When it comes to connecting people to your church, you need a plan. Knowing the key steps and maximizing the opportunities they generate will help you begin to see stronger responses from your guests. When you cover the bases well, you increase the likelihood that your guests will stay connected and give your church every opportunity to help them discover God’s grace and truth.
First, the Sunday experience itself is a critical part of assimilation. Now, it will take us a few blogs to cover each element of the Sunday experience with your guests, but remember that there is no second chance to make a solid first impression. On their first visit, your guests must experience your congregation’s friendship and they must see what your church is all about. If you’re just going through your regular motions without regard for the new people in your midst, you’ll never get to the second step of assimilation. So before we can get to elements of a follow-up plan or ongoing ministry efforts, we’ll explore the Sunday experience and consider each moment that makes a difference.
One of the first items to prepare for is to be sure your guests leave with some reminder of their visit. The guest gift is an easy way to say, “Your visit mattered to us and we’re glad you came.” Guest gifts provide a way to lengthen the memory of their visit at your church.
Now, choosing the right guest gift is critical. If you give someone something you want them to have but they really don’t want, well, we’ve all been given a few ugly sweaters like that. Loading up guests with your church information or dvds of previous services may seem like a great way to enlarge their experience, but most will see such a gift as an ugly sweater. If you give a gift that seems like your agenda, well, that’s not quite the gift someone likely wants.
When choosing a guest gift, think about the guest! What would they enjoy? Yes, coffee mugs are nice and a good starting place for many churches, but maybe you could think more creatively. Do you want your guest gift to be one of the 30 coffee mugs in their cupboard? Use your imagination! The ideal guest gift is something that’s fun and will keep your church’s name in front of them throughout it’s usefulness. At the church I pastored, we gave a plastic gumball machine pre-filled with candy. By ordering from the manufacturer, they cost less than $5 (even after we filled them) and everyone wanted one. Plus, by placing an attractive label on top of the machine, we kept our church’s name in their family room, office, or play room for as long as they kept refilling it with more candy.
Also, use the gift as a way to encourage your guests to engage the church. Give the gift when the guest completes a guest card. Make it a trade. People shouldn’t be expected to give their contact information just because they visited your church. Maybe the doctor’s office can ask for your info before making you feel at home, but we don’t want a trip to church to feel like that. So, offer the gift in exchange for that information and give the gift whenever they are ready to let us get better acquainted–week one, two, or maybe even week six.
If you make the guest gift a fun experience, your members will be excited for their friends to visit and get one of those gifts too. It may seem like a small motivation, but making a visit to your church a fun experience will encourage your members to invite their friends. If they think their friends will like your guest gift, they have an additional reason to believe their friends will enjoy attending.
Remember that your guest gift is a gift. Give it freely. Don’t attach conditions, qualifications, or limitations. If a guest wants to take an extra gift to a sick friend who had planned to attend, don’t let church rules get in the way. The point of the gift is to create a fun, friendly, first experience with your church. Do everything you can to be sure the gift can do just that.
The ideal guest gift is one that says, “those people really liked me.” And it keeps saying it long after the first visit.