We get asked about how to turn visitors into returning guests pretty regularly. Over the years, we’ve been gathering some of the best ideas we’ve seen. Below is a list of some of the best practices we’ve seen used from first visit to membership. You’ll notice that most of the initial contacts are during the first week. Some churches don’t start their welcome push until a visitor returns a second time. BIG mistake. Many studies show that good follow-up after a first visit goes a long ways toward getting a second visit … and if a visitor returns a second week in a row, you have a pretty good chance of turning them into a Returning Guest.
Here are the welcomingest steps we’ve seen …
- Visitor is greeted at the door (we recommend having outside greeters).
- If the guest is recognized as a visitor, the greeters walk with them and introduce them to someone in the lobby (who takes over the hospitality piece).
- Visitors are invited to have coffee/tea/hot cocoa and refreshments (always available) in the lobby. More introductions are made.
- During worship, the Connection Card is introduced and the $5 gift to the food bank for completed first-time visitor cards is emphasized (every week).
- Visitor is introduced to the pastor at the close of service by whomever was last contact.
- IF the visitor filled out the Connection Card …
- … The pastor writes a Thank You note on Sunday afternoon and use a wax seal on the envelope. If you don’t have a physical address, but received email or text information, send a Thank You note via whatever contact opportunity is available.
- … Email the address to the Gift Delivery Team and they take a branded bag with a gift of value (not a coffee mug!), other goodies like a branded flashlight, pen, a Bible, and info about the church that afternoon.
- On Monday, the visitor’s email address is entered into an email automation (such as MailChimp, Constant Contact, etc.) that triggers a series of five “Get to know us” emails that go out over the next three weeks.
- On Monday, the note the pastor wrote goes into the mail.
- On Thursday, a member writes a note to the visitor inviting them to return.
- If the guest returns the following week, a member of the Lunch Team invites them to lunch that week or the following week.
- If they return a third time, they’re invited to the next Getting Acquainted Class with the pastor and staff.
- If they attend the Getting Acquainted Class, they hear the gospel and are given a no-pressure invitation to make some sort of a decision about baptism, membership, enrolling in a Life Group, getting into a discipleship mentoring relationship, or getting involved in some other way.
This process doesn’t always turn visitors into returning guests, but processes like this improve the odds … a lot.
What would you add? Let us know in the Comment Section below.
Thanks a million Bill! This is GREAT information. I love it! We can add these ideas to the ones we have and put them in action. Terry-Nottingham United Methodist Church Cleveland, Ohio.
Great stuff Bill, as always. Question about the $5 food bank. Does this mean Sunday refreshments have a price tag and this is a gust’s free refreshment ticket or does it mean the church will give $5 to a local charity for each feedack card received?
We give $5 to the local charity. (BTW, Andy Romstad’s church gives $10 … they’re bigger spenders than we are 😉
How has Covid impacted the way we welcome guests? What has changed over 10 years in how we greet guests.?