Many churches want to do a better job of attracting guests and helping them get involved in the life of the church. More churches struggle with how to do that. And very few do that well. Part of the reason is that we don’t think about our guests first. Instead, our guests are an afterthought.
What it means to think about guests first
So you want to start doing a better job of attracting and welcoming first-time guests. Awesome. But what does that actually mean? To be simple: your first thought needs to be the guest. In every aspect of your ministry, you need to think through the details. What does your guest need to know? What do they need explained? You’re not dumbing it down; you’re being purposeful and clear in your communication.
Thinking Guests First at the Building
When you arrive at the church building this week, put yourself in the mindset of a first-time visitor. From the road, is it clear where your church is located? How about the parking lot? Is it clear where to go? Without being over-the-top, are your guests being welcomed as they enter the property and building? Think about the things guests need to know. Think about how they find out where to go, or how they find the information and directions they need.
Considering Guests Before the Service
I hear a lot of churches that pride themselves on being a “welcoming” or “loving” congregation. Do your first-time guests feel that way about your church? While unintentional, we sometimes close ourselves off to first-time visitors. We use the time before service starts to catch up with friends that we haven’t seen in a few days. Use these pivotal moments before the service begins to communicate with your guests. By the time the service starts, your guests will have already decided if they’re going to make a return visit or not. So take every opportunity to communicate your church’s mission. Make it easy for your guests to get needed information—where kids go, where the auditorium is, the location of restrooms, and even meet some people. A greeter at the door is a great thing. But that only welcomes them into the building. Make sure your church is paying attention to the guests once they get inside the building, too.
Guest-First Thinking During the Service
While you don’t want your guests to feel uncomfortable, you want to do your best to welcome them into the fold. Explain what each section of the service is, why it’s important, and how they can take part. Encourage one simple next step for your guest to take, and repeat that throughout the service. Bonus points: Having to explain what you’re doing and why is a great reminder for your regular congregation. It also helps you think critically about why you do what you do.
It’s easy to get stuck in the mundane, trapped in the regular flow. Take time this week to stop and think about what your guests are experiencing as they arrive on Sunday and take part in your worship services.