You spend a lot of time thinking about how to get visitors to return to your church. But you should probably be thinking about how to get them plugged in. Return visits are important, but not nearly as important as assimilation. The key is to convert them from spectator to participant, and there’s no better way to do this than to get them plugged into a ministry in your church.
Here are four things you can do to turn visitors into partners:
1. Gather as much information as possible about your visitors
When a visitor walks through your doors, their future involvement depends a good deal on the information they give you at the beginning. This starts with collecting their contact information (email addresses, etc.) so that you can initiate contact later. This means taking advantage of contact cards, optimizing your child check-ins, and getting people to personally ask for contact information.
You also want to deputize church members to connect with visitors and find out about their interests and past church experiences. This can help them connect visitors to ministry leaders or others in the church who might help them find commonality and future ministry opportunities.
2. Have opportunities for involvement ready
This step is the key. You need to communicate where people can get plugged into your church. If you have things like recovery groups, community outreaches, or hands-on construction projects in the community, everyone needs to know about it.
When church members visit with first-timers on a Sunday morning, they need to be able to make connections between what they’re learning about visitors and opportunities the visitors might be interested in. If a visitor helped in a soup kitchen in their last church, members need to be able to say, “Oh! We have a food pantry here. I should connect you with Barry so he can tell you about it!”
3. Follow up quickly
You want your church follow-up to be as closely associated with the visitor’s initial visit as possible. The longer you wait, the less effective it is. Don’t rely on one method of reaching out. If you have an email address and a physical address, send an email and a postcard.
When you send an email, include links to opportunities you have in the church for visitors and members to serve or be ministered to. Include a brief sentence or two explaining the ministry or outreach, and some contact information.
4. Give personal invitations
Let’s say that your church has prioritized small groups, and it’s important for you to have people involved. It’s not enough for you to mention it from the pulpit because only the most forward people are going to do the work to get involved. Most people need to be personally invited.
Ministry and outreach leaders need to see it as their responsibility to actually invite people to get involved. People won’t be turned off by the attention. In fact, people feel like churches are friendly when they get invites like, “Hey, I lead a homegroup on Tuesday nights. It’s a really low-key affair and we would love to have you come when you’re comfortable.”
Don’t Wait for It to Happen Naturally
You need to have a plan to turn visitors into committed members. You can’t just sit back and trust that it will happen naturally. Intentional, strategic thinking is really one of the things that separate growing churches from stagnating ones.