It’s no surprise that churches should go to great lengths to reach out to visitors, but do they? New visitors should be treated like VIP’s backstage at a concert. Visitors want to get to know the pastor. They want to be introduced to other people and small group leaders. They want to know their children are being well cared for. So what does your church need to be doing to make sure visitors feel welcome and that they will come back next Sunday?
1) I’m sure you’ve heard it before, but the experience starts on the drive into the parking lot. Think of the visitor experience like a real estate showing. You have something you’re selling (a house) and they are a prospective buyer. Is your grass well groomed? Is your driveway (parking lot) free of trash? Do you have designated parking for visitors? Are the spots easy to find and are there an adequate number for the number of visitors each Sunday? Do you have a parking lot ministry where people greet new members and walk them into the church? By answering these questions, you may find that you are not where you need to be when it comes to how visitors view you before they even walk through your doors, if they get that far. Parking may come at a premium, and if that’s the case, they may not stick around.
2) Make sure you have a designated welcome center that is staffed with people who are willing and well trained to share information with visitors, guide them to the sanctuary and propose a small group for them to visit. Assimilation should always be the goal here. Ask yourself the question “What can I do or what can I introduce to visitors that will help them become involved in our church?” Also, make sure that you have a variety of ages represented in the welcome center. Staff it with young adults, maybe a student in the youth group, and a couple of older folks in your church. Having different ages represented will allow individuals to resonate better with visitors of the same or similar ages.
3) If possible, be sure to make it a priority for every visitor to get face time with the pastor. In larger churches, this may be more of a challenge. Consider having a pastor’s reception after each service, allowing for the pastor and other staff members to interact with one another. Serve light refreshments and give them something to take home, even if it’s a small gift.
4) Outside of meeting the pastor, small church groups are one of the most likely reasons visitors return. How many times have you heard of visitors not returning because they “couldn’t get plugged in”? They may love the pastor, but if they are going to become involved in the fabric of your church and keep returning, they need to be involved in a small group. Make sure you have a clear plan of communication in place, both from the church and the small group leader. The relationship with the small group leader is extremely important, as that is the constant person visitors will see and communicate with each week.
Check out our new solution guide, “6 Easy Steps for Visitor Follow-Up” for more assimilation ideas.
So, do you think you’re making your visitors feel welcome? What more can you do to ensure they will not only come back next week, but also become involved in the ministry of your church?