Health and Growth

5 Simple Ways to Keep First-Time Guests Coming Back

Leading someone to visit your church for the first-time is difficult. Encouraging them to return is even more challenging. But there are simple things you can do to keep visitors coming back.

5 Simple Ways to Keep First-Time Guests Coming Back
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Visitors at church feel awkward.

No visitor struts into a new church like a Sheriff in an Old Western Saloon.

He or she feels ...

  • Alone
  • Isolated
  • Unbelonging
  • Socially on the outside

If you’re a Christian, you’ve probably had this experience.

The last time I was a new visitor, I was fresh out of school looking for a new church that I could call home. I walked through the front door, not knowing anyone, but searching for a place to belong.

Many visitors arrive, experience, and leave—never to return—like ghosts.

Unless we specifically go out of our way to engage with someone, they will never be given the chance to know if your church is the best fit for them.

I’ve put together a list of five ways to help connect and build church community so that your visitors can become more than phantoms in your church—so that those who feel most awkward, isolated, and unaware are given the opportunity to be embodied, loved, and valuable.

#1. Say “Welcome!”

Do you have a welcoming team (or person)?

By opening up the lines of communication, the moment someone walks in the door can draw guests in.

Obviously, you’re not there to hunt them down and smother them with too much love.

But throughout the service, there are three ways you can acknowledge your visitors and make them feel welcomed.

  • At the door
  • During the service
  • After the service

At the door, you have an opportunity to give visitors a warm welcome (assuming they had a good experience finding your location and parking). Be sure to have someone available to keep an eye on first-time guests.

During the service, it’s a good idea to acknowledge first-time guests. One of the best times to do this is during your church announcements. Let visitors know you’re glad they’re there, lead them to take a next step, and invite them back again next week.

Finally, after your worship service, you can acknowledge visitors so that they leave feeling recognized, accepted, and loved. Have a team of people (or persona) available to meet people. Invite them to have coffee, introduce them to other people, and answer their questions.

What’s the one big idea?

Acknowledge visitors before, during, and after the service. If you don’t, you might be missing out on a valuable opportunity to welcome a new member into your church.

#2. Get contact information

Once you’ve acknowledged a guest  and you've introduced them to like-minded people in your church, be intentional in getting some form of contact information from them.

You don’t need to know their pillowcase thread count, but you should get as much information as you can. Some churches feel a bit creepy asking for information. But you  shouldn’t!

The person showed up.

They want to be known.

They want to be connected.

The important thing is to connect—make sure that if you get their information, you actually touch base with them personally.

Call. Email. Even better—text.

Keep it simple.

Ask for their name, contact number, and maybe an email. That’s it!

#3. Follow up quickly

Almost 90% of guests return for a second visit when someone reaches out to them within 24 hours after their first visit. Churches that understand the importance of engaging first-time guests are able to effectively lead them to becoming fully engaged members.

However, your follow-up needs to be genuine.

Don’t treat visitors like a number.

Be personal.

Be intentional.

And there is nothing quite like receiving a text message within 24 hours saying “we appreciated you visiting our church”.

Keep the follow up short but conversational.

#4. Invite them to a church event

The initial follow up was strategic, but a second contact can be the intentional connection that matters.

This is when you can start to build a relationship, provide them with specific information about small groups, and let them know how they can get involved in Church life. Almost every visitor wants to be a part of something where they can belong and contribute to.

By identifying individuals and following up with a step-by-step process, church management software can help you not only draw them back, but also connect with your church community.

#5. Send a short “thank you”

When someone gives money to your church for the first time, they’re investing in your vision and shows they may just be willing to be part of the congregation’s growth.

Having a church management software that helps you track first-time givers makes it easy to connect with them and express your thanks through an email or text message.

Why not thank them?

Send a text message or write them a note thanking them for believing in your church and for entrusting you with their resource that helps build the Kingdom of God in your City!

Interested in more practical ways you can thank your church?

Check out this episode of Tithe.ly TV:

Over to you

What steps does your church follow to make your visitors feel welcome, make them eager to return and give?

As it says in Luke 10: 27 “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”

Love on your visitors.

People know when someone is being genuine.

Be intentional.

Put the needs of your visitors first.

Adjacent to that, it is crucial to have a Church Management Software (ChMS) that can actually help you to track visitors and consistently implement these best practices in your church.

With Tithe.ly’s ChMS, you can unlock your first-time visitors’ potential, help them become a regular attending member, and cultivate lasting growth in your church.

Editor's Note: This post was written by Sarah Schelbach. Sarah helps out with customer success at Tithe.ly.
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5 Simple Ways to Keep First-Time Guests Coming Back