It’s difficult to get a new visitor to attend your church for the first time, and although it’s easier to get them to return, it’s still challenging. Brady discusses how to make this process easier.
What’s In This Session?
- #1: Feeling over function (0:56)
- #2: Know the guest (3:47)
- #3: Think scene by scene (6:17)
Show Notes & Resources Mentioned
- The Comeback Effect by Jonathan Malm
- The Perfect Church Homepage Infographic
- Pro Church Tools
- Pro Church Tools on Facebook
- Pro Church Tools on YouTube
- Brady Shearer on Instagram
- Brady Shearer on Twitter
- Alex Mills on Instagram
The Full Transcript
Alex Mills: Well hey there and welcome to Pro Church Daily, the show where, in ten minutes or less, you’re going to get a daily dose of tips and tactics to help your church share the message of Jesus, where we try and navigate the biggest communication shift we’ve seen in the last 500 years. I’m your host, Alex Mills. Joined as always by the boss man, it’s Brady Shearer, and today we’re talking about three ways to compel your church’s guests to return.
Brady Shearer: Alex we know how difficult it is to get someone to attend your church for the first time-
Alex Mills: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Brady Shearer: … and I would contend that it’s a lot easier to get a new visitor to return for a second time than it is to get someone to attend for the first time.
Alex Mills: Okay.
Brady Shearer: My friend Jonathan Malm calls this the come back effect and he just released a new book with that same title and what we’ve done, or at least I’ve taken, my favorite parts of that book and we’re going to turn it into an episode of Pro Church Daily. Of course, we got his permission to do that first, and the book is available on Amazon if you want to get the whole thing.
So three ways to compel your church’s guests to return, number one, feeling over function. I was talking with a pastor yesterday on the phone, he’s doing a 30 day free trial of Nucleus right now and I don’t know the size of his church, but I do know that he serves in an area that’s mostly millennials, to use his words. So 35 is the average age demographic where he is, but his church doesn’t really reflect the community around him. I asked him, “Okay, tell me a little bit more about your church, maybe we can talk about ways that Nucleus can help,” and he started running through all the different things that his church is doing when it comes to interacting and making a good first impression with guests.
So he talked about the parking lot, he talked about the connect cards and the visitor cards and the meeting with the pastors and the pad that they passed down the row every single week, and frankly, this church and this pastor were doing a lot, a lot of things. What he said to me, he’s like, “One thing that we found is that we get 90% new visitors to fill out their information because we passed down this friendship pad,” like a clipboard, and he’s like, “… there’s kind of this peer pressure where everyone has to fill it out because if you don’t, it’s pretty noticeable that you’re the one that didn’t fill it out.” He’s like, “I’m afraid that if we don’t keep with that friendship pad, the physical pen and paper, that our conversion rate, so to speak, will drop.”
What I said to him was, I was like, “If it was me and I was attending your church for the first time, functionally, you’ve got everything working correctly but if was sitting with my wife, my family, in a row at your church and the friendship pad got passed down to me,” and I grew up at a church with what we called the friendship registry, or the clipboard, I know what this is about, and everyone was looking at me like, “You’d better put in your phone number and your email address-”
Alex Mills: Everyone, the whole congregation, all their eyes just shift towards you and everyone goes quiet.
Brady Shearer: Exactly. What I said to him was, I was like, “Yes, you get my information, but you probably leave a bad taste in my mouth when I left.” So I asked him, “What would you rather have/ 90% of people respond and give you their information knowing that there’s a huge chunk of them that reluctantly did so and you kind of made a bad first impression with them? Or get maybe 50% of the cards and responses filled out from new visitors, but knowing that each one of them gave that information to you voluntarily?” This is that idea of feeling over function. It’s easy to check off the box-
Alex Mills: Of course.
Brady Shearer: … and say, “Well we’ve got the parking ministry, we’ve got the greeters, we’ve got the visitor card, we’ve got the lobby,” but what is the feeling? What does a guest feel? That first impression they have when they leave your church after attending for the first time?
Alex Mills: It’s so good, because if you get their information, that has no bearing on if they’re going to show up again next week, right? You could get their information and launch your follow up sequence, send them all the emails, all the texts you want to follow up, but if they don’t feel like, “Oh yeah, this church is a place that I can call home … ” If they don’t have that welcoming feeling, the feeling of community and family and friendship, ultimately, then you could send as many follow up emails as you want to that information they gave you, they may not be coming back next week.
Brady Shearer: Second thing that is going to compel your guests to return after their first time visit, know the guest. This has to do with understanding the demographic, the type of person that your church tends to reach and attract. What I’ve found the case to be is that you attract people that are like you. So if want to reach more younger people, but everyone on stage and in leadership is older, all the greeters are older, you’re going to attract people that are like you. One great example of this is there’s this restaurant in our community, the restaurant’s name is Cats and it just-
Alex Mills: Exclusively attracts feline animals.
Brady Shearer: Correct, and every time I go-
Alex Mills: It’s just full of cats.
Brady Shearer: … I just feel out of place. Part of that sentence is true, not the cats part, but every time I go, the food there is good, I like the food. My wife and I will walk in, we’ll come round and there’s only people 60 years and older.
Alex Mills: “What are we doing here?”
