Visiting a church for the first time can be a nerve-wracking experience. A few months ago, I put myself in the role of a first time guest. I was out-of-state and decided to check out a nearby church. What did I do first? I looked up the church online. I found service times, checked out the pastor and got a general feel for the church.
Then I actually visited on Sunday. I walked in and immediately started looking for some place marked for first time guests…but I never found it. As I sat in the auditorium listening to announcements, I waited for a special welcome to guests and instructions for where to turn in my information card…but I never heard it.
Perhaps I totally missed these parts of the service or maybe it was an off day. Who knows. But as church communicators, we can’t afford to miss the chance to communicate with 1st time guests.
First time guests are one of the most important audiences we communicate with and we need to get it right every single Sunday.
Here are four things you should communicate to first time guests this Sunday.
1. We’re glad you’re here.
This probably seems like common sense, right? But sometimes the most basic principles are the most easily forgotten.
A welcome to your guests could be in the form of your Lead Pastor giving a special welcome, in video announcements, a note in the bulletin and, of course, on your website.
There should be a special place reserved just for new guests and custom print materials catered to first time guests.
At my church, we have a First Time Guest Kiosk. This is where we receive guests and give them information and a gift. We also use this as a starting point where we can lead them into our facility and show them around.
We currently meet at a movie theater so our first time guest materials are packaged in a popcorn box. Inside includes: welcome booklet, CD from our Lead Pastor, candy, and microwave popcorn. We instruct our guests to fill out the Connection Card inside the bulletin and bring it back after the service. When they do this, we make a donation to one of our Strategic Partners and we also give them a $5 Starbucks gift card.
2. Next Steps
Your guests can’t take the next step if they don’t know about it. Turn in a Connection Card. Go the new attendee class. Check out a small group. Whatever your next step is for your guests, make sure they know. You can let your guests know when you welcome them, put it in your bulletin, and make it a part of your follow-up process.
One part of our follow-up process is to send a letter to anyone who turned in a Connection Card and invite them to Discovering Southbridge. This is a place where they can meet our Lead Pastor, ask questions and begin their journey with our church.
3. Where to get more information.
Where should guests go to have their questions answered? Visit our website. Stop by Guest Services (or whatever your church calls it). Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter. Tell them where to go to get the information they are looking for.
4. We hope to see you next week.
Surprisingly, this is the one that seems to be most overlooked. Show them why they should return the next week. Let them know about an upcoming sermon series or event. But it can be even simpler than that. Have your hospitality team make a point of inviting people back next week as they leave.
What do you think? What should you communicate to guests this Sunday?