This Easter, God will prompt thousands of people in the United States, and millions around the world, to visit a church for the first time. Not only does this happen on Easter, but it happens every week of the year. God is consistently blessing God’s church with regular guests. Are we doing all we can to accept and honor his blessing? What is your church’s plan to ensure that first time guests are connected quickly to the life of the church? What is your plan to turn 1st time guests into 2nd time guest? How about to turn 2nd time guests into missional members?
Here are some key questions every church should ask regarding connecting people quickly:
1. What are we doing to equip and encourage people to invite this Easter? Next to Christmas Eve, Easter is the most likely time for an unchurched person to accept an invitation to worship, what are you doing to equip and encourage people to invite their friends and family? There’s still time to create invite cards, prepare a direct mailing, preach a focused sermon on evangelism, or take time to pray for people who you’ll be inviting in your weekend services. One simple idea that can have a big impact is to print invitations and have them on each seat every week leading up to Easter and then to take time to pray over the invitations and the people who will receive them.
2. What is the first impression people have when they attend our church? Is it clean, friendly, and free of funky smells? Do we have clear signage that points people to: restrooms, worship areas, and children’s areas? How do we treat guests? Are they welcomed by greeters, or do our greeters talk only to each other? Do we even have greeters? Do we evaluate this every week? Take the next few weeks to evaluate the first impression you give guests and to make sure that your facility is ready for guests and that your congregation is prepared to welcome them.
2. How do we capture guest information for follow-up? Do we use pew registers, communication cards, kid’s check in forms, or some other tool? Do we refer to this every week in our services and welcome guests even if they are not there? Do we offer a gift when they leave? An example of this is using a communication card, and giving out gift bags with a free book or coffee card. Another idea we’ve used for a few years is to offer to make a donation to one of your community partners for every first time guest connection card you receive. Recently, our church has started asking people to “Try 5” if they are guests and it’s something that has become quite sticky with our guests.
3. Do we have a follow up plan? Once we’re able to communicate with a guest, what do we do to follow-up? Do we use a contact management system: Excel, Access, Planning Center, Etc? Do we call them personally, send a thank you letter, e-mail or note? Is it a generic form letter or hand written note? How quickly do we get the thank you mailed? Do we send a gift with it? For example, the Pastor who taught that Sunday might call them on Monday to say “thank you” for worshiping with you, write a hand written note to them, and include a $5 coffee card encouraging them to use it on their next trip back to church. They might also e-mail a thank you message with a link to a brief online survey about their experience.
4. What about 2nd time guests? Do we treat 2nd time guests with the same attention and intentionality as 1st time guests? Some churches send a second time guest thank you note, with another gift card, an e-mail note, survey, and invite them to attend their next Welcome Gathering.
5. What will you be inviting them back to? A great plan is to start a new series on Easter Weekend and invite people to come back for the whole series, it’s incredible how many people will respond to a simple invitation like this. This year we’ll be kicking off a series called “Reason to Believe” on Easter and then preaching through the book of John for the next 6 weeks.
So what about you? What is your church’s plan to connect guests to your church quickly this Easter? God is faithful. He will bring guests to your church this Easter. The question is, “will we be ready?”
* For more information on Assimilation and Guest Follow Up, check out Nelson Searcy’s book Fusion: Turning First-Time Guests into Fully-Engaged Members.