8 Reasons Church Visitors Don’t Come Back (and what you can fix)

8 Reasons Why Your Church Visitor does not want to return to your church

You have church visitors that come for the first time to your church.

You also see the reality that many church visitors do not come back.

I’ve seen statistics that indicate that most churches only keep 1-2 out of every 10 first time church visitors.

That leads me to think of possible reasons and how to fix them.  Some can be fixed, others can’t.

8 reasons

Here are 8 common reasons your visitors might not come back.

  1. Live out of town.
  2. Theological differences.
  3. Weekend off from their regular church.
  4. Comparison shopping while making a decision.
  5. Bad experience:  lost in the building, embarrassed, not welcomed, childcare problems.
  6. Didn’t like the worship experience (too long, too short, too weird).
  7. Nothing sacred – no experience with God.
  8. No one welcomed them – hospitality.

The first three reasons are really beyond your control.  It’s good to welcome those church visitors and send them on their way with blessing.

There are also lots of other reasons, but these are the first 8 that came to mind today.

What can you do about the rest

But the remaining 5 reasons have some aspect that you can do something about.

You can improve your existing hospitality ministry and smooth out the rough edges.

In fact, any time is a good time to:

By improving your welcome of church visitors, you can impress the visitor who is church shopping, whether they are Christian yet or not.

You can have a worship experience that helps people encounter God.

You can put some new touches on your building and grounds to help your visitors and members easily navigate your facility.

Make improvements for this year

Some of your churches probably have effective hospitality systems and you are doing well.  Your visitors are coming back and you feel like you are doing a great job.

However, others of you know that your church hospitality systems fall way short of what you want them to do, visitors are not coming back, and you wish to know where to start.

I’ve prepared a series of free videos for you at www.ChurchHospitalityTraining.com to help you remove unnecessary barriers.

Your turn:

Use the comment field to answer this question:

What are some reasons you have personally encountered that your church visitors are not coming back?

Image credit: Found on Unsplash

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  1. says

    I guess I fall into a different category than many pastors. I am not a “visitor” minded man. Don’t get me wrong, I love having new people come and worship the Lord with us. However, I don’t structure our services to attract visitors but rather to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ through praise, prayer and preaching the word. For me, evangelism is not about attracting people to our services or buildings but to present the Lord Jesus and His command to be born again. I’m fearful that when we focus on attracting visitors we will invariably replace that which convicts with that which is comfortable. The churches where I have felt the presence of Christ the most are those which did not focus on attracting visitors but on living for and loving the Lord Jesus.

  2. says

    I presume that every person who enters or even drives by our property need to hear the word of God, to experience prayerful communion with the Holy Spirit, and respond to Christ’s call to be born again. Since new people, “visitors,” can be deterred by simple things members would ignore, I am continually assessing how our building, our website, and the Deacons and Elders help or hinder people growing in faith.

    I have found that by roaming among the congregation before worship, greeting parishioners and “visitors”, I learn much about their needs for prayer and their opportunities for spiritual growth and I teach by example how to minister with visitors and members. Perhaps this contributes positively to our high return rate, after allowing for out of town visitors.

    As I see it, since God is throwing seed everywhere, I am continually looking for stones to move or brambles to pull so more people can find the good soil and turn towards Christ Jesus.

  3. Dean says

    No one is more hospitable than Jesus. Whoever comes to Him is welcomed (John 6:37). I’m not sure how anyone can say their worship service is all about Jesus without focusing on guests. It’s simply one application of the gospel. The building and the people in it should communicate hospitality, and the pastor will set the tone. The Ritz Carlton should never make people feel more welcome than the church does.

  4. says

    I think we should distinguish between “hospitality” and “evangelism.” Everyone who enters our church homes, or considers doing so, should feel welcome: that’s hospitality, and scripture is emphatic that we should make it so. Evangelism is something else that sometimes, not necessarily, follows hospitality. Hospitality is not always or even primarily about evangelism; it’s about welcome. For that reason, Chris, I am not willing, as you seem to be, to dismiss the first three reasons as something we can’t do something about. People who are from out of town, or have theological differences, or who are taking a day off from their home church should experience the same genuine welcome as potential tithers. God only knows how an experience of genuine hospitality will change their lives.

  5. Jim says

    It seems to me that Jesus’ invitation to “come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. . .” was open to anyone at any time they came into contact with Him. From someone along the roadside crying out to Him for mercy to one seeking His help for a dying child, Jesus always took time to meet genuine needs. He also announced that He came to seek and to save that which was lost (those without God in their lives). It is obvious, as well, in the gospels that Jesus spent a great amount of time discipling, teaching doctrine, and godly living. Should we not be prepared to welcome in our churches every service everyone who enters through our doors, and attempt to meet needs regardless of where they are in life?

  6. says


    You’ve point out well a danger we might fall into if we focus too much on visitors that we forget the proclamation of the gospel.

    On the other hand, to neglect simple practices of hospitality will cause unnecessary barriers that will block people’s ability to clearly hear the message a church might be proclaiming.

    Hospitality deals with welcoming the visitor, showing the love of Christ.

    It also prepares the way for the hearing of the preaching of the word, the exaltation of Christ, and so on.

    In other words, hospitality can prepare the way for effective evangelism.

    We don’t want to toss one (proclamation or hospitality) out in favor of the other, as I firmly believe they work hand in hand.

  7. says


    I may not have been clear in my thoughts. . I’m not dismissing the impact of hospitality in the first three instances.

    I’m in agreement with your assertion that hospitality should be shown to all.

    I’m simply giving reasons why visitors might not return.

    The first three are visitors who are committed to other churches. We don’t want to steal sheep :)

    But the last 5 are focused on people who could come back to become part of your church, but are not coming back because of the failure of hospitality.

    Thanks for helping me make the clarification.

  8. says

    I agree with Gary and Chris that there isn’t really a zero-sum “either-or” choice between God-honoring worship and showing hospitality to guests. It’s appropriate for us to work excel at both worship and hospitality; in fact, we welcome one another precisely because God welcomes us (Romans 14, 1 Cor 10-11, etc.).

    Our church has a greeting team for the front doors, makes a point of trying to greet and welcome guests at other points (e.g., the children’s ministry registration table), and also has a dedicated follow-up team to follow up with guests after their visit. We use GuestView (http://gospelsoftware.com/guestview/) to help our team keep track of guests and manage follow-up. In addition, we regularly work to cultivate a heart of hospitality in our members; hospitality is not the sole responsibility of service teams.


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