Pastors, if you want to see your church grow, start retaining more first-time guests. Keep in mind first-time guests have little to no commitment to your church. They’ve shown up to appease someone who’s invited them because of a particular series you’re doing, or because it’s one of the two big Christian holidays.
Most first-time guests have no intentions of staying at your church.
They’re looking for a reason to leave. If you’re not careful, you will give them that reason.
With this in mind, I want to share with you eight areas that churches often overlook when thinking about the guest experience.
- Signage – When a guest pulls into your parking lot do they know where to go? Is the entrance to your church easy to find? If they have kids, where do they go? Where’s the bathroom? Where’s the auditorium? You should have adequate signage that answers all of these questions.
- Volunteers in place – Are volunteers in place at least 30 minutes before service until 15 minutes after service begins? First-time guests tend to arrive either early or late. Volunteers should be passionate about where they’re serving and excited when a guest arrives.
- Bulletins and Connection Cards – Bulletins should be designed with the guest in mind. Your bulletin should communicate the DNA of your church. Keep it simple. Every church should be using a guest card or connection card, as your way of following up with guests. Make sure everyone is handed a bulletin and a connection card.
- Tables – If you’re using tables to display information, make sure to dress them up. You can buy inexpensive table skirts here. Do not set out a bare table. Also, make sure the information you’re displaying stays up to date. I once saw a church with a large sign in their yard displaying a spaghetti supper that had happened six months prior. This communicates we’re lazy or we don’t care.
- Coffee – I highly recommend offering free coffee at your church. It doesn’t have to be Starbucks, but you should offer coffee. Roughly 80% of Americans drink coffee, so give them what they want. If nothing else, it’s going to keep them awake during your sermon. Make sure the coffee area stays clean and is well stocked.
- Thermostat Set – Your building should be a comfortable temperature, somewhere between 68 and 72 degrees. Keep a lock on your thermostat if you have people who tend to change it to fit their comfort level. Fight the temptation to push it up a few degrees in the summer or down in the winter to save on costs.
- Kid’s Check-In – The check-in process for kids should be quick and easy to navigate. If you don’t currently have a check-in process, I outline why you need one here. You also need a quick way for new parents to register their kids as well. As a bonus, I recommend giving each child a free gift on his or her first visit.
- Background Music – Silence can be deafening, so pump some music into your auditorium. Keep the volume low enough that people can have conversations but loud enough to be noticed. If used correctly music can be a great way to build energy before your service begins.
The experience a guest has the first time they walk into your church determines the likelihood of them walking into your church a second time. As pastors, we should do everything in our power to make sure their first experience is a great one.
I’m sure there’s plenty I’ve missed, but this should give you a good start. What other areas would you add to this list?