We moved to North Carolina from Atlantic Canada almost 9 years ago. It seems so long ago, yet when I think about the doubts and excitement we had at the time, it seems like only a few months ago.
Living near the halfway point between our former Canadian home and the winter warmth of Florida allows us to enjoy many visitors stopping by. “It’s a great place to stop on our trip south” we often hear. Or “it’s so convenient!” is the other often-quoted benefit.
This week, we’ve had my wife’s sister and brother-in-law visiting with their 3 and 1-year-old. Now, we have a 13 and 15-year-old; but having the youngsters with us is a reminder of what we’ve quickly forgotten. Crying, giggling, diapers, the prep time to leave, toys on the floor, etc.
Visitors make life unpredictable and enjoyable all at the same time. Even in a church.
Why do people visit your church? I certainly hope you HAVE visitors!
I’ve visited a lot of churches. As a special speaker, a soloist and just visiting to experience the church. Sometimes it’s a good experience and other times it’s awkward to say the least.
It’s up to you to ensure that a Visitor has an experience that will generate another visit.
Here are 6 ways to ensure that.
- Know who they are: All churches need to have a mechanism to find out who the visitors are when they come. And try to find out how they heard about you. This helps you to determine where to spend additional communications resources and where to cut back. Our Pastor (when I was growing up in a small church) used to ask from the pulpit. For most churches, that’s not done anymore.
- Find out why they chose to come: Everyone attends for a reason. If you don’t know why they are “trying your church out”, then you won’t know the expectations that exist.
- Discover if they’ll be back: There are some travelers who chose your church to attend one time, and then there are those who just moved to the neighborhood and need a place to worship. Some might think that the first group isn’t important, however, if you have a regular amount of them, perhaps you could start a ministry for business visitors (or vacationers) or maybe provide a meal to minister to them.
This week has been a great week with family. Because we knew that they wanted to relax and enjoy some downtime (the purpose of their visit), it helped us plan their experience.
We also took the time to look through the house for areas that little fingers could get into. And we made sure that we reinforced that we wanted their return. It’s always great to have people stopping in. Just try to look through THEIR eyes.
So what about your church? Here are the 3 additional fundamental things you MUST do in order to create a successful visitor ministry:
- Welcome, Signage, and First Impressions: Make sure that someone (or group) is in charge of making your visitors feel welcome. And remember that (like in The Five Love Languages), there are different ways to make your guests welcome. Like giving them a gift, telling them how special they are, granting a warm handshake, spending some quality time with them, or perhaps offering to do something for them. Also, make sure proper signage is in place to find critical areas (nursery, bathrooms, worship center, classes, etc). And make sure you walk through your church (looking through THEIR eyes) to identify what their first impressions are — look for stains, broken things, and old things that need renewing.
- Connections and Followup: Once your visitors feel welcome and you’ve determined that they have the potential to return, start thinking about ways to involve them in your ministry. The more of your membership they meet (and learn their names) or tasks that involve them, the better the chance of return. Be creative in the way you find out their contact info; then make sure you contact them within a few days. Be honest, tell them you want them to come back. If they happen to be honest with you and tell you they aren’t interested, ask them why! They just might be one of the first people to tell you the truth about your church.
- Plan for Attracting More Visitors: Once you know “who” and “why”, then look for other visitors in that category. Pursue them, or risk declining attendance.
Remember, visitors add to your church. Literally! Christ said to “Go and tell” — visitors make it easier for you since they have come to you. Make sure you share the love of Christ with them.