Creating The Best Guest Experience For Your Church
The countdown to Easter Sunday has started! As the snow melts, temperatures rise, and chocolate candy floods the shelves at the grocery store, the Church is gearing up for the biggest Sunday Service of the year. The Sunday where we celebrate the foundation of our faith and everything we do: the death and resurrection of Jesus.
If you work or volunteer within a church, however, you know that this celebration takes a lot more effort and planning than adding a few tulips or Easter Lilies to the lobby. Preparing for Easter services is a time to reflect and adjust all areas of your ministry to make sure everything is running at top efficiency and effectiveness.
This year, 2021, Easter Services carry a special and exciting weight as Easter 2020 was experienced outside of church buildings amidst the early stages of a global pandemic. While we all know Easter could never be canceled, there will be something special that occurs when believers in Christ are able to come together this year to celebrate Easter in churches across the world.
Easter is a celebration so special that it tends to draw visitors to churches more than any other holiday or occasion throughout the year. When we talk about preparing for Easter, one of the biggest questions you should be asking is, is your church ready to welcome visitors at Easter? Not just welcome visitors but give them an experience that reflects the values of your church and the love of Christ?
We know that is a big question and possibly a lot to evaluate, but we encourage you to let this Easter season inspire you to evaluate your processes and make improvements throughout the whole year!
Why Guest Experience is So Important
It’s important to constantly be evaluating the “why” behind each ministry we engage in and make sure it is always lining up with the values of The Church and the Word of God.
The Bible actually can help us understand very clearly the importance of welcoming visitors through the door of your church. There are multiple scriptures that will point you to loving and discipling those who are outside the church. It’s important for Christ followers to both bring the love of Christ beyond the walls of their church while at the same time opening their doors and welcoming guests within the walls of their church.
This may seem obvious but many churches have found themselves trapped in the habit of excelling at local outreach but neglecting creating a welcoming environment within their church home. The enemy likes to creep in and make people feel territorial over “their spot” on a Sunday or wary of “outsiders” in their small group. Being intentional with how you welcome guests into your building will help combat the seeds of territorialism and cliques that the enemy will try to sow.
The enemy knows something that sometimes we forget. Being welcomed into a church community can be a launching point for life transformation and salvation through Christ.
The Lord has commissioned every Christ follower in Matthew 28, whether you are in Church leadership or not, to “go and make disciples.” This bible verse doesn’t just apply to missionaries who are sent across the world. It also applies to those leading and attending their local church.
The local church is where a new believer or visitor may get the opportunity to encounter the Holy spirit for the first time, meet Christian friends, surrender their life to Christ, or be freed from addiction.
We know God has the power to transform lives through the local church, so lets not let broken systems or lack of planning to welcome newcomers stand in the way of what God wants to do in their lives
How Can You Make Guests Feel More Welcome?
The importance of welcoming guests into your church should weigh on you personally, whether you are reading this as part of church leadership or as an attender or volunteer within a church. We have gathered a few simple, yet very effective things you can do to be a part of showing the love of Christ to visitors in your church.
Empower Members to Be Welcoming
Welcoming guests isn’t just the job of the pastors within the church, but it’s really the job of every member. Everyone within a church can play a role in creating a welcoming environment. It may be up to you as pastor to create a culture that is welcoming to guests and to empower your congregation to take ownership in how your church feels to visitors when they walk in.
Lead the way in smiling and making eye contact with everyone in your church. J. David Eshleman says, “One of the most impressive gestures we can extend to first time visitors is for people with no official position to take the initiative and welcome them.”
Have an Official Process
While an overall welcoming environment and culture is important, it needs to be accompanied with an official process when a visitor is identified. One of the best ways to execute a process of welcoming guests to your church is to utilize volunteer teams. Greeters, ushers, kids ministry workers, and café volunteers can all be trained to identify visitors or first time guests through a variety of strategies.
Once a new guest has been identified, what will be your next step? Some churches decide to create host teams which will walk them through their time at your church from checking their kids into children’s ministry, to where to get a cup of coffee, to finding the best seat.
Volunteers and hosts should focus less on “selling” your church to guests and more about asking questions and getting to know them!
