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10 Things You Should Never Say to a Guest Family

The first impression truly is a lasting impression. If a guest family has a bad first experience at your church, they won't return.

No matter how many times you call them, text them or send them a "thanks for coming " letter, they are not going to be back.

For them to return, you have to make a great first impression.

A big part of helping families have a great first impression is being careful with your words. One thing blurted out could cause them to not return.

Here are 10 statements that you should never say to a guest family.

1. I don't know.

I don't know. When spoken, it seems so finalizing. It sends an underlying message that says, "You are not important enough for me to find out the answer. Good luck with that.

Instead, say...

"That's a great question. Let me find out the answer for you."

2. Are you a visitor?

Don't use the word "visitor." It makes someone feel like they are an outsider. Instead, use the word "guest."

3. Good luck finding a parking spot.

Don't let this happen. Provide great parking spots for guests. They will walk in the doors of your church in a good mood when they are able to park close to an entrance door.

4. You are sitting in my seat.

I have seen this happen several times and it is never a good thing. One time I had brought an unchurched man to church with our family. When he went to sit down, another couple approached him and said, "these are our reserved seats. You will need to find some where else to sit." Needless to say, he did not return.

Help the people in your church to understand that it's not about them. Rather, it's about reaching unchurched families and that is a cause worth giving your seat up for.

5. Stand up and tell us about your family, where you live and how you were invited to our church.

Most people aren't comfortable standing up and introducing themselves to a crowd of people. Don't single out guests. Instead, give them a simple way to register that doesn't involve talking in front of other people.

6. Go down that hallway. Take the steps up to the 3rd floor. Get off and take a right at the water fountain. Go to the 5th door on the right side and you will be there.

Don't give people directions to their classroom or service. Instead, walk them there. This will also give you an opportunity to get to know them better as you walk them to the room.

7. Fill out this long form to register your child. It will only take about 15 minutes to complete.

I hate filling out long forms and I'm sure you do as well. Just get the basic information that you need. An even better solution is to have a tablet that you use to get the vital information of new families.

8. Hi. You can get in that line. I know it's a little long, but they should be able to register you in 15 minutes max.

People hate to wait in line. Have a separate check-in area for first-time guests.

9. Sorry. We never allow kids to be in another class outside their age range.

There are some "rules" that you can bend on. This is one of them. It happens when a guest family has two children that are close in age. They ask you if their children can stay together since it is their first time and they are nervous and a little afraid.

Bend the rule and let them stay together on the first visit. This may be the deciding factor if they return or not.

10. We only do background checks on people we don't know very well.

As you explain your safety and security policies to a new family, let them know that everyone who serves in your children's ministry must go through an onboarding process that includes a background check. No exceptions.

As I said at the beginning of this article, you only get one opportunity to make a first impression. Make sure these 10 points are part of the process and you will see many families return and become a part of your ministry.


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