While culture was moving away from Christianity before COVID, the gap in a post-COVID world is even bigger. We certainly cannot expect the unchurched to attend because it’s the perceived cultural thing to do.
Several years ago, I wrote an article about this challenge, and most of the information is still relevant today. The difference is more of degree and urgency today. Here are five key steps to reach and retain guests from my previous article. Most of these can be implemented in your church right away.
1. Create a culture of inviting. One of the primary reasons our churches do not have guests is straightforward: We are not inviting people to come. In my older research for the book, The Unchurched Next Door, we found that nearly eight of ten unchurched persons would come to church if we invited them and accompanied them to the worship services. If we invite them, many will truly come. The data we are seeing affirms that this older research still has validity.
2. Make certain you have a positive “guest flow.” Nelson Searcy, in his book Fusion, created this guide for the number of first-time guests each week in our worship services. If the number of first-time guests in your church is fewer than 5, you need to find out where the challenges reside.
- 3 first-time guests for every 100 in worship attendance: maintenance mode
- 5 first-time guests for every 100 in worship attendance: growth mode
- 7 first-time guests for every 100 in worship attendance: rapid growth mode
3. Be prepared for the guests when they arrive. The studies we have seen indicate we have between five and seven minutes to make a good first impression when the guests do arrive.
4. Find a way to get contact information from guests. Ask guests to complete a guest card but remember, less is more. If we simply ask for an email and a name, we are likely to get higher responses. And if we say we will make a contribution to a local ministry (such as $5 for every card turned in), we will get even a higher response.
5. Contact guests within 24 hours. If you have their email address, send them a quick but personal email. If you have their mobile number, send them a text. These contacts can be brief, but they almost always increase the likelihood of a return visit. Your goal is not only to reach guests, but to retain them as well.
Let me encourage you to look at our resource called Invite Your One (www.InviteYourOne.com) to see our proven method for creating a culture of invitation in your church. We are hearing some great reports from churches using it since they have regathered.
I would love to hear from you about these issues. We truly live in a remarkable time full of opportunities.
Posted on April 18, 2022
With nearly 40 years of ministry experience, Thom Rainer has spent a lifetime committed to the growth and health of local churches across North America.
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Curious how #2 actually works in a small town.