It's exciting when you have a child who is a first-time guest, isn't it? You hope they will return and become a part of your church family.
If you aren't tracking how many guests return for a second visit, now would be a great time to start.
I had someone tell me that the average church will see about 7% of guests return for a second visit.
That seems like a low percentage, doesn't it? But the good news is this. There are 7 keys you can implement that will help your return percentage go much higher. I have personally seen the return rate jump up to 30% after implementing the keys I'm going to share with you in this article.
So, if you are ready, let's look at the 7 keys to seeing more guest children return.
Key #1 - Get good contact information. It's hard to follow up with a family that you don't have contact information on. If you have a check-in and check-out security system, you should be able to get the family's contact information when they register. Keep the form as simple and brief as possible. You don't want them to feel like they are at a doctor's office filling out a first-time patient form that asks you a 1,000 questions.
Key #2 - Give them individual attention. Kids thrive when they are known, cared about and made to feel special. This happens not by sitting them in a row of chairs, but rather in a small group of 6-8 kids. Build in icebreakers and other activities that provides guests with the opportunity for individual attention. Show that you care about them individually.
One strategic step you can take is to make your first-time guest name tags a different color or with a special marking. This let's your volunteers know the child is a first-time guest. When they see someone with that name tag on, they can give them extra attention and use their name often as they are talking with them.
Key - 3 - Send them a personal, handwritten card. It's a big, big deal for a child to get a card in the mail. Especially a handwritten card. Send each first-time guest child a postcard with a handwritten note on it. Mention something specific that you learned about the child so the postcard will be personal and not just part of a "mass mailing."
Key #4 - Have a meet and greet after the service. When new families are checking in, let them know they are invited to a private party after the service. Have a room set up with light refreshments. Most families will stop by (especially if they smell fresh popcorn). Use this time (5-10 minutes) to talk with them and get to know them better. The goal is to make a personal connection with the children and their family. Have a children's ministry staff member and some key volunteers in the room to talk with them.
Key #5 - Make sure they get connected to a caring leader. Train your volunteers to know how to make new kids feel welcome. What questions to ask them. What topics to discuss with them. How to integrate them into a small group setting. How to make them feel like they have the opportunity to be a part of a community.
In this small group setting, your volunteers can get to know the child personally and invite the child to be part of a small group. When a child knows a caring volunteer will be waiting to see them on their 2nd visit, they will be more prone to return.
Key #6 - Give them an incentive to return. Look back at the postcard in Key #3. Add a "coupon" to the postcard. The coupon can be redeemed for a special prize on their next visit.
I have personally seen this work very well. We added a coupon that the kids could redeem for a free t-shirt on their next visit. The t-shirt had our logo on it. It was an investment of $4 to $5 dollars per child that returned, but it was worth it. Our return rate went up to 34% when we did this. Plus it was great advertising for our ministry as the kids wore their t-shirt to school, sports practices, in their neighborhood, etc.
Key #7 - Make your services/classes fun. Why do people go back to Disney World again and again? Because they have an incredible, fun experience.
It's important to make church a fun, exciting experience for kids. If they describe their first visit as "boring," they will probably not be back. Dad and mom may have enjoyed the adult service, but if the child didn't have a good experience, you probably won't see them return.
And by fun I am not talking about "fluff." Your teaching content should be a Bible-based, solid curriculum that teaches kids foundational truths. Check out these curriculum series that help kids learn the truth while having a blast at the same time.
Here are some other articles about how to make church fun for kids.
Secrets to Seeing Kids Laugh in Church
Why Kids Should Not Sit Still in Church
Your turn. What are some other tips for seeing kids return for a 2nd visit? Share your thoughts, ideas and insight in the comment section below.