Church Hospitality: A Short Guide
Church hospitality isn’t just the right thing to do—it’s essential. Here are 4 practical ways to prepare for the 2 types of guests you should expect.
November 18, 2020
Church connection cards are the single tool that plugs a new visitor into your church and puts them on the path to becoming a first time member.
If your church connection cards are sparse, unavailable, or not easily accessible, the number of first-time visitors who become engaged members could be far lower than you’d think.
It’s important for church leaders to craft a connection card that’s easy to fill out, gives the church the most information possible in order to complete a competent follow-up, and is highly accessible to everyone who walks through the doors of your church.
Here, we’re going to detail the exact elements you need to create the kind of connection card that enables your church to follow up personally with every single person who steps foot in your sanctuary.
Your church connection card should have physical and digital versions available. If you only have physical church connection cards, you are limiting the people who will fill out a card to those who can find a pen, reach for a card, and actively search out an opportunity to give their information to the church.
Give people a reason to fill out your connection card.
A free lunch with a church staff at Chipotle.
A gift card to Starbucks.
Whatever you need to do to get the contact information of the people who visit your church, offer that.
Make it clear on the connection card and make it clear from the stage:
“Everyone who’s new here, we’d love to offer you a $10 Starbucks gift card as our way to say ‘Welcome to our church!’ when you fill out our connection card. There’s a physical card in the seat in front of you, or you can fill out a digital form at yourchurchname.com/connect. We can’t wait to meet you!”
On a digital connection card, all users need to do is press “Submit.” But your physical connection card should have instructions written on the top:
“When you’ve completed this connection card, just slip it in the wooden box on your way out the door and we’ll email you!”
The name is self-explanatory.
You don’t want an email with no name.
One of the reasons the name is important is that you want to be able to touch base with someone personally. If you only have their email, and it’s firstname.lastname@example.org, then you can’t write them a personalized email. “Hey, Guitar … Hero!” No.
On your digital form, make the name entry a required field, and make it the top field on your physical form.
Email is the second most important field of your connection card.
Following up via snail mail hampers your follow-up process, and it makes it difficult for your visitors to get the information they’re looking for as efficiently as possible.
On your digital form, you also need to make this a required field so that you are able to automatically send them a confirmation email with introductory information about your church and a welcoming note from your pastor.
Some people are uncomfortable giving away their phone number, bust most people are understanding of the fact that, in formal contexts like business and church, genuine connections and efficient communication require phone contact.
This is a debated issue, but it’s actually a best practice to make the phone number a required field as well. On your digital form, make sure that those who submit connection cards are required to enter their phone number so that you can give them a personal call during the week to get to know them better.
A person’s address is important information.
One of the reasons you want someone’s address on their first-time connection card submission is so that you don’t have to redundantly ask them for more information to enter into your church management system at a later date.
However, this shouldn’t be a required field on your digital form. Some people are uncomfortable giving out their physical address to new people, and it’s not an essential piece of information for setting up a visitor on a track to become an engaged member.
In order to respect their privacy, you can encourage them to enter their address, and yet not require them to enter their address (or tempt them to enter their business address instead) to complete filling out the form.
One way to get more people to enter their email addresses is to offer them something extra for their email address—a welcome basket, a second book, or some other second-tier incentive that prompts them to think: “Yeah, I’d love to receive that.”
Determining a visitor’s marital status and number of children helps you segment your new visitors and connect them with the right people. If your visitor is a single person, they’re not too concerned about childcare. If your new visitor has a family of 5, it might be appropriate for the children’s pastor to send them an email with information about registering their kids for children’s church and Sunday school.
If your new visitor is single, you can send them emails about your youth, singles, young adults, or professionals ministries to get connected with.
Students are a different kind of visitor. Students are, by nature, transient. If you’re in a college town, they’ll often leave to visit home for long periods of time. If you’re not in a college town, they’ll likely be off to college for long seasons. If they’re in town for the long haul because they’re in your country on a visa, then you’ll want to make a special connection with them to get them plugged in with a family in your church.
All of this information helps you to better assess how to follow up and add value to every single person who walks in you church.
Make sure that next to your request for the visitor’s student status, you also ask which school they attend. Perhaps there is a community or family in your congregation that knows people at that same school to whom you could connect them.
People who are new to a church are often in a season of transition. This can be a very spiritually strenuous time. They are likely in need of prayer. They are likely under stress. They are likely hungry for community.
Ask them how you can pray for them. This not only enables you to know them better, but can spark a vibrant prayer community within your leadership team for the new visitors in your church.
While this may seem like an intrusive request, most people who read this request for their birthday as a form of care: “Maybe they’ll do something for me on my birthday!”
If your church communications team has their business in order, you will absolutely have a system to send people cards and encouragements on their birthday.
People often don’t mind volunteering this information, and it gives you more data to enter into your church management system.
People attend new churches because they are spiritually interested. They often desire to talk to someone about their story that led them to your church’s front doors.
This information will be gold for whoever follows up with each visitor. They can get a sense of where that person is spiritually so that they can better minister to them. You’ll want to follow up with a new Christian (or non-Christian) differently than a couple that have been Christians for 50 years who are new to the area.
Every church wants more volunteers. Logging volunteer interest is a great way to tag new visitors to team leads who can follow up with them about getting plugged in, becoming members, and getting to know new people through volunteer contexts.
This information provides another connection point for whoever follows up with your visitor. Did they hear about you from a radio ad? Facebook video?
If they heard about your church from a friend, perhaps you could invite that friend to a three-person lunch to make the new visitor feel more comfortable.
Use this information as a way to learn more about your new visitor and how you can best serve them.
These connection card elements each represent critical data that your church should be collecting from new visitors.
Don’t leave anything off of your connection card.
Put digital kiosks on iPads in your foyer.
Give out the connection card freely to new users.
Make it available to everyone as frequently as possible so that you have the highest number of opportunities to get interested people plugged into your church community as quickly as possible.