Brady Shearer: And it didn’t used to be this way because I remember when the restaurant opened, and it’s changed management a couple of times, but what’s happened is, this restaurant has found its people and its people are older than I am. So even though the food is good, every time I walk in, I’m like, “I don’t know if I really belong here.” Maybe I shouldn’t feel that way, maybe you’re saying, “Brady, the food’s good, just eat there.” And to be fair I do go there enough, but the point is that I never feel like I’d make a recommendation to my other friends that are of my age to this place, because it doesn’t feel like it’s the kind of place that we’d like to go to.
So one thing that you can do, if you know that you want to reach more people that are a certain demographic that aren’t within your church, what you need to do is, you need to make those type of people visible in your leadership. Whether that be running the parking ministry, greeters at the door, on stage in worship or sharing a message, or doing announcements, or hosting. The other side of that is maybe you’re completely fine with being the church that you are now and just double down on the people that you tend to attract already.
Alex Mills: Yeah, we’ve always held on to that philosophy at our church, that your community will always reflect your leadership.
Brady Shearer: Another way was to say your vibe attracts your tribe.
Alex Mills: You’re not wrong and it’s just so true, whoever’s leading the community, whoever like you said, is visible on stage, that’s going to be reflected in the community and so you just have to evaluate, you have to look and say, “Okay, what kind of people are coming to our church and are we good with that or do we want to see that evolve?” Then you have to make those changes in house and you’ll see that reflected in your guests.
Brady Shearer: The final way that you can compel your first time guests to return a second, third, fourth and fifth time, is to think scene by scene what a first time guest is experiencing when they’re attending your church-
Alex Mills: Yeah, this one’s huge.
Brady Shearer: … for the first time. It’s very easy to consider the one hour, 90 minute, or 120 minute service, inside of your sanctuary, inside of your auditorium, but the first impression that a guest has of your church has likely already been cemented by the time that first song crashes in.
Alex Mills: Of course.
Brady Shearer: They’ve got to go to your website and figure out your address and your service times. Then they’ve got to go to your parking lot and find a parking spot. Then they’ve got to walk through the doors, past the greeters, figure out where their kids go, find a seat, wait until the service begins, look at their surroundings and then those cymbals crash in when the first song beings, or something like that. That first impression has already been cemented. So what I recommend that you do is, instead of doing a staff meeting this week, do a walk through of what it’s like to attend your church for the first time. Get everyone together, get in a car and drive through … and do exactly what a first time visitor would do.
Now it’s difficult to see through the eyes of first time visitor, because you’re there in your church building likely day after day, week after week, but if you have everyone together and you’re all doing this as a team exercise, you can kind of talk through the experience. “Okay, we’re driving in to the parking lot for the first time. Okay, if you’d never been here before, what would it feel like?” And people start giving their input, conversation begins, “Okay, we’re walking through the doors for the first time,” if you have kids, is it clear where you need to go right now? If you don’t have kids, is it clear where you should be sitting? Is it clear where the sanctuary is? Is it clear the customs and the culture? Should we have a VIP section where new visitors go right away? Should we leave that for after?
Okay, you’re sitting in the pew, the connect card, do you fill it out? Is it clear that someone shouldn’t be compelled to give if they’re new? Think through all of these things. Map out beginning to end, scene by scene what it’s like for a new visitor to attend your church, point out the confusing parts and then remedy those as much as you can.
Alex Mills: Yeah, we had to do this in our church just a handful of years ago. We really had to shift our philosophy because we realized that most of the people who were working or volunteering at our church grew up in church. I’m sure that’s true for a lot of our listeners and our viewers. If you’re working in church, you’ve probably been involved in church for a long time, or you grew up in church and you’ve never been outside of church, like myself. So I literally don’t know what it’s like to have that first time experience with an un-church perspective. Even when I go to another church for the first time, I know what church is so I basically … I know what I’m walking into.
Brady Shearer: Sure.
Alex Mills: So we had to really start asking ourselves the questions, “What does this part of our service say to someone who has no point of reference for what’s going on here?” So we broke down our whole service, everything that happens on a Sunday morning and said, “How would someone who doesn’t know anything about church receive this moment?” We made some pretty major adjustments based off of the answers to those questions and we saw some really great results. This is a really helpful thing to do and I love your idea of doing a full walk-through with your staff, literally getting in the car, seeing if your parking sign is in the right spot. Stuff like that that just gets overlooked on Sundays, of course, but that could be really helpful to realign and make that first time experience much better for guests to your church and you’ll get them back next week maybe.
Brady Shearer: Again, these three strategies came from the book the Come Back Effect, written by a friend of mine, Jonathan Malm. The foreword’s by Andy Stanley, we’ll have it linked in the show notes if you want to pick it up from Amazon, if you liked what you hear. I think there’s 10 different strategies and these are just kind of three that I thought stood out the most. Featured resource we want to highlight today is the perfect church homepage infographic, we’ve put together this infographic based on eye-tracking studies. Every element that needs to be on your church website’s homepage, we’ve talked about making a good first impression, this is the starting point, this is the very first front line. Link for that is also in the YouTube description in the show notes for the podcast. That’ll do it for this episode of Pro Church Daily.
Alex Mills: We’ll see you next time.