Are your first time visitors inviting visitors after their first visit?
Is that even possible? Check out this story:
Our family was out of town for Christmas to spend the holiday visiting our extended family. It’s been something we have done since 2008.
In fact, we have not celebrated a Christmas Eve service in our own church since years before that.
Our travels allow us to be the first time church visitor on a regular basis, and this year was no different.
This year, we asked a friend for a recommendation for a Christmas Eve church service.
She is not a church goer, but she was glad to help us find a Christmas Eve service. She asked one of her co-workers, “who was religious,” for a recommendation. We eventually received a name of a church that had “rocking music” that my friend’s co-worker had heard about. It was approximately 15 minutes from my parent’s house.
[snip. . . .]
Our experience of their service was fantastic.
We experienced awesome church hospitality practices that helped shape our enthusiasm and desire to invite friends to attend the next week.
This church used parking attendants to help facilitate the rapid parking of cars across multiple lots around the high school. I found this helpful as a first time visitor.
The church used heavy duty A-frame signboards directing people towards the children’s ministry in one building and the church service in another.
The door greeters smiled, passed out the bulletins, and seemed genuinely excited to be part of their church. Church greeters wore lanyards with church badges on them. In a church of this size, this helps designate “official people” who are approachable for questions if needed.
Church ushers were at major intersections in the auditorium to help guide people to seating and address any questions as needed. Again, most wore a lanyard with a church badge making them easy to identify.
The church uses a connection card system for visitor contact information. The pastor gave clear direction about how to fill it out and take it to the welcome center tent for a free book. The connection card wasn’t obligatory for us to fill out. When I turned it in at the tent, the teaching pastor was there engaging other visitors in conversation.
When it came time for Scripture reading, church ushers were called upon to give out Bibles to people who didn’t have one with them. While that was going on, the pastor mentioned that if you don’t have a Bible at home, consider that Bible a gift from the church and you are free to take it home.
The church made prayer teams available in the space up front, providing an opportunity for people to respond to the Spirit of God. When the pastor gave the invitation to come forward, it was not the typical “If you want to receive Jesus, come forward” altar call that I’ve seen used no matter what the sermon was about. Rather, the invitation was to come for a prayer based response to the sermon. I appreciated how the prayer teams were introduced:
All of us carry some huge burdens at times and we’d like someone to pray for us. Even if this is your first time here, our teams are here to pray with you if you wish. If you want some confidential prayer, simply come up here and seek out a team.
The keyword that caught my attention was “confidential.” That shows tremendous sensitivity for church visitors.
For the most part, I think this church has a great welcome experience.
While it is true that no one engaged us in conversation, we didn’t expect it in a church of this size. The size of the crowd was large enough that we didn’t feel like we stuck out as visitors. Yet the church was clear about simple ways we could engage in small talk if we wanted to.
At the end of the service, I wanted to invite my unchurched friend to return with us the following week. I was a first time guest already seeking to bring a guest to the next service.
I didn’t know much about their programming options during the week. I knew nothing about their small group ministries or community outreaches. I didn’t know the richness or depth of their programming and how I could get involved if I lived there.
But, having experienced this one service (and the next one the following week), I felt that my irreligious friend would feel safe attending this church and that she would feel welcomed to explore further.
You may have different music styles. You might be meeting in a 200 year old church building. You may not have the resources to put on a Christmas program that this church had. You might not have greeters, ushers, and a coffee reception. You might not even have extensive midweek programming options for all members of a family. There are all sorts of differences that your church will have from my story of Christmas church visiting.
Though I have visited churches in 9 countries, here is what made this church stand out from others that I have visited:
I was ready to invite a friend.
You can shoot for the same results. The material I share in this book can help you prepare for your visitors, support your evangelistic outreaches, and potentially influence your guests to be bringing friends by the second week. Your hospitality systems can be improved and you can help shape a visitor’s decision to return to your congregation with a friend.
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