Churches spend lots of energy, money, and time enhancing the worship experience. We spend some really big bucks on sound, video projecting, lighting, banners, worship music, etc. That is a good thing, but is it enough? For that matter if a pastor spends 20 hours preparing for his message on Sunday, is that enough? Does the worship experience itself cause people to return or are there other contributing factors. I think that there is more to it than meets the eye.
If we spent just a little more time, energy, and money in getting ready for church guests as we do some of the other Sunday Morning components of worship we would be amazed at the results.
Most guests decide in the first five to seven minutes if they will return!
You mean before the music and preaching? Yes!
As part of the KBC staff I have the privilege of visiting in many of our churches across our state. This is a new experience for me as a former pastor and church staff person. For some reason they always wanted me to be in my own church each Sunday! It’s a blessing to see first hand what God is doing in and through our churches. The Kentucky Baptist Convention is a family of churches connected together by our love for the Lord. Each church I visit has unique and diverse features. If you get out much you know that many churches do not look or sound like the church we attend. They all have a unique personality and style. That’s OK because it takes different styles and ministries to reach different people.
However, there is one factor that is paramount to every church in Kentucky…if you desire guests to return you better be ready for that first visit! Here are some observations, insights, and suggestions. I will offer more in part two.
1. Plan and expect guests to attend your church.
Some churches don’t even expect guests; therefore there is no plan or process of welcoming or greeting them. A new person could attend and feel really welcomed or as if they had walked into a refrigerator. It is hit or miss. The growth of a church is directly connected to your flow of new people. As a pastor I would quickly find the offering plates after worship but it was not to see the offering, but to retrieve the guest cards. I knew the future growth of our church depended on a loving, Christ-like follow up with these first time guests.
2. We are not as friendly as we think!
Churches always tell me that they are a really friendly church and when I visit I often discover they are right, they are friendly, but only to each other not to new people. It is easy to be a “friendly to a friend” but is that what the Lord wants us to do?
In some churches I have come in the front door, picked up a bulletin, found a seat, without anyone saying a word to me. I actually felt I might be in the way. Granted this may have been a Sunday where greeters did not show up or other contributing factors, but I saw lots of people all around me.
The problem was I don’t think they saw me. Or if they did see me they were not concerned about me. At least that was my first impression.
3. Train everyone to see people, smile and greet.
Training a team of greeters is a key but really every member should understand the importance of being friendly to people all around them. This is an attitude; it is a skill that we must teach our people. We usually only get one chance at making a good first impression. If we blow it, we will usually not get a second chance therefore we must be ready each Sunday to make people really feel welcomed.
4. Guests or visitors?
I prefer the term guest. We do not have a visitor bedroom at my house but we do have a guest bedroom. A visitor is someone passing through and who will probably not return. A guest is some one you want to come back for a second time and more. Some churches treat new people like visitors and some treat new people like honored guests, when I visit churches I can tell the difference! Your church must strategize and plan on how you are going to initially welcome guests when they walk through the doors of your church and then how you are going to follow up with them after they leave.
So are you ready for company this Sunday?