5 Must Do Things for the First Time Visitor
If our charge is to go out and make disciples, that must mean new disciples – not disciples from other churches. Nationally over 90% of the people in our country are not in church on Sunday and don’t know Christ as Lord and Savior. If we’re going to grow our churches, we need to understand the people coming may never have attended a church before in their life. Are you ready for them? Do you know what they want or need? They probably don’t know what they want or need.
- Understand their expectations – most people who attend a church for the first time or the first time in many years come expecting two things: A. It’s going to be boring and B. They’re going to ask me for money. Why not address that and overcome the stigma. When you take an offering, if you take offerings by announcement, tell all guests that they don’t need to give. Say this is for the people who regularly attend the church and support its ministries. Our senior pastor would actually say this every week – “we are going to take an offering now. If you’re here for the first time, don’t give. Put your American Express card back in your pocket. We’re just glad you’re here.” Next, do all you can to use normal language and make the sermon interesting and something someone who has never stepped in church before can understand, relate to and find encouraging.
- Lose the “Private Club” feeling – if you were to visit almost any church on Sunday morning, the most common thing you would say it felt like would be a private club. And entrance into the club is difficult and uncomfortable. This happens because an atmosphere is created where it feels like everyone in the room knows each other and you, as a visitor, are the odd person out. It’s very uncomfortable, especially for someone who’s never been to church before. Here are just a few key things you can do to overcome the club mentality –
- Make everyone wear a nametag – the paper kind. Nobody gets a pre-printed nametag or even worse, an engraved one.
- Don’t single out first time visitors by asking them to raise their hand or identify themselves. This is embarrassing and many just want to check things out form the back of the room – like a fly on the wall.
- At the end of a song, when everyone is standing, have everyone introduce themselves to two or three people around them and give them something to tell each other – like “glad you’re here” or “who’s going to win the game later that day” or “tell the person next to you your favorite fast food restaurant.” Do not have them tell each other how long they’ve been in your private club (how long they’ve been going to your church).
- Consider “Intro to (your church name)” – We’ve found this to be very effective. At the end of every service make an announcement that you are holding a 7-minute talk the moment the service is over called “INTRO TO FIRST BAPTIST” (substituting the name of your church for First Baptist). Point to the location of the meeting and have someone there holding a sign that says, “INTRO TO FIRST BAPTIST.” Whoever preaches that day must lead this meeting along with about two or three of your staff or key volunteers. We recommend someone from Children’s ministry, Youth ministry, Adult ministry and maybe Singles ministry if you have it. So a max of five of your staff. The meeting must be completed in 7 minutes, including introductions of your 4-5 staff people. In that 7-minute period you want to tell them what your church is about and that you likely have something they are interested in. At our church, we would tell them the church is built on two pillars – Truth and Grace. The truth of the bible – we are biblically based and the grace of God. Everyone is welcome, exactly as they are.
We’ve found it’s so important to put yourself in the mindset of a first-time visitor who has never stepped foot in a church before and realize how hard and scare it can be. You can’t overwhelm them with hospitality or it will seem icky or like you’re asking them to get married on the first date. You can keep the private club atmosphere or that will scare them away. You have to make them feel like every single person in the room is there for the first time and they are no different from anyone else in the room.
Creating an environment that is welcoming and attractive to the first-time visitor has been at the forefront of our mission for the past 25 years. If you’d like more information on how to do this, we have a ton of information we are happy to share with you. We’d recommend you start with our Church collaborative where each month we get about 12 pastors together and meet for an hour each week for 6-weeks to equip and share resources that will strengthen each of our churches. There’s no cost to join the collaborative. Follow this link for more information follow this link: https://bit.ly/ChurchGoalsClass