You love your church, its ministries, and the congregation – because you’ve been there for a while, and you know it inside and out. But for first-time guests, a new church can be a bit intimidating. Your guests are entering a new place with lots of people they’ve never met – maybe even with a service format or ministries they’ve never experienced – all while making an important decision about where to attend church.
It’s up to your ministry teams to make everyone who walks through your doors feel loved and welcomed. We have some ideas to help you do just that. Here are four strategies (PLUS a bonus tip – make sure to read to the end!) that your church can use right now to make new visitors feel right at home:
1. Put Your Website to Work
A first-time visit usually begins days or even weeks before Sunday services, with Google and social media searches for local churches. That means your website will most likely be a potential visitor’s first connection with your church. It’s important to make a good impression and to provide helpful information guests can use to plan their visit. For a warm virtual welcome, make sure your website offers:
- An easy-to-access “Plan Your Visit” page that shares service times; a street address with a link to directions; and a guide to the flow and content of your services, so guests will know what to expect on their first Sunday.
- An archive of past services, so guests can get a feel for how your congregation worships and what themes your sermons have covered. Don’t forget a prominent link to your livestreaming options. (We’ll talk more about that in just a second).
- Icon links to your social media pages. This will give people an “inside look” at the daily life of your church as they decide whether or not to visit.
- A simple “Contact Us” feature in case would-be guests want to ask any specific questions about your ministries before they visit.
2. Look to Your Live Stream
Live streaming is a “new normal” in our post-pandemic world. Many of your first-time guests may decide to take part virtually on a Sunday morning before they visit in person. A fulfilling live stream experience can provide an appealing option to those seeking a new church, so make sure your virtual events are welcoming.
Specifically, your pre-service slides can include a welcoming message to new online guests; details about your website and social media pages; and a QR code viewers can snap to get more details about your church (the code can redirect to a registration form or to the “Plan Your Visit” page mentioned above.). And during the service, when you welcome new visitors in attendance, make sure to also give a shout-out to those watching from home for the first time (and put your QR code and website information on the screen once again, to encourage online visitors to get to know your church).
3. Engage with Your Guests Throughout their Visit
Someone’s looked up your church, checked out your website, followed you on Facebook, taken in a live stream service, and now they are joining you in person on Sunday morning. This is your chance to make them feel right at home! Here are some ideas:
- Designate “Visitor Parking” spots in your parking lot, to make guests feel special (and to make their visit just a little bit easier).
- Post volunteer greeters at every entrance, to welcome everyone who attends (especially first-timers) and to answer newcomers’ questions about your church.
- Set up coffee stations, with volunteers and staff on hand to greet them, answer questions, and direct them to their seats.
- Put a “Welcome Guests” message in your bulletin, along with that hard-working QR code you’ve designed for first-time visitors and website/social media info.
- Make sure there’s a “New Here” card in every pew or seat, along with a pen or pencil so guests can quickly fill out the form.
- Keep those coffee stations going after the service. Guests may have additional questions about your church, and some may be ready to get more involved right then!
4. Focus on the Follow-Up
You’d be amazed at how many churches roll out the red carpet for guests – and then fail to follow up after the service. It’s a huge missed opportunity for ministries everywhere.
Even if someone has a wonderful experience visiting your church, you can’t expect them to automatically come back, or to know exactly how to get more involved. Establish a workflow where all first-time visitors receive follow-up communication – via email, phone, or text based on the information they’ve provided. You can:
- Encourage a return visit for the next Sunday.
- Get to know your guest and their special interests or ministry needs.
- Answer visitors’ additional questions about your church.
- Share info about new member classes, small groups, and volunteer opportunities that will encourage your first-time guest to become part of your church family.
When you make first-time guests feel welcome and eager to return, your church will grow and your ministries will flourish. Do you feel like you have the resources to make it happen?
ShareFaith provides churches with the technology needed to nurture their visitors. For the welcoming strategies that are shared here, we offer:
- Customized website design that can be updated with no complex coding
- Livestreaming capabilities that make virtual worship engaging
- Volunteer management tools to get your Sunday teams where they need to be, ready to welcome guests
- Graphics and resources that can make your slides, bulletins, and welcome materials unique and engaging
- Church management software solutions that help you create guest profiles, plan follow-ups, and track interactions
- Simple, adaptable online forms that let you easily create registration and sign-up pages for your visitors.
Start a free trial today and learn how the ShareFaith team can serve your church!
BONUS STRATEGY: Highlight Your Children’s Ministries to First-Time Guests
“What about kids?” – that’s probably one of the first questions you’ll hear from families seeking a new church. In every strategy listed above, parents will want to know how their children will fit into your ministries; and just like adults, kids will want to feel welcome on their first visit.
Make sure that…
- Your children’s ministry has a dedicated page on your website that shares how you help kids learn about God. Highlight frequently asked questions about how child check-in works, the safety of your kids’ area, and more.
- Your live streams include information about children and youth ministries and how to get involved.
- Sunday morning volunteers are 100% focused on first-time guests with kids. Offer detailed information about children’s ministries.
- You follow up with new families. Provide information about children’s ministries for their kids’ age groups. Don’t forget to include info about ministries for Mom and Dad and parenting small groups.
- You offer a high-quality kids’ ministry curriculum that has great visuals and is scripturally based – ShareFaith Kids is a great resource!
So what are you waiting for? Start implementing some of these strategies as soon as you can in your church and start to see more visitors become regulars. You really have nothing to lose.