I don’t know which is harder, getting people to come to your church for the first time, or getting them to come a second time. I think a second time is harder.
They tell us (I’m not sure who ‘they’ are) that as soon as someone enters your parking lot they are accumulating reasons why to come back again…or not. Impressions we make on first time visitors is not the purpose of this article. I want to focus on what to do with them when they come back a second time. If someone comes back a second time it’s fare to assume that you have not scared them off yet. They liked what they experienced enough to give you a second chance. There is no guarantee that they will come back a third time, but second time is better than no time. Second time gives us something to work with.
I want to share with you five steps to taking your first time visitors all the way, i.e. from visitor to participant in the life of your church. What you’re about the read is not rocket science. I actually know a bivocational pastor who is a rocket scientist and he assured me that this is not that.
Step One: Actually this is not so much a step as it is a reality check. It’s more than likely that most visitors will not come back. But, hopefully, many will. Don’t be overly discouraged if a guest does not come back. A church could have the best follow-up-to-guests system in place and still experience many first-timers who never become second-timers.
Step Two: Get them through the door. What are you doing to reach new people? Regularly evaluate what is working and what is not working. Are there ways to attract new people that you’ve thought about but have not yet experimented with? And when talking about ‘what to try’ never forget that the most effective way to attract new people is by a personal invitation. What are you doing to encourage and equip your people to be inviters?
Step Three: Gather contact information. Some churches call these ‘connection cards’ or ‘visitor cards.’ I wish I had more time to elaborate more on how best to do this, but you must get their name, email, phone and address.
Step Four: Follow up. Keep this first follow up simple. Send a quick text or email when you get home. In my last church I would take five minutes and mail a short handwritten note. People were always impressed with this. And don’t forget, once you get this information (It’s hard to get some people to fill out a card the first time but they are more likely to do so a second time.) you must file this information in some way that will be easily retrieved and used in the future.
Step Five: Assimilate. How does your church encourage newcomers to get involved, what is your plan? In my last church our assimilation plan was three-fold: 1) get them to come to an orientation night in our home, 2) get them to join a small group, 3) get them to join some type of ministry team. Accomplishing this is easier said than done, but what is your plan?
If we want to take our visitors all the way we must:
Get them through the door.
Follow up with the information.
Have an assimilation plan.
How is your church doing in these four areas?