and inspire the people in your church to take action, they take pride in your ministry as if it were their own – because ultimately, it is.

Celebrate progress.

When you ask for volunteers and you get them, celebrate it – and them. Share stories. Thank people. Acknowledge when people give sacrificially, bring a friend, or when new people join a group. Whether face-to-face, in an email, or a handwritten note, a personal acknowledgment goes a long way.


Ultimately, we as church leaders are responsible for the people who come through our doors.


And as a godly leader, when you help ready the heart of a first-time visitor to be receptive to God, you are cultivating intentional disciples and stewarding the people God has brought through your doors to serve Him.

Topics: This entry was posted in Discipleship, This entry was posted in Easter, This entry was posted in Assimilation, This entry was posted in first-time visitors

Posted by Church Community Builder on May 03, 2017