How long does it take for a first-time visitor to formulate an impression about your church?
So all those people who poured through your doors on Easter for the first time decided if yours was a church to which they’d like to return in seven minutes. For some larger churches, that may not even enough time to get them from the parking lot, through the pre-service, and to their seat.
While effectively engaging first-time guests is something most churches would say is a priority, many are still searching for ways to make it a reality.
Connections is something discussed a lot among both seasoned pastors and church planters because 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.
So today, we will offer two consolidated resources: Three of the seven ideas that churches can adopt to better engage their first-time visitors, and three critical components to effectively follow-up with first-time guests.
Below are three ideas that we think some churches often overlook. These steps aren’t necessarily more important than the others, but are 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 through 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 service 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, 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 don’t move from guest to committed community member, your work is all for naught.
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 to becoming members, which is the final step in the connections process.
And by taking the time establish this process, your church could experience a huge return in growth, discipleship, and community impact.
Another important aspect of reaching first-time guests and moving them from disconnected observers to connected members is effective follow-up – which is critical for engaging first-time guests.
If you want to make the most of your opportunity to engage first-time guests from Easter and beyond, here are three things that first-time visitors must feel in your follow-up:
1. Your guests need to know you care.
Moreover, they need to know you care more about people than anything else – that people are more important than their money, their attendance, or their history.
2. Your guests need to know their presence is important to you, so you’ll need accurate and reliable information to demonstrate you care.
Love is a verb that requires action, starting with thanking them for visiting and inviting them back to experience community and the love of God. Salvation and discipleship begin with attendance.
3. Your guests need to know that your community is open to them even when the church doors are closed.
They may have questions needing answers before they return, and they are that much more likely to return if they feel you honored their visit by making yourself available to answer their questions and have invited them back.
Reaching, engaging, and ultimately connecting with first-time guests and getting them assimilated can be one of your church’s greatest challenges – but it doesn’t have to be.
We know how much those guests mean to you. Now, with these resources and a renewed approach, they will soon know how much they mean to you, too.