When a member leaves your church, you feel it. Yet dozens of guests leave each year without us giving them a second thought. What if we pursued guests the same way we pursue our friends who leave the church? What if our hearts broke for the outsider as much as they did for the insider? Here are four tips on pursuing guests.
- Reward Visitors for Sharing Information
The biggest hill to climb is collecting visitor information. One easy way to get information is to have a check-in station for children and require all new parents to fill out registration forms.
It’s a little harder to get information from guests without children. One solution we have found is to reward guests for giving us information by giving them gifts. When a guest walks in, they see a sign that says, “Guests, get your gift card here.” We intentionally let them know they’ll receive a gift card, which is a gift they’ll actually want.
- Don’t Do It Yourself
At Living Word, we not only have a pastor send a postcard to guests, but a volunteer gives them a call. In our youth ministry, the youth leaders write cards. Don’t do it all yourself!
- Add Second Time Incentives
In our youth ministry, we mail cards inviting students back and offer them $5 just for returning. A church I visited in Pennsylvania would mail $10 gas cards to visitors who attended a second time. When I added this process, we went from retaining 21% of our visitors to 62%.
- Connect Guest To Community
Creating a good system can get guests to visit 3 times, but after 3-6 months, they will leave if they haven’t made any friends. Focus on adding systems that connect people. At our youth ministry, we end in small groups so 100% of our guests get to connect with other students. I think this has been a big part of our retention rate. This model won’t work for most on Sundays, but it should move you to consider how you’ll connect your guests to your congregation.
Jim Armpriester has been serving the local church fulltime since 2011. Currently he is the Student and Children’s Pastor at Living Word A/G in the Rochester, NY area. He and his wife Alison are committed to making Jesus famous by living out the gospel.