grow a healthy church


12 Reasons Church Visitors Don’t Return For A Second Visit

church visitors don't return

As part of my coaching services I decided to be a ‘mystery shopper’ in a church in our city and it felt quite daunting. A feeling that many church visitors feel.

Only one person knew me in the crowd of 500+ people and that was the pastor. However, he wasn’t even aware that I was in church until well after the service when we chatted.

I was a stranger to everyone else.

As I drove home I reflected on my experience.

I realized the church didn’t have my contact details so they had zero impact on my decision about a second visit.

I was in the driver’s seat.

While that’s great for me it’s terrible for any leaders wanting to grow a healthy church.

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12 Reasons Church Visitors Don’t Return

Ignore these reasons at your peril.

1. You Don’t Have a Pathway Mapped Out For Church Visitors

Whenever I head out on my exercise walk I target a footpath or as my American friends like to say, a sidewalk.

People love pathways.

We are designed to walk along familiar pathways especially when they are well lit and maintained.

Intentional leaders map out a pathway for visitors and line their pathway with key people who act on the trigger points along the journey.

A pathway gives clarity and, more importantly, positions you to get results.

This simple pathway creates a visual map for your church and leaders and helps them grasp the vital importance of hospitality for visitors.

church visitors don't return

2. You Didn’t Get Their Contact Details

Some churches are afraid to ask for contact information from visitors.

They are terrified of being intrusive, especially with Millennials.

However, Barna Group’s research shows that only 15% of Millenials don’t want to share any information when visiting a church.

church visitors don't return

Churches have a variety of reasons why they don’t use visitor cards.

This is a significant mistake and churches miss abundant opportunities to engage with their visitors.

It all starts with the pastor and volunteers involved with visitors carrying a pen and visitor cards.

When you connect with the visitor and the conversation comes to a natural end, take out the church visitor card, begin to write their name, and then ask for their contact details.

99% of people will give their name, address, email, and best contact number.

Your readily available privacy policy will help people feel secure when giving you their contact details.

Always use a card or church iPad and never put those details into your phone.

Download our free and simple

Visitor Connect Card

You can use this card this Sunday

3. You Didn’t Text Your Church Visitors

A text is an unobtrusive way to make a connection. Text messages are rarely unopened and remain one of the powerful ways to connect with people.

If you obtained the visitor’s contact details you can send a ‘thank you for visiting us’ text within 24 hours.

At the end of the week, you can send a follow-up, invitational text telling them what’s happening this Sunday.

You can also send them an invitation to a 30-day devotional about Jesus.

One church lifted its evangelistic potency by promoting a 30-day devotional via text. Visitors and members alike could easily and privately sign up at the end of a service for the devotional.

Don’t forget to add a short unsubscribe message in the texts e.g. ‘Reply STOP if you do not want to receive our messages’.

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4. You Didn’t Call Them

A courtesy call thanking the visitor for coming to the service is a winsome way to connect with your church visitors.

Most people will not pick up when the number is not recognized however you can leave a personal message.

In this impersonal age, a simple and helpful message builds connection and can lead to further engagement with a visitor.

5. You Didn’t Send a Postcard

A postcard is a ‘purple cow’ moment for your church visitors.

Seth Godin writes of driving through France and initially being enamored with the picturesque, rolling hills and black and white cows

However, after a while, he longed to see something different, a purple cow.

Your handwritten postcard is your ‘purple cow’ opportunity. It will make your church stand out.

A welcome letter is a good idea, however, I think you can do better than a letter.

Don’t forget to put a small magnet on the back and your Sunday service tie on the front. Hopefully, the postcard will spend some time on your visitor’s fridge.

church visitors

6. Your Church is Dirty and Cluttered

Take a fresh look at your car park, foyer, and children’s area through the eyes of a visitor.

Drive into your car park as if you were a first-time visitor.

Next, walk into the foyer and ask yourself, how clean are our entrance and foyer?

How much clutter is lying around?

7. Your People Aren’t Trained to Connect with Church Visitors

The 15 minutes after the service is the time of church growth.

What you do with your visitors after the service will impact the growth of your church.

If you don’t connect with your visitors you won’t be able to follow them up.

Think of the range of church visitors you attract to your services.

They range from people who don’t want any connection to those who are longing to be part of your church.

Train your people to cater to everyone in this wide spectrum.

8. You Don’t have a Guest Lounge

There are several reasons churches don’t set up a guest lounge area for their visitors.

Church leaders tend to leave visitors to their own devices because they re afraid they will overwhelm them. Others just lack basic hospitality and forget to cater to their visitors.

Some visitors won’t go near a guest lounge, however, others will seek it out.

I recommend that you don’t take people into a separate room. It is far better to set up some chairs in your foyer or café area. Place some friendly hosts there and make sure the pastor connects with everyone in the lounge.

9. You Don’t Have a New People’s Director

The first thing with your visitor’s program is not to create a system or structure. Find a person because God uses people and builds systems around them.

Create a position in your structure for a New People’s Director and watch your visitor retention rates soar.

Consider this position to be as important as your Children’s Director and your Worship Director.

Next, begin to pray for the best person to fill that role.

If your church is under 120 people I recommend that the pastor become the first New People’s Director. As your church grows the role can be filled by a volunteer or whenever another person is trained.

The primary requisites for a New People’s Director are the

  1. Ability to be organized
  2. Aptitude to be friendly

One of the key roles a Visitor’s Director fulfills is the management of visitor’s data. Unhealthy churches never measure the right things and tend to rely on guessing their stats or just ignoring them.

Accurate data is s maintained by the visitor’s director and utilized to direct your ministry to church visitors.

10. You Made Church Visitors Feel Awkward

Visitors are genuinely nervous on their first visit and can remain so for several visits, therefore, you must avoid embarrassing them in any way.

Some visitors find the meet and greet time difficult and contrived. They don’t enjoy small talk with strangers and feel awkward engaging with strangers.

Others feel like outsiders due to the inside language and stories that only members understand.

Poor or missing signage can make people feel awkward as they are forced to ask, “Where are the toilets?”

One solution is to ask a key leader to pretend they are a visitor and get them to filter all elements of your gathering through the lens of a new person. You can debrief and then reassess every aspect of your meetings.

Alternatively, sit down with new members and ask them for a specific and candid analysis of your meetings and find out their awkward moments.

11. Your Church Just Doesn’t Care

It’s possible that you have no vision for growth and you don’t care about visitors.

You’re in maintenance mode and fatalistic about any attempts to engage with your community.

I think this is the case in too many churches. It is reflected in this infographic

church visitors

If that’s the case then it’s time to have a change of heart and prioritise the stranger in your midst.

11. Your Church Visitors Weren’t Meant to Come Back

All your visitors can’t return for their second visit.

Some visitors are from out of town and were, well, just visiting.

Others would never fit into your style of church and leadership ways and would be bothersome if they stayed in your church.

They and you are better off finding a church family that fits them.

These are my 12 reasons why church visitors don’t return.

And without returning visitors you won’t grow a healthy church.

12. Can you think of one more?

church growth

Pastor, is your church positioned for growth?

Evaluate your growth potential with a simple 3 min quiz. Get personalized results with actionable solutions.

John is a wellspring of information, experience and advice in all things church. His responses were often out of the box of what's been said before.
Ps Christie Blaikie
Oasis Church

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