The longer your members are actively involved in your ministry, the harder it becomes for them to remember when they were first-time visitors walking through your doors. Once you become connected through church activities and fellowship, it’s easy to forget how you felt when first visiting a church where you didn’t know anyone.
Engaging visitors from the start is important to converting them into long-standing members of your church. To learn how you can create a visitor assimilation plan that works, reach out to existing members of your congregation and ask them to recall how the church helped them make the journey from visitor to active member.
I personally remember as a first-time visitor to my church, I was asked to fill out a visitor card with my name, email address and interests. A couple of days later, I received an email with suggestions on how I could get involved in the church. A week later, I got a card in the mail about an upcoming event, along with an invitation to come back to services. This simple outreach convinced me the church would be a great fit.
As church leaders, you should be asking your active members these important questions about their journey:
• As a visitor, how did you get past the anxiety of being new to the church?
• What do you feel church leaders and other members can do to help visitors fit in and feel welcome?
• Do you see anything you believe could be done better or differently in welcoming visitors today?
• Would you be open to sharing your experiences with new visitors?
Using the information provided in their answers combined with some of the tips below, you can build an effective plan that will both engage and welcome visitors into your church community.
Five Tips to Engage and Welcome Visitors into your Community as Members
1) Ask recent members to share their experience. Understanding how your newest members felt and what they experienced as first-time guests can help you identify best practices for turning guests into longstanding members.
2) Make contact with every visitor. Asking visitors to fill out a card is the easiest way to collect their information. A volunteer stationed outside the sanctuary can pass them out, and you can place them in the pews and remind visitors to fill them out during announcements.
3) Make conversation a priority. When a visitor fills out a card and turns it in, ask a few questions to learn more about them. If you can find out what they’re looking for from a church, you’ll be better able to deliver it. Are they single or married? Do they have children? What kinds of activities do they enjoy outside the church? Knowing the answers makes it easy to invite them to activities they’ll be interested in.
4) Send specific emails. Once you’ve gathered their information, reach out to visitors with emails targeted to their interests. This helps potential members feel engaged by matching them with events and activities they’ve expressed interest in, and doesn’t overwhelm them with invitations to get involved in everything.
5) Host a newcomer meeting. Set up a regular “Getting to Know You Better” meetings for newcomers to help you continue to gather the information you need to engage visitors and keep new members active and involved with the church. This also gives them a chance to get to know other newcomers and church staff as well as learn about church customs.
With targeted outreach, you can build connections that keep your visitors engaged and responsive, and more importantly keep them coming back. Then, perhaps one day they’ll recount their pleasant experiences as visitors to another group of newcomers to your thriving church community.
This blog was written and provided by Jan Jasmin. Jan is the Charitable Giving Evangelist for Vanco Payment Solutions, the preferred payment process for ACS Technologies and a leading provider of eGiving solutions that make it easy for guests and members alike to donate to your church.