Recently, a reader submitted a question via Ask Evangelismcoach about how to identify church visitors in a large church:
What are some ideas for identifying visitors?
We are a 2500 member church and many of us don’t know the difference between a visitor and someone who is a member who we just have never met?
I have heard of using name tags, colored coffee cups(ugh!), asking visitors to stand during worship…
I spend time talking with people I do not know/recognize but they end up being members, not visitors. Any suggestions?
I have visited a few churches of this size as the first time visitor. At the time that I’m updating this post in 2019, I’m attending one that has near 4,000 members and guests on a Sunday, and the holidays of Easter and Christmas swell to 10-15 thousand.
This gives me a first hand experience of how a church of this size could identify church visitors making their first visit.
Because of the church size and the amount of people going here and there, looking for coffee, looking for the guest information booth, taking kids to the children’s ministry, locating bathrooms, it can be hard to detect a first time visitor in the crowd.
In a crowd this size, anonymity feels safe, expected and normal, in contrast to being in a church of 100 people where we would feel obvious as a visitor.
Here are some things I’ve seen and observed:
1. Greeters and ushers should learn how to read body language.
In the last place I visited, the greeters and ushers made sure it was easy for us to get to our seat. This helps with a great first impression and allows your guest to relax and enjoy. They didn’t appear stressed over making small talk with us.
Making small talk while 2500 people are entering/exiting is not really ideal. That makes it hard to conversationally identify church visitors.
Some of those clues:
- looking above heads for signage
- asking questions that first timers ask (E.g., can I take coffee in the auditorium?)
- walking slowly, as if they are absorbing too much information.
- looking bewildered or confused because they can’t find something.
These are just examples.
I’ve spent a lot of time watching crowds of people and these body language clues fill me in on those who are first time visitors.
2. The easiest way to identify visitors is to give them CLEAR ways to volunteer that information.
The only way for us to be easily identified as visitors would be to volunteer that information.
The church gave us plenty of opportunities to do so:
- Fill out a visitor card and put it in the offering.
- Visit the welcome center or next steps center after the service for a free book.
- Take our child to children’s church and fill out the registration form.
We chose to fill it out and turn it in at the welcome center.
The welcome center was well staffed, including the preaching pastor, and everyone was engaged in a conversation with a visitor.
On our second visit, we allowed our child to visit children’s church. We arrived late so we were the only ones at the registration table. They have a security system in place with wrist bands to match up the right child with the right adult after church.
There we met the children’s director, who make small talk with us while we were filling out their form.
Read more: Guest Assimilation: A Roadmap to success
Other ways to identify church visitors in a large church
I asked my network on Facebook and Linked in, and here are some of their answers:
Look around for those you don’t recognize, Ask them if it’s their first time there and try to remember from then on. – By Mark Willis
Our congregation is way smaller than these two large attended churches. We have appointed members at the doors who will recognize visitors and greet them with a small folder of information, a visitors card to fill out so we can send them a card, a business card with phone numbers and a printed BIC Clic Pen with also a phone number for a Daily Bible Message.
Since I am an Specialty Advertising Dealer, I order the pens. Also, as members, we recognize visitors and many make an effort to greet them even after they are seated. They have the information and pen to take with them and will remember to visit us when back in our area. This might help you to get some ideas as larger congregations will need several greeters. Tom Hay
Be sure to greet people as they are arriving and leaving! Most of us do not do a good job greeting folks on the way out. We often get more questions from visitors at that time. – Clayton
Let me ask others:
If you are in a church over 1000 attenders each weekend,
What are some ways you identify visitors to your church?
Answer in the comment field below.