How much time does it take for a visitor to decide whether or not they will return to your church?
Experts have different opinions. Some say as quickly as 90 seconds. Others say three minutes. Still others say they take as long as 12 minutes to decide.
Only 12 minutes? At the longest?
Making a good first impression – and doing it on their way in – is essential if you are going to retain first-time visitors.
How to Welcome Newcomers in Your Size Church
How you make newcomers feel welcome will change as your church grows.
Churches with Attendance under 150
Churches with attendance under 150 can make a friendly first impression by stationing two or three outgoing volunteers at their front doors.
In this size church, newcomers are able to look around the crowd and find the “people like me” pretty quickly.
“People like me,” is key to assimilating newcomers in smaller churches.
Churches with Attendance over 200
Once you get to 200 or more, the number of names and faces is large enough that you’ll want an exceptionally committed volunteer to be at the door at least 45 weekends a year.
Except that the average Sunday school teacher only attends church 39 weeks a year, so you probably won’t find a volunteer to own meeting every newcomer.
It’s time for a staff member to assume this responsibility.
When our church was under 400, my associate pastor met every first time visitor and introduced them to others. If you ask anyone who came during that era, “Who did you meet first?” there answer was always, “Scott Evans.”
Churches with Attendance over 400
Above 400, first impressions must be everyone’s responsibility.
The average church welcomes three visitors per week for every 100 attendees. So at 400, you’ll have 12 or more brand new guests each weekend. No one person can meet and introduce them all to someone they’ll connect with.
Welcoming at this size becomes a family affair.
Here’s the system we use to train our church members to be friendly to newcomers.
Line Up: How Everyone can Welcome Visitors
At New Song, I ask our Core to “LINE-UP” every weekend.
- L = Look for someone you don’t know.
- I = Introduce yourself.
- N = Never sit alone.
- E = Engage in conversation after the service.
- U = Use the RU New Café (our monthly lunch for newcomers).
- P = Practice the 3/10 Rule (talk to 3 people you don’t know during the first 10 minutes after the service).
We call ourselves one of the friendliest churches in the world. LINE UP has made us that way. It’s scalable, so it ought to work for your church, too.
Embed the process in your church by teaching it at leadership meetings, new members’ classes, and at least annually in a weekend service.
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