As a consumer, you make choices every day. You decide who repairs your car, where you shop for clothes, and what restaurants you visit with your family. And whether you like it or not, every first-time guest who visits your church is a consumer. The first time people visit your church, it’s unlikely they’ll make the decision to give their lives to Christ and experience immediate life transformation. Instead, their primary decision will be whether or not they’re going to return the following weekend. Since that’s the primary decision facing first-time guests, one of our goals as ministry leaders is to make sure that the entire guest experience says, “We’re glad you decided to join us. We were expecting you. You matter to us and, more importantly, you matter to God.”
With that in mind, we need to remove all the barriers that could potentially keep someone from returning to hear the hope found in Jesus Christ. We need to beat the competition. The competition isn’t the church down the street. The competition is any other recent experience your guests have had. That experience sets the expectations for what they’ll experience at your church. Your competition is the mall, the restaurant, the theater, and the cafe with the fresh coffee and morning newspaper. These businesses have learned that to sell their products and services, they have to pay attention to the entire customer experience.
What we’re offering is much more important than clothing, food, or coffee. Our business is introducing people to the unconditional love of Jesus Christ. We’re offering people a new life filled with purpose and joy. Because of that, we should be just as committed as local businesses are in making sure our guests feel valued. We want them to return.
Here are some ideas that might help first-time guests feel welcome before they even hear the opening song in the service:
- Maintain your facility in the best possible condition. For example, no water stains on the ceiling tiles. No coffee spills on the carpeting. No cobwebs in the corners.
- Have traffic volunteers helping vehicles enter and exit the campus and directing people to open parking spots.
- In rainy weather, have volunteers who will stand at the drop-off area with umbrellas in hand, ready to walk guests to the front door.
- Brew great coffee and encourage connection and conversation before and after the service.
- Have lots of smiling volunteers available to greet people and to provide personal attention to guests by escorting families to the children’s center and orienting guests to the church.
- Offer great experiences for children that are designed to capture their hearts and imaginations so that we have the opportunity to introduce them to Jesus.
Why is it so important to make a first-time guest feel welcome? It’s because we want them to know that they matter to us and they matter to God. It’s a first step that points them toward transformation through a new life in Christ.
What other ideas do you have about ways to make a first-time guest feel welcome? What has worked for your organization?