5 Ways To Better Engage Church Visitors
By: Rusty Gates May 3, 2018
Many factors lead people to visit a new church. Perhaps they’ve recently moved to the area; perhaps they are exploring Christianity for the first time; or maybe they’re just in town for the weekend looking for a place to worship.
Churches must engage visitors in meaningful ways regardless of their motivations or how long they attend. The smallest interactions can have a transformational impact and bring a visitor closer to Christ; therefore, it's important to get them right.
Here are five best practices to engage visitors at your church:
1. Make It Clear Where They Need To Go
By clearly marking directions at your church, you can simplify the process to ensure visitors get to where they need to go.
You'll relieve a lot of stress and leave a positive impression if your church signage is visible and easy to understand.
The visitor experience starts from the moment guests pull onto your property. From there, you must guide them through tasks like parking, knowing which doors to enter, and getting to various places inside the church. Make it clear where the sanctuary is, where to drop off kids, where the bathrooms are, and any other notable areas in your gathering space.
Imagine visiting someone’s house and having them ask you to wait in their formal sitting room; now, compare that to someone who invites you in, gives you a tour, and tells you to make yourself at home. Nearly everyone is going to feel more comfortable in the second setting.
2. Acknowledge, But Don’t Spotlight
Another way to engage visitors is to acknowledge them during the gathering. Doing so lets them know that you would love for them be a part of your community.
Additionally, acknowledging and welcoming visitors during your service models to your congregation how much you value visitors and how excited you are about teaching newcomers about Christ and your church community. With that confidence, they will be much more likely to invite unchurched friends to attend with them.
However, be careful not to draw too much attention to visitors. Spotlighting can exacerbate the feeling of being an outsider and dissuade visitors from returning.
3. Reference Your Mission Every Service
Visitors are likely trying to get a sense of your church community and mission. With this in mind, it is critical to clearly articulate your mission and vision for the church at every gathering. This will help visitors get to know you and allow them to see that your community is more than a service on Sundays.
Furthermore, by regularly sharing your mission and vision, you will help embed them into the community’s DNA. If no one in your congregation knows where God has called the church or how you plan to get there, how can you expect the community to move in that direction? Passionately share this information as often as you can.
4. Be Available After Every Service
Having your pastors available after each gathering is a powerful way to connect with visitors. This gives visitors a chance to introduce themselves to someone they know represents the community and thank them for their service. While it’s not always possible due to the plethora of responsibilities for pastors on Sundays, it can have a lasting impact if time allows.
At my previous church, we made a point to have the whole staff available and among the congregation on Sundays before and after the service in order to connect with any visitors. We found that because we were part of the service, people were more likely to recognize us and say hello.
5. Provide Multiple On-Ramps
Visitors to your church will have a wide range of past church experiences and current needs. Some will have never stepped foot into a church; others will be theologically-trained pastors looking for a church home after a time of transition.
Because the background of your visitors will vary, it is critical that you offer multiple on-ramps. Some visitors might be interested in learning more about Christianity as a faith – so a new believers class could be helpful. Others might be looking for ways to serve on Sundays; others still might be coming to the church in a time of crisis in need of counseling.
Not every church may have the resources to meet the needs of visitors in each of these scenarios, but ask yourself, do you have a clear plan of action to respond to a variety of needs?
If you can offer multiple ways for visitors to get connected and you have a plan to meet their different needs, they are much more likely to return.
How does your church welcome visitors? What practices have you found to be the most helpful in your experience?