Dr. Yonggi Cho, Pastor of the largest church on earth (800,000) was asked, “How did your church get so large?” He answered, “It’s easy; we retain our visitors.”
There are multiple resources for Visitor Follow-up available, but the bottom line is that you can’t make them return. What you can do is make them feel welcome.
I got a note the other day from my niece. She and her husband, along with their 3 teenagers are looking for a church. They live in Pennsylvania. She wondered if in the churches we’d started, we’d had any mechanism for greeting the visitors. I explained that we did have a card attached to a visitor bulletin that we encouraged visitors to fill out and put in the offering bag, but that we had no specific time when visitors were recognized. In addition, we have a generic greeting time for all. Our people are encouraged to be aware of new folks and to make them feel welcome, but that was about it. We also have an information booth.
Then I asked why. She said they’d visited several churches and had been greeted by no one. They’d walked in and out having spoken to no one. She never mentioned the sermon or the music, just that the places were unfriendly.
According to the dictionary, a visitor is a person who pays a visit: a caller, a guest, a tourist. In other words, a visitor is someone who is just passing through. We don’t want them to just pass through, do we? We want them to stay and give the Holy Spirit time to soften their hearts. We want them to receive Christ and grow in the Lord into mature believers. Or, if they are mature, we want them to stay and serve along side of us.
We never know what someone wants when they visit a church – what matters most to them, do we? Do they care most about the preaching style? Will the music be to their taste? Are they looking for something for their kids? Does the age of the person come into play? Are they coming to be ministered to, or are they mature believers that are seeking to serve? Maybe they are broken-hearted and don’t know why they’re there. Whatever their reason for coming, remember that they have entered a place where everything, everything is unfamiliar – your people, your facility & your methods.
I recommend you walk through your entire experience from parking lot to auditorium thinking like the visitor. No one likes to be ignored. Even Jesus had the shepherds.