How important are visitors really? 4 Connection Tips
Have you ever wondered how people make decisions? It is clearly not all rationality and it is not all emotion. There is some mix of factors that help people decide between two options. The science behind solving this mystery is the work of sociologists and marketing experts.
Finding a new church is not fun. In most cities, there are lots of churches to choose from. A huge factor of someone deciding to make YOUR church their new church home is the beliefs and unique DNA of your community. But if visitors to your church are ‘your people’ (a good fit for your DNA and alignment with your doctrinal view) do 100% of those folks become members? Nope. That’s because finding a church isn’t a solely rational decision.
If you are like me, finding a church isn’t just about the fit. I’ve visited churches that I knew were a good theological fit for my family, and from the website seemed like a slam dunk. Except, when I walked out the door afterwards, I knew I wouldn’t be back. Sometime you get a vibe that can be hard to put your finger on exactly, but it lets you know to keep looking. Other times you might have an experience that you can clearly point to as reason why the church isn’t for you.
So how do we keep people that would be a good fit in our community from slipping through the cracks? There are a few (not-so) secret tips that can help you make a connection.
Great first experiences
You never want the first experience to be the last experience. So, that means paying attention to the ‘firsts’. The first time someone visits your website, is it confusing? Do you have the information visitors need in an easy to find place? What about service times, recordings of previous services, and a statement of faith? Can people identify how to dress for your church? Nobody wants to show up in jeans and a t-shirt when everyone’s in suits.
Make it easy for your visitors to park close to the door. Some churches do this by designating specific visitor parking spots, and some by just asking members to park further away, making room for others. If you have a big church, do you have parking attendants? Another thought is to make sure your main entrance is clear. If you are running late because you got lost finding a new place, you don’t want people walking into the youth wing and wondering around without clear direction.
I know you have been here for years, but your visitors haven’t. Take the time to create clear signage that helps people know where to register for Sunday School, find bathrooms and so forth. Additionally, use language that is easy for outsiders. Signage for VERVE is not helpful at all for a visitor unless they know that VERVE is your middle school Sunday School group.
Walking into a new place, you can look like a tourist lost in Times Square. Do you have people that are looking for the tourists? Having people at the main entrances, welcome desks and floating around can help turn an awkward experience into a great one. Have you ever asked someone in a big box store where something is? Some stores train their associates to tell you, walk with you and ensure that you find what you are looking for. Other store clerks might just point and say “I think it’s in aisle 18” and go back to what they were doing. Totally different experiences. Which is your church?
Focus on them
Most people’s favorite subject is themselves. But too often when people visit churches, we end up doing a sell job instead of asking a few good questions. By having a few, pre-identified questions, you can help visitors feel valued. We’re so glad you joined us. What made you want to check out CrossPoint? How long have you lived in the area? Tell me about your family! By asking good questions, you communicate that you are more interested in them than you are in them joining your thing.
There are tons of ways to do connect cards. Some are better than others, but most of them have their pros and cons. The key is to not make it intrusive to the visitor. Many of the churches that we work with use digital connect cards in their mobile app. This is a great feature that allows people to fill in their information on the phone and it goes right into the church’s database. However you choose to do it, make sure that it is easy for them first.
Say Thank You
It is a bit of a risk to come to a strange place and meet new people. Take the time to say thank you for the visit. Lots of churches give a small welcome gift with a coffee cup or worship cd. Using the app, you can even send a coupon code for a cup of coffee to the local coffee shop. The key is to let them know that you appreciate them visiting.
Make it Personal
The biggest gap in connections ministries is follow up. Most often I see churches send a form letter or email to visitors. This is ok, but whenever possible, if you can make it personal, that goes the extra mile. “Thanks for visiting. It was great meeting you and Susan today. I’ll be praying that the new job goes smoothly. We hope to see you again soon.”
Go beyond thank you and give them a next step. When you follow up, invite them to the next thing. Perhaps you have an upcoming picnic. Do you have small groups forming, or a new sermon series? Invite them back! It helps them to know you are serious about wanting them to return.
More than once
Don’t give up after one attempt to follow up. There are lots of ways to communicate and some are better than others. Try a few, but don’t be needy. Are you sending emails, or hard copy mail? How about text messages or phone calls? Have a clear plan to follow up a few times and then back off.
How are you starting with great experiences and helping people become engaged members?