Visitors come and visitors go, but successful churches create systems that make it easy for them to stay. Visitors come to church for different reasons. They may like the worship, want to hear the pastor, or think your kids’ ministry is great, but visitors stick around for one reason—relationships. Churches must create a culture and systems that build relationships which transform visitors into members.
1. Treat them as guests. Guests are always welcome, and guests get the best. Pro Tip: You may not want to call them guests. Some churches say, “if you’re new here, we’d like to welcome you by…(insert your process here).”
2. Train people to look outward and not inward. Your current members love catching up with each other on Sunday morning, and it’s good for them. But, teach them to keep their circle open and invite others into it. Greeters are important, but they aren’t enough. People expect the greeters to talk to them. That’s what greeters do. Teach everyone to engage your visitors.
3. Train people to connect visitors with others of like interest. For instance, if they greet a visitor who just moved into town who’s just gotten out of the military or has a lot of young children, teach them to connect that person with an existing member with a similar background. It’s as simple as, “Oh you’ve got to meet (fill in the blank).”
4. Have next steps. Have a next step for new people to follow. Maybe, you want them to come to a church barbecue at the pastor’s house next Sunday, or to volunteer for a community service project you’d like to support. You might invite them to a small reception after worship or to sign their kids up for an event. It doesn’t matter what the step is; you just need to have one. It’ll give them a reason to fill out a communication card.
5. Collect their contact information. Kids’ Church and connection cards work great for data collection. Create a kids’ check-in process that is fast and reliable for newcomers. Encourage people to fill out connection cards during every service. Your connection cards should be easy to read and have enough space to write on. Many churches, especially new churches, encourage everyone to fill out a card every week so that visitors don’t feel awkward doing it alone.
6. Review the information. Have a team that goes over guests’ information collected from Kids’ Church and connection cards. This team may contact them or they may pass their information on to other more appropriate groups for communications and process.
Communications and Processes
• First-time givers—send them a handwritten note thanking them for supporting the church’s vision. Snail mail is rare, and handwritten notes will be opened.
• First-time visitors—send them an email or postcard. Have these ready to go because you have around 36 hours to make your next contact. As soon as they leave, the timer starts.
• Gifts in the lobby—if you’d like to give your visitors a gift, make it available after service in the lobby. Give them something nice like a shirt or a mug. Have all sizes available from 5x to kids. Pro Tip: Don’t give them a copy of your sermon or a CD of your worship team unless they ask for one.
• Gifts for kids—You can send the kids home with a gift like a t-shirt, coupon for a fast-food restaurant, coloring book or quality toy. Whatever you choose, make sure it’s not poorly made. It doesn’t have to be expensive, but it can’t look or feel cheap.
• Receptions—Schedule a regular either monthly, weekly or bi-weekly time for new people to connect with the pastors and leadership. Put out some coffee, bottled waters, and snacks and create time and space for people to socialize and develop relationships with each other. Make it known that newcomers are welcome. They can come if it’s their first Sunday, or if they’ve never come to one before because many people may wait 2 or 3 Sundays before attending.
For assimilation tips, best practices, and solutions, download our free guide, “6 Easy Steps for Visitor Follow-Up.”