Thursday, March 27, 2014

How to Get First-Time Guests to Become Second-Time Guests

Thanks to Rick Ezell at for the majority of this article.  I have taken the liberty to edit and make some changes as well as add thoughts and ideas of my own.  My hope is that after reading these “Five Simple Facts” that church leaders will take to heart that it takes more than good sermons and music to turn a first time guest into a second time guest.   Andy

Fact #1 – Your visitors make up their minds regarding your church in the first ten minutes
Before a first-time guest has sung an inspiring song, watched a compelling drama or well-produced video vignette or heard your well-crafted sermon they have made up their mind whether or not to return. But, you probably spend more time and energy on the plan and execution of the worship service than preparing for the greeting and welcoming of your first-time guests.
Action – Use the following questions as a quick checklist:
  • Are parking attendants in place?
  • Is there appropriate signage?
  • Are your ushers and greeters doing more than shaking hands and handing out bulletins?
  • Is the environment user-friendly and accepting to guests?
Fact #2 – Most church members are not friendly
Churches claim to be friendly and may even advertise that fact. But my experience in visiting churches as a first-time guest demonstrates that most church members are friendly to the people they already know, not to guests.
Watch to see if your members greet guests with the same intensity and concern before and after the worship service as they do during a formal time of greeting. The six most important minutes of a church service, in your visitors eyes are the three minutes before the service and the three minutes after the service.
Action – Encourage your church family to:
  • Introduce themselves with genuineness and care.
  • Find out if guests have questions about the church.
  • Introduce guests to others who may have an affinity or connection.
Fact #3 – Church guests are highly consumer-oriented
If your church building is difficult for newcomers to navigate, if your people are unfriendly or focus mostly to their friends then another church down the street may have what they’re looking for. The pastor and church members need to look at their church through the eyes of a first-time guest.
Action: Consider employing objective, yet trained, anonymous guests to give an honest appraisal. Many restaurants, retail stores, and hotels utilize the service of one or more outside services or individuals for helpful analysis of welcoming and responding to the consumer. Churches would be well served to utilize a similar service.
Note:  Multiplication Ministries/Pastor to Pastors Ministry staff are trained and well equipped to provide an evaluation of a church’s ministry which includes attending your church service as a “secret worshipper” which can provide valuable perspective for pastors and church boards about the ministry.
Fact #4 – The church is in the hospitality business
Though our ultimate purpose is spiritual, one of our first steps in the Kingdom business is attention to hospitality (Hebrews 13:2). Imagine the service that would be given to you in a first-class hotel or a five-star restaurant. Should the church offer anything less to those who have made the great effort to be our guests?
Action – Encourage members to extend hospitality to guests by offering to…
  • Sit with them during the church service
  • Give them a tour of the church facilities
  • Eat lunch with them after service
  • Connect with them later in the week
Fact #5 – You only have one chance to make a good first impression
Your first-time guests have some simple desires and basic needs. They decide very quickly if you can meet those criteria. The decision to return for a second visit is often made before guests reach your front door.
Action – Use the following questions as an evaluation tool:
Are you creating the entire experience, beginning with your parking lot?
Are you working to remove barriers that make it difficult for guests to feel at home?
Do newcomers have all the information they need without having to ask?
Are greeters and ushers on the job, attending to details and needs?

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