First Time Visitor to Member

When is the last time you thought about what a “guest” thinks about before attending your church?

What should I wear? Will I fit in? Will our children have a great experience? Do I have the right Bible?  

These are questions people ask before they even step foot in their vehicle and depart for a church service. It’s easy for church leaders to forget the emotions people face when visiting a church. Or the stress and anxiety people experience as they make their way to a church for the first time.

The car isn’t loaded. The kids are half-dressed eating Pop-Tarts. Mom can’t decide on an outfit. Dad forgot to iron shirt. The kids begin to whine. Anxiety is boiling and rising. Finally they pull into church parking lot…

What will they experience? Are you ready as church leader for these guests? How can you give them the guest experience they desire and deserve?

Guest Experience Checklist 

From start to finish, you need to show your guests they are welcome by providing them an ideal visitor experience. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how you can do that:

Website

These days, the guest experience begins on your website. The Internet is the new digital front door. People will visit your website before visiting your church. Trust me. Ensure your website is guest friendly. The best way to do this is by creating and optimizing a “What to Expect” or “I Am New” page. Include the following information:

  • Senior Pastor profile with pictures and relational description
  • Pictures of building, people, children, youth and worship environments
  • Links to “Who We Are”, “What We Do”, “Why We Do It” and “Where We Are Going”
  • Video and audio clips of music and sermons
  • Service times, location and contact details
  • If possible, I also highly advocate a short informational video narrated by a senior leader covering the mission of the church, ministries and ways to contribute.  

Parking

Whether you are a mega church or a church plant, parking is the first “real-time” impression. Follow these steps to develop a great entrance experience:

  • Parking Lot Attendees – Please make sure these attendees are on the same page and have spent time understanding the strategy and flow of parking. These people must be friendly and equipped with information about your church.
  • Way-Finding Signage – When laying out signage, think like every person is mute. No verbal communication allowed. Would a person know where to go without the ability to ask questions?

Greeting

**This area is hugely important** As people enter the doors of your church, greet them with a genuine handshake/hug and smile. Do not barricade or bombard people. Make the entrance accessible. Greeters should see their role as greater than just someone who says “hello”. They are potentially the first verbal contact. Train greeters to be “guides.” If they recognize a new person, have them trained to ask the right questions and physically take them to the location they are visiting. Do more than have greeters simply point and say, “That’s where you want to go.”

Information

Have a very clear location where guests and members visit to receive information. Make sure information is readily available. The people working the information area must be the most informed people in the church.

Worship Service

Make sure you consistently communicate the heart of your church throughout the service. You should be doing this every week anyway, but it is especially important for first-time guests. Here are a couple tips:

  • Use announcement times to educate and remind church members and guests about the heart and soul of your church
  • Clearly communicate next steps – ways people can stay involved and contribute after the service ends

Follow Up

This is a major area church leaders often neglect. The guest experience does not end when the guest leave the church campus. It only begins. How does your church follow up? Here are some ideas:

  • Have a Senior Pastor call on Monday. I know Senior Pastors are busy. But you should make time. After all, what is more important – evaluating Sunday service or connecting with a human being?
  • Leader or volunteer sends guest an email
  • Leader or volunteer schedules lunch or coffee with guest
  • Email a follow-up video to guest
  • Mail card with information to guest

You only have one shot to create a positive first impression. Make the guest experience the best it can possible be by following the steps above. A great guest experience will help alleviate stress and anxiety, and make visitors feel at home. That will keep them engaged, involved and more likely to come back again.

Over the years I’ve had the privilege of “Secret Shopping” on behalf of churches. I attend Sunday services and interview leadership.  You receive a full report with observations and action steps.  Interested? Start a Conversation Here.

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  • Meagpeters

    So true! Great information.

  • Darren

    Thanks for the post Tim. I’ve read a number of books & posts on this topic and found your information helpful & corroborative of those other writers.

    As a Part II to this post, any thoughts on how we may stay connected to guests on their second & subsequent visits? This is where the trip up comes. Most churches have some form of guest/visitor regime, but we struggle with a guest’s return visits. Only facial recognition, or having EVERY church attender fill in a card EVERY Sunday as Saddleback do.

    • http://www.timpeters.org/ Tim Peters

      Darren -

      Great question. The churches who are successful with connection beyond the first are very intentional and relational.

      I know of a church that assigns a member to each guest. The member connects with the guest on first visit and is responsible for respectfully following up with guest. IE – phone call, email, lunch or coffee.

      The next time the guest visits the church, the member is searching for the guest to ensure further connection.

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  • http://twitter.com/39Blogger Ryan Scott

    Great post. The solutions are so simple they are overlooked a majority of the time.

    • http://www.timpeters.org/ Tim Peters

      Ryan – I agree. It is not a difficult task to develop a great experience. Time and thinking. Thanks for reading.