IVP - Online Pulpit - April 2010 Archives

April 1, 2010

Five Significant Facts About Church and First-Time Guests

Healthy and growing churches pay close attention not only to their members but also to those who are not yet a part of the flock. New people are the lifeblood of a growing church. We want to ensure that nothing impairs or cuts off the flow of new people to the church.

Pastors need to be aware of five significant facts about first-time guests looking for a church home.

1. Visitors make up their minds regarding a new church in the first ten minutes of their visit. Often, before first-time guests have sung a song, viewed a well-produced video or heard a well-crafted sermon, they have made up their mind whether or not to return. But far more time and energy is spent on planning the worship service than on preparing for greeting and welcoming first-time guests. The church’s ability to connect with these guests is not dependent on the pastor but on the front line of people who represent your church.

  • Are parking attendants in place?
  • Is there appropriate signage?
  • Are your ushers and greeters welcoming?
  • Is the environment you take for granted user-friendly?

2. Most church members aren’t friendly. Churches claim to be friendly. But the truth is that most church members are friendly to each other, but not to guests.

  • Observe your members. Do they greet guests with the same intensity and concern before and after the worship service as they do during a formal time of greeting in the worship service?
  • Do the three minutes before and after the service demonstrate whether church members really care about visitors?
  • Encourage your most gregarious and welcoming members to be unofficial greeters before and after each service.
  • Don’t make promises you can’t keep. My wife attended “The Friendly Baptist Church,” but no one spoke to her before the service, and the information-booth attendant was anything but friendly.

3. Church guests are highly consumer-oriented. If Target doesn’t have what I need, I just head to K-Mart. If you don’t have adequate parking or your people are unaccepting and unfriendly, guests will look at another church. Or worse yet, they may give up their search altogether.

  • Pastors and church leaders need to look at their churches through the eyes of a first-time guest.
  • Many retail outlets use the service of one or more “mystery shoppers” to analyze and critique their customer service. Churches would be well served to utilize a similar service.

4. The church is in the hospitality business. Though our ultimate purpose is spiritual, hospitality is important. Church members can extend hospitality to guests by offering to sit with them during the church service, giving them a tour of the church facilities, inviting them to lunch after service, or connecting with them later in the week.

5. You only have one chance to make a good first impression.

  • Are you consciously working to remove barriers that make it difficult for guests to find their way around and to feel at home with your people?
  • Do newcomers have all the information they need without having to ask any embarrassing questions?
  • Are your greeters and ushers on the job, attending to details and anticipating needs before they are expressed?

You may be the most skilled preacher and your church may have excellent small groups or the best children’s ministry in the city. Your first-time guests will never know unless they make a second or third visit. Will they come back? It all depends on the impression you’re making. Make it the right one the first time.

Posted by Rick Ezell at 9:05 AM