Christmas means decorated trees, holiday parties, Advent wreaths, and for most churches, lots of visitors. Christmas is one of the times each year when attendance at most churches is highest. Many people only attend church in a calendar year for a Christmas service.
This means that our Christmas services are extremely important and can have a significant impact on people’s lives. when they walk through our doors.
1) First Impressions Make a Difference
What will visitors first see when they come to your church? Most visitors decide if they will come back or not within the first 20 minutes of their visit. That means their experience in the parking lot is as important as what they experience in the sanctuary. Take time and plan with intention the flow of traffic and the greeters both in the parking lot and at the doors to the church. Make an impactful first impression.
2) Welcomed, Not Singled Out
Make sure you let visitors know that you are so glad they chose to spend part of their Christmas with you! Greet them from the stage and make sure that you assign volunteers who are friendly and gifted at hospitality. Do not, however, put first time visitors in an awkward situation that draws the entire congregation’s attention specifically to them. That is a sure fire way to make sure they don’t come back. Give them the opportunity at some point to connect with someone, but allow them to make that choice themselves.
3) Communicate Clearly
First time visitors want to understand what is going on in the service, so communicate who is speaking on the stage and what is happening. That can be done through a bulletin or even on the screen if you use one. It helps if each person on the stage introduces himself or herself, just as you would in a conversation. A church service can be a very unique and unusual experience, especially if someone is not familiar with church in general. Making sure you have signs in place that clearly designate where the children’s ministry is, where bathrooms are located and even the way to the sanctuary, can really help a visitor feel more comfortable.
4) Safety Is Important
In the present situation in our world, people desire to feel secure. Making sure you have some kind of security in place, especially during times when you expect high attendance, can be an important element that makes visitors feel more comfortable. This includes having an established policy for registering children in your children’s ministry and making sure only the right person can pick them up. An organized registration system for your children’s ministry can be time consuming and costly, but it is imperative if you want visitors to trust you with their children.
5) What Do You Want Them To Remember?
As a ministry team, really evaluate the lasting impression you want visitors to have when they leave your campus. It takes intentional planning to make sure that they leave remembering the important message instead of the confusion they experienced trying to find their child’s classroom. You probably want them to remember the friendly greeter who walked them to the sanctuary more than the traffic jam trying to find a parking place. And you certainly want them to leave pondering the significance of the baby King rather than feeling uncomfortable because they were asked to stand up among strangers as a first-time visitor.
It is an honor and a privilege to serve the first-time visitors who will walk through our sanctuary doors this December. What can you do differently this year as a leader and as a ministry team to make it a truly remarkable experience for each one?