What should a church’s goal be for a first-time guest? Five little words: “I want to come back.” Of course, that’s what every church wants to hear. But how to encourage it to happen?
It helps to have a true guest strategy. On any given weekend, you will likely have two distinct crowds. The larger group, by far, will be “your people” – the folks that call your church home. They are used to how you do church and know what to expect.
The other groups is guests. These are people who are new to the area, looking for a church home, or just curious. These folks need to be the first priority in several areas. Your guest services team needs to be laser focused and fulfill their purpose by serving guests, rather than just hanging out with buddies. It’s A-OK to say “hi” and spend time talking to friends that you know if you’re working the info desk, but not if it means ignoring the people lined up waiting behind them.
You also need clear signage and a first-timer mindset. Keep the “internal language” to a minimum – for example, saying that your 101 class is “down the hall next to the youth room” leaves anyone who doesn’t know where the youth room is in the dark. Make your preservice slides all about info that a guest would want (your “regulars” aren’t watching them, anyway).
I forget where it heard it first, but it’s true: Your competition isn’t another church, your competition is ANYTHING ELSE that they could be doing. Being ignored or excluded can make any of those other options look more appealing – but a smile, a kind word, and a cup of coffee can “hold the door open” in more ways than one…