Studies suggest that a first time guest in your church often makes up their mind if they’re ever coming back again in the first ten minutes.
So, that means before they’ve heard your music, listened to your message, or met your ministry team they might very well have given you a failing grade. Here are 5 things to consider when it comes to getting guests back.
- A Bad Online Presence
Nobody is visiting your church who hasn’t already checked you out on line, so you might be losing visitors before they even visit. Is your site attractive and up to date? It must be. But also consider this: what is the experience of the site for a visitor…not a parishioner, a visitor?
- Frustrating Parking
The next place you’re going to potentially lose them is also before they ever get in the front door: the parking lot. You need to carefully evaluate the experience of your parking lot…and not when its empty, at your peak times on Sunday morning. Perhaps you can’t do anything about the size of your parking, but you sure can do something about the experience of it. Is there a parking plan, parking ministers, clear signage?
And if there aren’t enough spaces, what strategies can you develop to create open spaces at optimal times (like getting regulars to park off campus).
- Under-Greet or Over Greet Guests
Many churches say they’re friendly. But what they mean is they’re friendly to each other.
Unless you have a well-trained guest services team made up of people who love people, your first time guests will probably be under-greeted. Why? We all naturally talk to people we know, not to people we don’t know. First-time guests need an appropriate welcome, an acknowledgement that they have joined us. BUT, don’t go overboard with it. People who are new or coming back to church for the first time in a long time might want a little anonymity.
One rule that’s helped us is simply this: greet people the way they want to be greeted. Recruit emotionally intelligent guest services people who can sense if someone is an introvert and merely wants a ‘welcome’ or if a guest is an extrovert looking for a warm embrace and a conversation.
- Do Nothing for My Kids
This is kind of counter-intuitive but it’s true. Visitors and new comers probably won’t avail themselves of your kids program, at least not their first few visits. They’re not comfortable enough, and neither are their kids. But, they will be very interested in what you’ve got for kids. Make sure information is easily available to guests.
- Tired And Dirty Facilities
The problem with your church is the same problem you have with your house: you become blind to the flaws and imperfections. You’re blind to the frayed carpets, you stopped noticing the cracked tiles, even the odors in the bathroom and the nursery are lost on you. But not on your guests, not at all.
There needs to be someone on your staff, or volunteer team who is good at environments, and empowered to enforce high standards, every single weekend. Whatever your budget and whatever the condition of your facility, your bathrooms should be spotless, dry walls can be freshly painted in highly trafficked areas, trash can be properly collected, sidewalks can be power washed.
As regards creeping clutter (the kind that begins in a storage room or cabinet and creeps out and into every corner and crevice of your building) it is a bigger problem than you realize. Your clutter tells visitors that your junk, and whatever it is associated with in your past, is more important to you than they are. Get rid of it!
OK, so that’s the first ten minutes. Notice, we’re not even in the church yet?
For a more extensive and comprehensive treatment of this see careynieuwhof.com