What’s the primary goal for most churches?

If your answer is to make disciples of Jesus, then we’re with you! Leading people into a relationship with Jesus is a vision we can all get behind, right?

But from a more practical approach, what exactly does this mean for your church? What does it look like on a real-life level?

Well, it’s a lot of things, but one of them is moving first-time visitors or sporadic attendees to regular, committed members.

Think of it like dating (just go with us for a minute on this one).

  • It starts by meeting: that initial moment of discovery where you find out the other person exists in the world.
  • Then you move to online stalking: the search that gives you all the details you want to know about the other person before you commit to the date.
  • And then you finally go out on that first date, and it’s fun. It’s great. It’s all the things you hoped it would be. Then what?

The goal is to make them comfortable enough that they’ll want to go out again. And again. And again.

The goal is a relationship.

And the same is true for your church. After visitors discover your church and check it out online, they make that first visit. And then comes the real challenge: to move people beyond that initial first visit to your church to becoming regular, consistent members.

So how do you do it?

Here are five things to consider. By no means is this an exhaustive list, but it will hopefully give you some helpful tips.

     1) A Warm Welcome

When you walk in to a new place, what is it that makes you want to stay?

A clean space? A good layout? Friendly people?

All of those things and more add up to one thing: a well-created environment. Visitors to your church are going to want to attend again when they feel comfortable in your space.

Look at your church through the eyes of a new or first-time guest. Is the space easy to navigate? Is it clean and welcoming? Is there enough seating and parking? Do you have clear signage to help them get where they’re trying to go?

It seems simple, but creating a safe and comfortable space where people want to be is key to keeping people coming back to your church.

     2) Guard The Front Line

Building a great church staff is wonderful, but having an incredible team of volunteers is essential to a successful Sunday morning for guests.

For all intents and purposes, your volunteers are the face of your church to the people who attend on Sundays. That’s why it’s imperative that you put your best people on the front lines of greeting, guiding, and getting to know your guests at church.

Now when I say “best people,” I’m referring to people who…

  • Are the most friendly.
  • Care about people the most.
  • Have a lot of knowledge about your church.
  • Will go out of their way to help guests feel at home.

Building a team of personable and knowledgeable guest services volunteers—who are ready and willing to go above and beyond—is a great way to move guests from guest to attendee.

     3) Don’t Speak A Different Language

No one likes to feel like an outsider. When someone tells an inside joke that you just don’t get, it’s awkward. When everyone is talking about a movie that you haven’t seen, it’s uncomfortable. When you’re the person on the outside of the conversation—especially in a new place—it makes you feel different… and not in a good way!

Be careful to choose language that includes rather than excludes.

Avoid using inside terminology—words, terms, or acronyms that only regular attendees will understand.

Instead, go out of your way to offer a brief introduction or explanation of the different elements of your service or areas of ministry at your church. Keep it short so that it’s easy to understand. And avoid making them feel belittled by pointing out that you’re explaining things only for visitors.

The point is to make them feel like an insider rather than an outsider at your church. A quick introduction that lets people know what’s happening at your church will go a long way in making people feel comfortable.

     4) Create The Glue

People are more likely to come back to something they feel connected to or invested in. So to move people from visitor to member, you’ve got to give them something (or someone) to connect to. That creates the glue that helps people stick.

What’s one thing visitors can do to get more connected to your church?

Think of a clearly defined next step your visitors can do quickly and easily. For example…

Follow your church on social media.
Fill out a card with their information and leave it in the offering bucket.
Stop by a table for guests on the way out.

Make it simple and easy for them to do right there on the spot. It’s a non-threatening way to take a next step and feel like they’re becoming a bit more connected to what’s happening at your church.

And remember: Next steps can be for you, too!

If you have a smaller congregation, make a point to try and say hello to a few new faces before and after the service. Whatever it is, do something that gives your visitors a sense that they’re seen and welcomed at your church.

     5) Follow Up

Don’t just meet guests on a Sunday morning, get their information, then forget about them. A personal follow up will go a long way to encourage visitors to keep attending.

Back to that dating analogy we talked about earlier. After a first date, how does a second date happen? Someone has to ask someone! You’ve got to apply this thinking to your visitors.

To move people from visitor to attendee, you’ve got to follow-up.

A quick phone call. An email. A handwritten note in the mail. Even a text will work.

One practical yet powerful way to follow up and appreciate people is to give them a copy of

What Happens When You Attend.

What Happens When You Attend is an incredible mini-book that affirms and encourages people who attend church. It lets them know five key benefits for attending church…

  1. They gain access to community
  2. They get encouragement
  3. They are exposed to truth
  4. They build faith in their families
  5. They are part of the vision and mission of the local church

This is a great resource that will not only encourage people who do show up, but it will also inspire people who don’t.

CHECK IT OUT RIGHT HERE (p.s. there’s even a free bonus!), and change the nature of the attendance conversation.

Whatever you do, make a point to have someone on your staff personally follow up with visitors who leave their information on a Sunday morning.

If you want to see more visitors join the cause of Christ and become disciples at your church, then you’ve got to make sure they feel seen and known!