By Bill Gifford
#1: Make a good first impression
Oft, guests visit your website before even stepping foot in your church. Create a “New here?” tab that lists specifics: what to expect, where to park, worship times, and so on.
Have an event calendar clearly visible on your church website. Keep the calendar up to date with group schedules, kids’ activities, and holiday worship services.
#2: Give them a warm welcome
Create a warm, inviting environment for visitors to experience as soon as they walk in the door. Ensure there is clear signage pointing to the welcome booth, restrooms and other key areas.
Have designated greeters near the doors, and ask church members to introduce themselves to people. This is especially important for larger churches where visitors are more likely to slip under the radar. A smile and kind words can have a huge impact on someone’s day, regardless of whether they’re new to the church or a longtime member.
#3: Ask for their information
Have greeters give information cards to guests and ask them to fill them out. Stock a few information cards in the pews, as well. During the worship service, make an announcement welcoming anyone new to the church. (Please don’t ask people to stand or raise their hand, as it could make them uncomfortable.) Ask them to fill out the information cards and drop them off at the welcome booth after the service.
In addition to basic demographic and contact information, ask about their interests and what they’re hoping to get from building a relationship with the church. Consider these questions:
- Are they single, married or widowed?
- Do they have children? If yes, what are their names and ages?
- Do they work, or go to school, or are they retired?
- What kinds of activities do they enjoy outside the church?
- Are they a guest of a church member?
- Are they a returning guest?
- Are they actively involved at another church?
- What is their preferred method of communication? (text message, email, phone call)
Greeters or welcome booth attendants can jot notes on the back of the cards about their conversations with guests.
#4: Stay in touch
After the worship service, have someone enter data from the information cards into your ChMS. Then, use your ChMS to schedule follow-ups with visitors.
Aim to contact them the same day — or at least within 24 hours — with a quick, personalized text or email. Thank them for visiting your church, and invite them to come back next weekend.
Follow up again a few days later with a personalized postcard or email. The information from the cards you collected will allow you to invite them to various groups and activities they might be interested in. On that note, don’t overwhelm them with too many choices! Pick the three or four most relevant opportunities to share.
#5: Build lasting relationships
As with any new relationship, nurture your visitors by getting to know them, checking in regularly, and having meaningful conversations. Share your church’s message, but also actively listen. As much as possible, make this a personalized, unique process. Keeping church visitors engaged is easier than trying to foster reconnection once they’ve lapsed.
And remember — though you’re trying to proactively engage visitors, let them progress at their own pace, while being supportive. If they do lapse, continue to send regular emails or postcards inviting them back and letting them know about events they might be interested in.
Bill Gifford is the president of Icon Systems in Moorhead, MN. For more than 20 years, Icon Systems has been developing software that will meet the needs of any religious organization — from church plants to denominational offices.