New guests. You look for them every week. And rightly so, for guests bring excitement, potential and the hope of growth.
But for that to happen, you've got to see guests return. And for the average church, the return ratio is nothing to write home about.
Guests return first and foremost because they had a great first experience.
Follow-up helps...a little. But follow-up can't overcome a negative first experience.
Churches would be wise to invest funding, personnel and strategy to enhance their welcome experience.
Let's look at 7 things you should focus on with guest families.
1. Parking. Think about how frustrating it is to not be able to find a decent parking spot when you are shopping. You drive around and around the parking lot trying to find one. Finally, you give up on getting a good spot and you settle for the spot that's a mile from the front doors. Or you give up and drive away.
Contrast that with the feeling you get when you find a great parking spot right in front of the store. You walk into the store feeling privileged and happy.
That's how your guests feel at church. If they have to park in a sub-par spot and then walk across a big parking lot, they are going to enter the building with a negative rating for your ministry.
You can focus on making those first few minutes a home run by having reserved parking for guests. Except for handicapped spots, guest parking spots should be the best parking sports.
Pastors, staff and key volunteers should park as far away from the entrance doors as possible and save the best parking for guests.
2. Quick-and Check-In. I hate to wait in line. Most people do. Don't make your guests wait in line, Have a separate check-in area for them. Not only does this keep them from waiting in a long line, it also makes the process more personal.
3. Friendly, smiling greeters. People won't remember everything about the sermon or the worship experience, but they will remember how you made them feel. And this starts in the parking lot and entrance doors. It's crucial to have people serving as greeters who have a pleasant personality and know how to make people feel comfortable.
4. Walk people to their destination. Don't depend on signage to get people to where they need to be. And don't count on verbal directions. When you are visiting a new place, it's hard to remember the directions that someone just spouts off at you. Personally walk them to their destination. This ties right into the next thing you want to focus on.
5. Make a connection with them. As you are walking them to their room, walk slowly and engage them with short talk. Are they new to the area? How did they hear about the church? What's their favorite thing to do as a family? Listen for things that might give you something to talk about. You can also use the F.I.S.H. approach.
F - Family (Family live in area? Grandparents?)
I - Interests (Sports? Music? Traveling?)
S - School (Where do the kids go to school? Favorite subject at school?))
H - Hobbies (What do they enjoy doing together as a family?)
A huge part of guests having a great experience comes from your ability to make a positive, emotional connection with them.
6. Acknowledge them without embarrassing them. Most people want to be known, but not in front of the whole church. Don't make guests feel singled out by having them stand in the service or asking them to raise their hand. Rather have key people talk with them and give them personal attention.
7. Provide a great exit experience. Yes, we must be intentional about helping guests feel welcomed as they arrive. But don't forget about after the service as well. They will remember how they felt after the service. Did they have to wait in long lines to pick up their children? Were they greeted at the room? Was their children's room chaotic or calm? Was their child engaged or crying? Did someone hold the door for them as they exited and invite them to return?
Following these 7 steps can help you turn an ordinary guest experience into an extraordinary guest experience.