Monday, August 17, 2015

Will your church guests return?

From the moment a first-time guest to your church arrives on your property you have seven minutes to make a positive impression. That's how long it takes that person or family to decide whether or not they will return to your church. This means they will make that decision before they experience your worship service or hear the message.

In his excellent book, Fusion: Turning First-Time Guests into Fully-Engaged Members of Your Church, Nelson Searcy tells us that everything the guest experiences informs that decision. They are looking at your parking lot, your grass, and the condition of your facility as they drive into your property. The appearance of the front door speaks volumes to the first-time guest. So does such things as signage, the cleanliness of the restrooms, and the security of the child-care area.

As they encounter the greeters and others in the congregation they are looking for people who are genuinely friendly who know how to smile. Unless your front doors open directly into the sanctuary, it is helpful to escort a guest to the sanctuary rather than just point in the general direction of where they will find it.

During the service most guests want to be anonymous. I still see churches have their guests stand up and tell everyone where they are from. If you're still doing that, STOP IT! This isn't 1950 anymore. People despise that when it happens to them. They also don't want to wear a special name badge or ribbon that identifies them as guests. This is not being friendly or welcoming. It is an intrusion into their privacy. They are there to check you out, not to become a spectacle.

Studies have shown that guests also do not like the "stand and greet" time. By the way, these studies also show that a majority of church members don't like it either. As I tell people who attend one of my workshops, if you have to have a time in your program where you tell people it's now time to be nice to one another, you've got problems. "Stand and greet" times are a distraction from the worship service, people don't like them, and they need to be eliminated.

Good hospitality begins with preparation. Greeters should be trained before they are allowed to serve. An honest look at the church property needs to be done and anything that sends a message you don't want first-time guests to receive should be corrected. Sometimes all it takes is pulling some weeds or putting a coat of paint on the front door. Signs pointing to the restrooms and other areas of the church should be posted. Do everything possible to make your guests feel welcomed, and you'll start seeing more of them return.

If you've not read Searcy's book I highly recommend it. In my opinion, it is the best book on the subject of how to treat first-time guests available today.

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