Attracting and Keeping Church Visitors
Jason Upton, Somerset, PA – We do outreach activities to target family and friends as well as cold contact outreach designed to reach those who do not know anyone in the church. We just finished up 7 Super Sundays and in those seven weeks we had 54 first-time visitors, three baptized and two received the Holy Ghost. We expect each service to be a Holy Ghost outpouring in worship and Word. As a result, the members are excited and they feel when they invite people they will be blessed and drawn into the presence of God. We have small invite cards available in the foyer, and they are easy to pass out to people when you are talking to them. The key to using these cards is preparing the person’s heart before you give it. Be excited about the church and God and ignite a hunger in the person’s heart and then hand them the card and invite them to church. Our Home Bible study ministry has exploded over the last two years and it really serves to turn a first-time visitor into a long-term member. The personal interaction between the home Bible study teacher and the student creates a bond between the two to help the new family to stay connected with the church. Another thing that has been fueling our growth is our Sunday school ministry. Our classrooms are overflowing with kids. We have parents coming to church just because they want their child to be in Sunday school and then they also stay for the worship service. We also serve coffee after church, and this has been a huge success. The visitors get a chance to stick around a little after church, and it gives the saints a chance to get to know them. I encourage their return with customized postcards. After their first visit, I will send them a handwritten postcard from me expressing how much we enjoyed having them in church. If they have children I make it a point to mention their children also, so they realize that children are important at our church. I always make it a point to connect with them on Facebook, for the simple reason that we are able to stay connected with each other by social media. If they don’t come back after a month or so, I will try to send them a short post just telling them how much we would love to see them again.
Eugene Wilson, Olive Branch, MS — We need less of an attracting model and more of a deploying model. Jesus said, “Go ye therefore” and make disciples. While there is certainly great value to be found in inviting people to church, as well as doing all we can to connect and follow up with them, there is even greater value to be found in engaging in making disciples at home, at our workplace, with our neighbors, etc. Contrary to common belief, discipleship is not a six-week course, nor is it post-salvation. In Acts 19, Paul shared the message of baptism in Jesus name and the infilling of the Holy Ghost with 12 disciples, followers of Christ. In addition, Jesus said, “Go make disciples, baptizing them.” We baptize disciples. If we will go and make disciples we will have little trouble getting them to attend our churches. Also, we need to use a system of follow-up for second and third time guests. In a world in which personalized handwritten notes are a rarity, a handwritten note thanking the guest for attending accompanied with a $5 gift card that says “The gas for your car is on us” can go a long way in making a good impression. The strongest possibility for additional membership to the church will come from the second and third time guest. When guests feel genuine love coming from the saints, they are more apt to return. In fact, research shows the majority of guests decide within the first 15 minutes whether they will return or not. Positive connections with guests early on greatly impact the possibility of a return visit.
Seth Simmons, Hutto, TX — Our primary focus is relationships. We encourage our church members to grow authentic relationships with friends and family. Then, we highlight a variety of social and worship opportunities to invite them to be a part of our church community. In the same way, we are cultivating relationships with the city by serving at city-wide events and connecting with city leaders. Our goal is to be known in our city as a church who loves, serves, believes in the power of the name of Jesus Christ and the miraculous demonstration of His Spirit. We attract guests mostly with personal invitations, but we also use our website and community involvement. We have a Guest Reception Ministry. The welcome team first greets them at the door, connects with guests and introduces them to others before leading them to a seat (children are escorted to their ministry). Refreshments are then offered. Each service we have an informal welcome/meet and greet opportunity prior to announcements. We follow up with guests by letter, email, and/or call as well an invitation to join our Life+Groups on Wednesday nights. We also send an invitation for our next special service or social event. As our team grows, a future goal for us is to have our welcome team pay a personal visit to their home thanking them for attending, leaving a small gift, and offering to pray and help with any needs they may have.
Eugene Harper, Huntington, WV — Every spring we have a four Sunday attendance campaign leading up to Easter. The intention is to capitalize on the public’s perception concerning church attendance on this holiest day of the year. The first Sunday of the drive is Family Day, the next is Friends Day, third is Children’s Day. Each day is driven by points to win for your particular team. Every Sunday throughout the campaign that they return they score for the team the same amount, 5 or 10 respectfully. The push is to have all of the family, friends, church and neighborhood children all present Easter morning. The aforementioned, along with the bi-annual enroll to grow revival, garners a healthy list and clientele to work on throughout the year for Home Bible Studies and Revival Time converts. All guests are met by one of the door greeters and foyer hostess who registers them and gives them a small gift. The next week they receive a letter signed by me and a phone call from the respective Sunday School Department Superintendent that they or one of their family members attended. The more children and bigger the family, the more phone calls they receive. We also use a computer program called phone tree and I will leave a message about the upcoming event and the title of my message for that service. Direct mail, billboards and media advertisements provides the church a public presence which gives the congregation confidence to engage in personal evangelism. Nothing works better for getting guests to church than the personal invite and companionship of an acquaintance or friend. 65% of all members attend their particular church because they know someone who attends church there, 7% because of preacher, 10% because of location, 5% because of denomination or doctrine, 3% because of building’s beauty, and 10% because of the music. It takes it all for the whole but you as a church member are the greatest asset for church growth.
Paul Pamer, Barberton, OH — The functions that attract the most guests to the Apostolic Church range from revivals to social gatherings. What determines how many guests come to an event has more to do with planning and marketing than itinerary. If we plan, prepare and market the event well, guests will be there. If we don’t do that, people don’t come. One outlier would be repeat events. If an event is a part of our culture it usually attracts well regardless. Most of the guests who visit our church are a product of personal invites. There is no better sell than a person with an existing relationship standing before you telling you about a church they have experienced. All other marketing is used to aide and augment personal invitations. We believe this is the Apostolic model. I would say the next best things to attract guests are seasonal services and anything involving kids. Members are more likely to invite their friends and their friends are more likely to come during holidays like Easter and Christmas. Currently, our hospitality ministry includes: valet parking, guest parking spots, a team of greeters, ushers, a welcome center team to give direction and information, a hospitality director who delivers a gift bag and gets a contact card from the guest, and a roaming pastoral staff to connect with guests. For follow-up they are sent a hand-written thank you and are added to our church mail out list. We are launching a new initiative in 2014 that will center around a perforated portion of our bulletin that will serve as our contact card. We hope this will get us more cards returned.
Compiled by Susan Thomas