May 16, 2023
Read time: 4 minutes
First impressions are powerful when it comes to growing your church, and you only get one chance to make them positive and memorable. That’s why, every so often, it’s essential to step back and look at your church through the eyes of a first-time visitor.
While 83% of people searching for a new place of worship note the quality of sermons is most impactful, many other factors are also subconsciously considered.
Even if you already pay close attention to the visitor experience, review these best practices to make your first impression lasting. You’ll want to address any potential concerns visitors might have and highlight how you want to keep your community connected.
For the most part, visitors look at your website before they ever step foot inside the church. People looking for a new church search online for service times, directions, small groups, and more before deciding where to visit.
Keep your website updated with photos and accurate information. Also, keep social media up to date and filled with pictures of your church family making a difference in the community. If attendance has dropped over the past couple of years, use this space to encourage people and highlight the great things your church is about.
Many new guests decide whether they’re coming back to a church based on the few minutes before service even starts. If parking is difficult, they get lost looking for the children’s church, or they’re unsure where to sit, it can make them frustrated and confused. That’s why making the first 10 minutes easy on visitors every Sunday (not just high attendance services) is crucial.
Have clear signs or volunteers showing people where to park and what entrances to use. Station volunteers and staff at doors and welcome booths to guide people to their seats and assist those finding their way around. Take a few moments to make sure your church’s environment is friendly and there’s plenty of signage to guide new guests if ushers and staff are assisting someone else.
Making new guests feel welcome is essential if your goal is to encourage them to come back (and why wouldn’t it be!). Remind your church family to be on the lookout for new faces and warmly greet them, even if it’s just with a quick hello and a smile. Enlist the friendliest people at your church to be unofficial greeters for the few minutes before and after service.
Be sure leaders are involved in welcoming new visitors as well. Studies show that 79% of people say feeling welcomed by leaders is a top reason they choose to attend church on a regular basis.
While generosity is an expression of worship, it’s also a personal decision that visitors don’t take lightly. That’s why it’s essential you show how gifts to your church make a true impact in the community. Lead by example and share your church’s heart for generosity. When people see your church’s generosity in action, you’ll inspire more visitors and active churchgoers to come alongside you and participate in giving.
Remember, more giving happens throughout the week, not just on Sunday. People give every day of the week using digital tools like mobile apps, a giving page on the church’s website, and text. For new visitors, digital giving is often more comfortable because there’s less pressure when it can be done at their convenience and through their own devices.
New visitor retention is highest when you follow up within 2 days. By thanking guests for visiting (either virtually or in-person) and inviting them back while the experience is still fresh on their minds, they feel appreciated. Have a system in place to collect contact information to capture fields like name, email, and birthday. While it only takes a few moments to reach out, know that the small gesture can be significant.
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