HOW TO: Effectively Engage With First-Time Church Visitors

in Communication / 27 Nov 2017

One of the biggest ways a church family grows is by inviting new people to join its fellowship. How does your church invite new people to its services? Do you connect with them during their first visit? Do you have a strategy to engage with them after they have visited?

If you already have these areas covered, amen! However, if you need any guidance, this blog post is just for you. Keep reading to learn how you can engage with your first-time visitors – right from the time they browse your website to when they step out of your first service.

church-followup-strategy1. DRAW FIRST-TIME VISITORS TO YOUR CHURCH

Is your church driven by the vision to be a refuge to many? Would you like more people to find a home in your sanctuary? If so, here are two key ways – apart from prayer – your church can open its doors to new visitors:

A. ADDRESS NEW VISITORS ON YOUR WEBSITE

Did you know that new visitors first connect with your church online? According to Pew Research, 59% of adults under 30 years look for new churches to visit online. In addition, 17 million non-regular churchgoers visit church websites each year. This clearly indicates that your website needs to primarily cater to first-time visitors.

Therefore, it is key that your church website provides all the necessary information to help first-time visitors familiarise themselves with your church. You need to include details such as your church’s location and service timings, style of worship and leadership team. You can read more about the 10 Key Elements Your Church Websites Can’t Afford to Ignore, here.

Remember to use welcoming language and avoid churchy jargon on your website. For example, you can use inviting headlines to show that your church welcomes everyone, irrespective of their beliefs or backgrounds. Take a look at how Grace Hills Church’s website addresses visitors:

church-followup-strategyHow does your church website greet new visitors? Is it warm and welcoming or formal and impersonal?

B. EQUIP YOUR CHURCH MEMBERS TO INVITE PEOPLE

In the words of Michael Lukaszewski, founder of Church Fuel, “Teaching your church to invite is one of the most important things you can do as a pastor”. In fact, a study by Barna Group shows that an invitation from a friend is one of the best ways a church can connect with the unchurched. Not surprisingly, over 70% of visitors come to church because of a personal invitation.

So, how can you empower your congregation to invite their friends to church? Hosting a special event can be a great start, especially when 57% of the churchless prefer attending an event at church to a regular Sunday service.

It is also a good idea to design social media posts or printed invitation cards to equip your congregation to spread the word. You can get started by checking out these templates on Canva or creating your own on this easy-to-use online platform.

2. MAKE THEM COMFORTABLE AT CHURCH

Jonathan Malm, author of Unwelcome: 50 Ways Churches Drive Away First-Time Visitors, says that the experience of every newcomer’s visit to church is forever burned into their mind. So, how can your church leave a memorable impression on new visitors? Let’s take a look:

A. BUILD A TEAM OF WARM GREETERS

According to Pastor Rick Ezell, “The six most important minutes of a church service, in a visitor’s eyes, are the three minutes before the service and the three minutes after the service”. Therefore, it is crucial to have a good team of greeters who will engage with first-time visitors before and after service.

Make sure that you handpick people who are genuinely warm, hospitable and good listeners who would make an effort to establish a connection with newcomers. It is also a good idea to train your greeters, especially when it is highly probable for your church members to forget what it is like to be a new visitor.

B. CREATE A CULTURE OF HOSPITALITY AMONG CHURCH MEMBERS

Are your church members only friendly towards the people they already know? If so, they may be driving away many first-time visitors. In his Twitter survey, Thom Rainer found that newcomers cited unfriendly church members to be one of the main reasons for not returning to a church. Moreover, they perceived many church members to be faking their friendliness.

So, how can you encourage your congregation to be genuinely warm towards their neighbours? Casting your church’s vision can help them understand the importance of greeting visitors. Keep in mind that you may have to re-iterate your vision and the need to be hospitable a few times to create a culture of hospitality.

C. LET YOUR ANNOUNCEMENTS BE VISITOR-FRIENDLY

A common mistake most churches make is solely addressing church members while making announcements. While a majority of your announcements may be targeted towards your congregation, it is important to address newcomers also.

For instance, if you’re making an announcement regarding weekly Bible studies that your members are already familiar with, it is thoughtful to include details, such as venue, date and time, so that newcomers feel included. In fact, you can extend an invitation to newcomers to join you for the next study.

D. SET UP A KIOSK FOR FIRST-TIME VISITORS

A good way to make new people comfortable is by helping them get familiar with the church and its people. You can do this by setting up a kiosk that is designated to cater for the needs of first-time visitors.

You can use this space to connect with newcomers, share details about the church and hand out welcome kits. For example, Elevation Church’s welcome package includes a message from Pastor Steven Furtick, an audio CD with worship songs by the church and notes with details for families with children.

You can also include a visitor card for them to fill out with their details to help you follow up with them. However, remember to only ask for the least amount of details as long forms can become tedious.

3. ENGAGE WITH NEWCOMERS AFTER THEIR FIRST VISIT

Your efforts to engage with newcomers should not end with their first visit. According to ministry coach Wayne Hedlund, it takes more than a couple of visits for newcomers to decide if a particular church is a right fit for them. So, inviting them to revisit is an essential step. Here are a few tips to help you do that:

A. CHALK OUT A SOUND FOLLOW-UP PLAN

Before you begin following up with your visitors, make sure that you have a well-thought-out plan. Think about which medium(s) you would use to follow up with newcomers – e-mails, text messages or both. You’ll also need to decide on the frequency of sending e-mails or text messages.

Take a look at how Life Church in Florida has mapped out a plan to follow up with newcomers. The envelope icons below represent e-mails while the phone icons represent text messages.

church-email-strategyB. CALL TO FORM A DEEPER CONNECTION

Joel A’Bell from Hillsong Church says that people are more likely to return to a church where they have connected on a personal level. So, use phone calls as a means to form a deeper connection with your visitors.

More importantly, don’t stop at one call – you need to continue to make calls to build a relationship. In fact, Hillsong Church calls their visitors after week 1, week 3, week 7 and week 12 of their first visit. However, be sensitive to call them only if they would like to be contacted.

C. USE E-MAILS TO SHARE YOUR CHURCH’S VISION

According to Amanda Gagnon, a blogger at AWeber, a good way to prompt visitors to revisit your church is by giving them the bigger picture of your church. E-mails provide the ideal platform to introduce your visitors to your church’s vision.

You can use attractive templates and images to convey your message in an engaging manner. You can also use an efficient e-mail marketing tool to help you send out personalised e-mails. Check out HOW TO: Use E-mails to Bring Visitors Back to Your Church for more useful tips.

Is your church effectively engaging with its first-time visitors? We hope that the tips in this blog post will help you do that.

We have one more resource for you – the 50 Common Mistakes on Church Websites e-book. Download your copy to identify and rectify errors that could be hindering the performance of your website. Get your FREE copy below.

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Image source: gracehillschurch.com | adammclaughlin.net

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