I am going to spend the next several posts really breaking down the important areas to retain 1st time guests. Growth happens when new visitors come to our churches, those new visitors come back because they enjoyed their experience, and lastly when we transition attenders to contributors. We all want to grow our churches, but many times we are so focused on getting new people to come that we ignore the fact that those new people won’t come back because of the experience they may have had at our church. I know we all love our churches and for good reason, but we tend to look at our churches through our eyes and not the eyes and understanding of a first time guest.
So over the next several posts you are going to see me breaking down areas that I feel helps lower the guards of new visitors, allows them to feel comfortable, and creates an enjoyable experience where they can encounter God!
So lets look at the first area to retain 1st time guests which is your First Impressions. The reality is that people make a first impression of your Church within 8 minutes of being there. Let that sink in… Guests have made a decisions on whether they like your Church before the worship has ever started and before you have ever preached a sermon. Negative first impressions are the hardest thing for any organization to overcome and those impressions happen before they ever experience the product (now I know Jesus is NOT a product I am just talking organizational sense).
So lets break down 8 quick ways to enhance your first impressions:
1. Make sure your facilities are clean.
You may not be able to afford to have a brand new building with the newest furniture and equipment, but you can afford to make sure your facilities are clean. This is a MUST because a dirty building says several things: They don’t care, if they can’t take care of their building how can they take care of my family, and they must not be stewards of their finances so why should I give? Cleaning costs you nothing but time and yet it yields such a huge ROI. Also on a side note paint costs are so minimal, but can make a huge cosmetic difference in your facilities appearance.
2. Station greeters outside.
You have no idea the type of momentum you build by having friendly and excited people outside welcoming people as they come in. We have our greeters holding up signs that say Welcome Home, You Matter, You Belong Here, Sunday Funday, etc… and it builds such an energy from the start. They are also the first point of contact so they can direct a new visitor in the right direction immediately so the guest never feels lost.
3. Have plenty of signage.
You can never have to much signage. Some people don’t like to ask for help and signage still allows them to get around and feel comfortable doing so. Nothing is worse than being in a new place and not knowing where to go. Walk your premises from the parking lot into your facilities and think like a 1st time guest. Ask yourself “where would I go?” “where would I get lost?” and put signage in those places!
4. Open doors for everyone.
Have greeters at every single door and open every single door for every person that walks in. Our greeters are not door stops holding doors open, but we honor every guest by opening the doors for them. There nothing that feels better than being welcome every where you go by a friendly smile and an honoring gesture!
5. Worship Guides.
Worship guides are NOT for the members of your church, but for your guests! To many churches use worship guides as bulletins and they look like insider only pamphlets. Worship guides are there to welcome guests, explain your vision, show them the next steps to get involved, and have a connection card to get follow up information. Also worship guides should be the last thing they receive right before they walk into the worship center to grab their seat. If people are dropping off kids or getting coffee the last thing they need is to have a bunch of additional things to carry!
6. Greeters in the Worship Center.
A huge missed opportunity is that you should have members of your staff and worship team greeting in your worship center. A new guests feels extremely awkward sitting in a worship center as you can tend to feel like the new kid in the lunch room. The way you overcome that is to make sure your people are present before service begins in the worship center. Now I am not saying corner new guests with long conversations, but going around and just saying hello or glad you here is huge. You would be surprised how far just acknowledging someone will go!
7. Countdown Video.
Start on time every single time! I can’t say that enough and the best way to do that is to have a 5 minute countdown on the projection screen. Now we try maximize this space for guests by giving them a look at our church before It begins by having a countdown video that is filled with B Roll of our city, church services, kids church, people talking in the foyer, life groups, etc…
8. Welcome Guests from the stage.
Now this does not mean to point them out individually or ask them to stand up. It means acknowledge that guests are there. Speakers on stage need to introduce themselves, welcomes the guests and thanks them for being there, highlight the worship guides and the connection cards, lets them know what to expect next in the service.
The best complement we get at Bloom is that we are friendliest church they have ever visited and we get this compliment almost weekly. That can be what your visitors say about your church and that will be one HUGE step forward in retaining first time guests!