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Issue #1: How to Reach and Retain First-Time Guests

Faithful & Fruitful Pastoring

If you’re in a normative size church (50-200), you might not see a ton of new faces. And when you do, you’re lucky if they come back. I can’t tell you how many times a new couple would come in late. I wouldn’t see them until I started preaching, and then I just hoped and prayed they would come back the next week. Most times, they didn’t. 

But then we started being intentional about reaching and retaining first time guests, and I was blown away by the kind of growth we experienced.

6 steps to reach and retain first time guests.

  1. Become an inviting church. The single most effective way to begin seeing new guests is through the power of invitation. I wrote a thread on Twitter about this recently (here). My church saw explosive growth after implementing a program called Invite Your One by Thom Rainer. After that event, we began to see our people regularly inviting their friends, family and co-workers to church. It was common and expected to invite new guests.
  2. Pray for new guests. Gather a team of faithful men and women, and before people start arriving on Sunday, pray that God would bring new people to your church. Prayer is powerful and God will bless your requests if your desire is to reach people with the gospel.
  3. Develop a first time guest time process. We weren’t a mega church. We knew when a new person arrived. Everyone knew! I appointed one woman to be my guest experience team. Her name was Laura. Laura was kind and welcoming. You want good first impressions. Laura’s job was to identify and approach first time guests. Her job was simple. 1) Approach and greet the new guests. 2) Hand them a welcome packet, which included a pamphlet about our church, a gospel tract, a guest card, and a $5 gift card to Starbucks as a way to say thank you for coming. 3) Laura showed them to the sanctuary and where the bathrooms are. Don’t assume people know anything about your building. 4) She introduced them to me, the pastor. 5) Lastly, she instructed them to fill out the guest card and to place it in the offering when we pass the plate.
  4. Call for guest cards during the service. During the worship service, right before the plate was passed, I would tell everyone that for every one guest card we received, our church would donate $5 to a pregnancy care center in town. This incentives the guests to fill out the card and place it in the plate. By doing so, they’re contributing to charity. Do this, and you will see an uptick in cards turned in.
  5. Follow up with guests. On Monday morning, you need to follow up with guests. Determine, by the information you receive, what kind of follow up is best. If it’s a young couple, they probably prefer a text or email. It’s this is an older person, they want to be called. Make sure you follow up quickly to simply say thank you for attending our church. You could also get creative an send them something in the mail. From there, develop additional follow ups in the weeks to come.
  6. Keep track of this data. What you track matters and what matters will grow. If you track first time guest data and look for ways to improve your process, I am confident you will begin to reach and retain more guests. Eventually, you will have a data base full of names who have attended your church. You will also begin to see those who came back for a second visit and why. All of this data is crucial when making future decisions about outreach.

Intentionality and consistency, combined with prayer and faithfulness to God, will bring good results. Try to implement this system and see what happens. DM me and let me know how you did. I would love to hear some success stories. 

If you’re interested in further coaching and/or church consultations. Check out our pastoral resources at Knowing Jesus Ministries.