Easter is one of the most attended Sundays of the year. How do we make it an awesome experience for everyone walking through the door, especially for your guests who may be visiting for the first time? Here are some suggestions I have effectively used for attracting, connecting and retaining those who visit.
* Offer a free gift to all first-time guests. A lily, a travel cup or an inspirational booklet make for a relatively inexpensive thank you for choosing your church to worship at on Easter Sunday. Rick Warren’s “The Purpose Driven Life, What On Earth Am I Here For?” booklet is available now for only $1.49.
*Special guests. Is there a locally known and respected singer you could invite to do special music? How about a public figure who could offer a brief testimonial at your church that day? Promote them in your Easter advertising. Be sure that you the senior pastor provide an encouraging message that day and tease the new series you are beginning the next weekend.
* Create a system to give guests the best parking spots. Have a sign at your parking lot entrance encouraging guests to turn on their headlights if they want a reserved parking spot. Your parking team then directs them to places nearest the worship center. Remind your parking lot people that they are greeters, not traffic cops.
* Make sure you have clear signage. Show people how to find the most important places on your campus, including restrooms, information tables, coffee/snacks, kids’ ministry, and student ministry locations. Make sure every area is clean and smells like Spring!
* Prepare greeters to welcome your guests. The first people your guests see on your campus ought to smile and welcome them warmly. If you already have an established greeter ministry, remind your greeters of the importance of their role on Easter. Rehearse with them their ten second testimonials and F.O.R.E. play (See my blog posts on effective hospitality.)
* Offer children’s programming simultaneously with each service. Guests generally don’t want to deal with wiggly kids (either theirs or anyone else’s) during the service. During Children’s Church your kids can be told the Easter story through symbols they can easily understand. I recommend Resurrection Eggs by Family Life.
* Have a prominent Welcome Center. Give name badges to these volunteers so your guests know where to go with their questions. Try to anticipate the most common questions guests might have. (Where are the restrooms? Where do I take my child? It’s also helpful to have basic information available in printed form for guests to take with them to review later. Make sure your Welcome Center is well stocked and staffed with some of your best ambassadors.
* Allow guests to remain anonymous in the service. Avoid doing anything that makes them stand out. (with the exception of the gift you give to them. This gift should be a visible clue to the rest of your congregation that these people need to be warmly greeted by everyone)
* Provide tasty refreshments. Almost everyone loves a donut, but also offer some healthy (or semi-healthy) options. For drinks provide coffee and juice.
* Have recorded music playing when people get inside the building. Upbeat music puts people in a celebrative mood.
*Begin and/or end your service by asking attendees to greet one another. It’s a great way to help guests feel like they belong. Train your people in advance to keep and eye out for guests.
* Print out a simple order of service. Always use straightforward, non-religious terms that people understand even if they’ve never been to church. (You no longer have a Narthex, it’s now your Lobby)
* Look for ways to streamline your service. My guess is that most of your guests have short attention spans. Have the components of your Easter service written down for your team, with an expected time for each element. Trim that time as much as you can.
* Keep your public prayers short. Unchurched people will become uncomfortable with lengthy prayers. And avoid on that day accepting prayer requests from the congregation. Your guests won’t know or care about the bunion surgery of one of your member’s aunt Mildred.
*Celebrate! Your service should resemble a party, not a doctor’s office waiting room. Helium balloons, upbeat music and tasty snacks set the tone for your Celebration service. (I named the church I pastored, Celebration Community Church for a reason.
*Have a detailed plan for following up on your guests. Be sure to have everyone fill out their Welcome Card with name, phone number and e-mail address. Be sure that happens when your guests receive their gift at the Welcome Center. I am always impressed when I receive a text message within a few hours, thanking me for my attendance. Send a more detailed e-mail in the next day or two with an invitation to the new series that begins next weekend.