Serve The Needs of Families
When a new family joins your church be sure to keep the needs of the entire family in mind. It is best to greet children on their level. Take the time to give a tour of your kids ministry and walk both the kids and parents through what their time will look like. How will they be checked in, what can they expect in their kid’s rooms, when will they be picked up. Preparing everyone for what to expect will help ease any nerves and help everyone enjoy their time.
A child’s experience at a new church can be a huge factor in whether or not a family returns. We all know the importance of Kid’s ministry in developing a strong foundation of faith. If your ministry can create a relationship and partnership with families from the very first time they visit, the chances of that child creating a long lasting relationship with Christ is great!
Preach to Guests
As a pastor, you know the tension you feel when crafting your sermons. The tension of preaching a message that can speak to new believers and guests as well as lifelong Christ-followers. We know you seek the Lord when managing this tension. One of the best ways you can make sure your messages are speaking to both demographics is to always insert teaching moments within your message for the new believer (and even non-believers).
Don’t always assume everyone knows how to read the bible or knows the context of even the most popular Bible stories. Taking the time to explain concepts like communion and even prayer as you are doing them will help a newcomer feel seen and ultimately less alone in a crowd of strangers.
Help Guests Make Connections
Aside from your official process and creating teams to welcome guests, you will want to intentionally help visitors make connections. Introduce families to other families with kids their age or connect a young adult with the leader of your young adult ministry. As you get to know your guests, be on the lookout to make connections with other attendees with whom they may have things in common.
Introduce Them to Their Next Step
Lastly, help your guest find their next step. Does your church have an introductory class for newer members? This could be a great option to implement a space for newcomers to find a group or a spot to serve. If not, invite them to the next event your church is having or help them get plugged into a small group. If your guests can walk away excited about the next time they will attend or feel like they have joined a community, that is one of the best outcomes that can come out of a first visit to a new church.
How Can You Follow Up With Guests?
Personal interactions are ideal when a guest walks into your church and should be your ultimate goal. But we know that no matter how big your church is, some guests may slip in and out or even prefer to visit under the radar. This is where follow up will be especially important.
Get Their Contact Information and Do Something With It
If you haven’t already, create a system where you can collect the contact information of a visitor should they choose to give it to you. This could be a digital process or a paper document they fill out. Even your more soft spoken visitors may be willing to anonymously turn in a contact form to connect at a later date should they feel comfortable.
Even more important than having a contact or connect card is what you do with it. Make sure this information does not get lost in a pile of papers or within a database. How will you follow up with those who give you their information within the week?
Make it Personal
Unfortunately, if your follow up plan includes a cookie cutter, copy and paste email message, your visitors will be able to tell. Take the time to make your follow up personal. A phone call can go a long way in showing you genuinely want to connect with a visitor. Invite guests to coffee or into your offices for an in person meeting to form greater connections.
Seek to Serve
Be careful when connecting with new attendees that you don’t focus on adding to your church or checking a task off your list. Seek to truly find out how your church can serve a new individual or a family. What are they looking for in a church or hoping to get out of their church experience? If we seek to serve and pour into our attendees they will naturally want to serve the church and pour into others.
Help Them Find Their Next Step
Again, we want to help newcomers take action and find their next step beyond attending a Sunday service. Help them no longer feel anonymous by guiding them in joining a group, volunteering in an area they are passionate about, or finding resources or classes you may offer to grow in their faith or other areas of their life.
Finding a next step will be key to turning guests into committed attenders and contributors to your church community and ultimately lead to life change through Christ.
It's All About Building the Kingdom
Welcoming guests should never be about the growing number within your church or meeting attendance goals; it should always be about kingdom expansion. The local church is called to be a light in the community you are planted in, and it should be used to build up Christ followers and send them out.
Each person that walks through your doors is an opportunity for life change and for God to multiply his impact through their unique circle and life circumstances.
Our churches should always be a welcoming environment where anyone feels comfortable. Just as Christ loves and accepts us just as we are, let’s model this love through how we welcome guests in our Churches, seeing each person as the unique and valuable man or woman of God that they are.
Let this Easter be a launching point for how you will welcome, connect, and serve your church visitors moving forward!
Connecting Churches and Communities
The next generation of Torrch is coming. Torrch is a platform designed to help community members connect to churches in their area and find opportunities to visit through church services, groups, events, and more.
Torrch will be launching on Apple and Android devices soon. Fill out the fields below to find out when it’s live!