Let me start by saying that this has nothing to do with doctrine, we will leave that for other people to argue about on Facebook. My goal here is to speak from a marketing perspective.
Is your church inviting? This has a very broad meaning in today's world. This use to only mean: "Do you have nice elderly people shaking hands at the door?" Now we have to look at so much more.
In this blog, we will take a look at some things that you can do to make your ministry more inviting, which can help increase retention.
1) How is your web presence? The Yellow Pages are gone, and Google is king! If I look for your church online, will I find it? You may not have a website, but can I find you listed online?
Do you have a church Facebook Page? (PAGE not profile or group) If you do have a Facebook Page, is it engaging and does it contain photos of your congregation? PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE add more than Bible verses to your page. Yes, you are a church, but people need to see your church family, and know that you are people and not an automated Bible Verse site.
2) How is the signage around your church? Can I find the entrance to your parking lot? Once I get in to the lot, can I figure out where to park?
Does your church need parking attendants? If so, make sure that they realize that they are to be hospitable. Their job is to welcome people not to fight with bad drivers.
I have visited some churches that use a back door during the week, but have no signage that says I should park in the back parking lot, so remember these things for the week days as well.
3) Who is at the door greeting? Seriously, this is important! Make sure that the people that are there are welcoming and loving, but not overbearing. They should be able to spot new guests, returning guests, and seasoned members of your church.
Have information on your church available. Having a copy of your beliefs, service and programs calendar, and even your constitution can be very important to a new guest.
They should also be able to help new guests figure out what to do, and they shouldn't assume things about new guests. I once walked into a church at the same time as a young lady that was about my age. The greeter assumed we were together and had us joining the "young married" group before we got in the door, and she was not being prophetic.
OH, and don't forget the men! Many times, I have walked into a church as a single guy and been ignored by the greeter while a single lady with babies comes in and I can hear the trumpets blast for her entry. make sure that the men are greeted properly and feel just as welcome!
4) Do the awkward "New people hand raise". Yes, it is awkward, or at least seems that way, but if you do it the right way, you can make the people feel important and loved. In one church, they asked for the new people to raise their hands, then the pastor tells them they are important and the whole church shouts "please come back." The new people love it!
Make sure to give out a welcome card here so that it can be collected by the offering. Oh, and make sure that offering isn't awkward. For some churches they have traditions with the offering that is very awkward for a first time guest. "As a guest, you don't have to give to our church, but everyone will walk to the front and we will see that you didn't put anything in..."
As a side note, be careful that your seasoned people know that a new person may sit in their favorite Sunday spot. I once went to a church, sat in the row and had a lady tell me that I was in her spot. That brought the warm welcome feeling on!!
5) Follow up! The pastor should meet with the new people and make them feel important. Yes, the pastor should be at the door after the service. One thing that seems strange to have to say, but it has been a problem that I have seen, is that the pastor should be honest. If the pastor is going to invite people out for coffee, he needs to follow through on that. Once that happens too many times, people may think of him as a liar and be turned off, even if it is not done intentionally.
After a week or two of visiting, someone from the church should give a call. This should not be invasive, just a friendly "thank you" for visiting.
None of this guarantees that a person will stay, but it does mean that you did your best to make them feel welcome in your church. Remember that it takes a person 3-4 Sundays to figure out if they will stay at your church, so you don't have to overdo it the first week.
So what has worked for your church? What has been your strengths and weaknesses?
Don't forget, if your church needs help in these areas, we can help by coming as a guest and giving you honest feedback on what we saw while visiting your church.