Are you ready for a first time guest?

A first time guest in our services shouldn’t be just a pleasant surprise, but an expected part of the services.  In fact, a portion of our preparation for Sunday should be making sure we are inviting people to join us for services and encouraging our people to do the same.  With that said, we should be expecting new people to walk into our doors every Sunday.  Because of this, there are a few questions we should be asking ourselves.  I want to spend some time exploring these questions in this post.

1.  What are we doing to make them feel welcome?  It is a hard thing to walk in the front door of a new place and not know where you’re going or what waits on the other side of those doors.  Making a choice to visit a church requires our guest to ‘put themselves out there’.  You may be comfortable at your church, but this may be the first time in years that your guest has walked in the front door of a church.  There are a few things we can do to help them feel welcome.  We can start by having a team of people who are available for our guests to open the doors, give direction, help orient people to the building (restrooms, children’s, worship center, etc…), and provide a warm welcoming face as well as their name that our guests can know as soon as they walk in the doors.  Some churches have put into practice having guides available to walk with guests as they move through the complex to help them find their way around.  We also need to be sure that we aren’t just welcoming those who look like us, but we welcome everyone that Christ died for.  It’s not our place to pick and choose who has a right to worship or hear the gospel.  We should welcome everyone God brings through our front doors regardless of their outward appearance.

2.  How are we engaging them in the services?  One of the best things we can do to engage our guests is let them experience the services like everyone else.  Having guests stand up and draw attention to themselves or ‘remain seated in a seat of honor’ helps them feel more like outsiders.  I have been in services where, as a guest, I was asked to stay seated while the regular attendees and members were encouraged to greet each other and those who were sitting down.  It is an awkward place to put a first time guest in.  (Note: depending on your culture, you may find that this works great, but let the culture dictate it.)  I have found that encouraging opportunities for everyone to greet each other is good, especially if you encourage everyone to find two or three people they don’t know and introduce themselves.

3.  Is there any plan in place to follow up with them after the services?  Let’s be honest, follow up is where we normally drop the ball.  But follow up is a very important part of anything we set out to do when we’re ministering to people.  When we follow up with first time guests, it lets them know that we value them and also gives them an opportunity to find answers to any questions they may have.  This is also a great time to not only thank them for coming but let them know about how to connect in an upcoming event, groups, or ministries.  If you don’t have a plan for follow up, you can look at Our Church Assimilation Process for a plan we have used for the past few years and found it to be very effective.  All of it may not work for your church, but it may be a good place to start.  Doing something in the area of follow up is better than doing nothing at all.

4.  Are we genuinely interested in them or in the ‘numbers’ they bring?  Numbers are important for one reason and one reason only.  Every number represents a person.  Every person is an opportunity to see God do something in and through them that only He can do.  When you look at Scripture, you see that Jesus fed 5000 and that 3000 were added on the day of Pentecost.  We find accounts of numbers throughout Scripture which means that someone took the time to count how many were there, because numbers matter.  But we also find in Scripture that numbers matter to God because He is genuinely interested in people.  So much so that He sent His Son to die for them.  When we work with new comers, we can work a plan or a system, but realize that each person has a different background and a different gifting from God.  Keep this in mind as you begin to pour into them and bring them into the church.

5.  What would make them want to be a second time guest or even become a regular attendee?  We should know that every first time guest that comes through the door will not become a second time guest for one reason or another.  But the primary reason for that should be because God has another church He wants to use them at.  We should do what we can to create an atmosphere where God’s Word is not only proclaimed boldly and truthfully, but it is lived out in action on Sundays as well.  We should seek to create an environment where people are genuinely welcome no matter their status.  In the eyes of God we all are sinners who have the opportunity to be accepted in Him because of His grace and His grace alone.  Let’s treat everyone like Christ died for them and we’ll see more first timers become regular attendees.

I’ve noticed seasons where we didn’t seem to have many first time guests coming to our church.  When we looked into it, we discovered that either we weren’t inviting people to come or we weren’t prepared for them to come.  Let’s get ready for first time guests this Sunday and see what God will do.

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About John Herring

I've been in ministry for almost 20 years. In that time, I have had the opportunity to serve in a variety of roles including, Student and Children's Pastor, Worship and Media Pastor, Education/Small Groups Pastor, Associate Pastor, Church Administrator, Missions Pastor and 'other duties as assigned' Pastor. Many of these have been within the same church and I have had the opportunity to see a variety of changes and transitions in ministry over the past 20 years. I enjoy coaching, consulting, mentoring and investing in leaders to see them become who it is God created them to be. As I do all of these, I am also in transition from where God had me to where He is taking me and enjoying learning more about Him in the journey. I am blessed to have been married to a beautiful godly woman, Alisha, for 11 years and have 2 amazing kids. I continue to learn more about them, myself and God every day. View all posts by John Herring

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