In the previous article we talked about “WHO” we are trying to reach and what today’s families really look like. In this article we consider five things concerning “HOW” to reach and keep new families at your church.
1. Realize first time visitors no longer exist.
Well, I mean they do exist. They are real people. But when a new person visits your church, though it may be their first time on your campus, they are not on a blind date.
Those who are visiting your church will most certainly check you out online before they attend for the first time. Therefore your digital footprint must be a priority, and two things should be up to date and active:
– Your website
Your website is your new greeter, and it should be congruent with what people will actually experience when they meet you in person. Don’t be that person who posts a photo of themselves on a dating site or Facebook from 7 years ago and acts as if that is what they look like today!
In a very prominent place on your website, put answers to these types of questions…
• Where are you located?
• What time should I arrive?
• What should I wear?
• Where will I take my kids?
• How long will the service be?
• What do you believe?
– Your social media
I say as boldly as I can … only have a Facebook page, Twitter, Instagram or blog if you can keep it up to date and active. I say that because people are checking these things out before they ever visit you. If your last blog post was about the new January series, and it is now May, that’s a problem. If your last tweet was about signing up for summer camp, and it’s now Christmas, that’s a problem. And that speaks volumes to the people who are forming first impressions before you ever meet them.
2. Don’t be afraid to be a mini cooper.
Let me ask you a question … is your church more like a Mini Cooper or a Dodge Caravan?
Some people love Mini Coopers and some people hate them. But at least they elicit a response. And there are Mini Cooper clubs all around our nation of people who gather to talk about their cars!
Dodge Caravans on the other hand don’t have a lot of lovers or haters. And to my knowledge there are no Dodge Caravan clubs around the country where people talk about their amazing minivans!
What I am saying is … BE DISTINCT … because distinct churches have an advantage.
As churches begin more and more to simply reflect culture there are very few voices that really stand out in peoples lives each week. And the people we are seeking to reach are busy, stretched and stressed. They do not have time or need for a voice that is simply echoing culture. What they are looking for is voices and leaders who will stand up & stand out.
Several things distinct churches do …
– They unapologetically preach on tough subjects.
– They leverage culture to reach this culture.
– They cast big, clear and compelling vision and ask for resources.
3. Welcome them in welcoming ways.
The first church I served at in college had a “welcoming of the guests” time in the service where the pastor would ask guests to stand up, say their names and introduce themselves!
Have you ever been to a church that in an effort to be welcoming was annoying?
Here are a few things to think about when welcoming guests …
– You have more guests than you think.
I have learned from a guy named Will Mancini that 5% – 8% of your weekend worshiping community will self-identify as guests.
Therefore the number of guests you could have in one year is:
Average weekly worship attendance X (.05 ) X (52)
So that means if you have a weekly attendance of 500 people X (.05) that 25 people a week would identify themselves as guests. Multiply those 25 people X (52) weeks in a year and you discover you could have as many as 1,300 guests a year.
– Not everyone wants to be noticed.
Understand that sometimes people want to be anonymous, and sometimes they want to be known. Truly understanding this moves your church from demographics to psychographics and will dramatically increase your stickiness.
– You don’t have very much time.
Experts say that in the first seven – eleven minutes a guest decides whether or not they will return again. The decision is made before your guests experience worship and the sermon – the two elements that demand most of our time and attention in preparation. They evaluate your church either formally or informally in a matter of minutes. Once a person forms a first-impression it is almost impossible to change it.
The good news is if they have a good first impression they will filter your service through that lens. And they will give you grace and enjoy the service.
The bad news is if they have a bad first impression then the whole service including sound, lights, message and everything else will be filtered through an already unimpressed lens.
4. Preach to Monday not to Sunday.
Several ways you can do this …
– Get honest critique during the week.
Content Critique – this happens during the week while you are constructing your message. Allow a team of people to see it and bring their adds / deletes and tweaks.
Presentation Critique – this happens after your first service on the weekend. Gather in a room and quickly talk about how the message was received. This is not content; this is presentation. Did people hear, see and feel what you desired?
And remember … Constructive criticism will make you better. Constant criticism will make you bitter.
– Use life stories from your congregation.
These immediately make the message real because they are unpaid people giving testimony to real life change.
*** Be careful using overly sensational stories that people cannot relate to as these will back -fire and intimidate rather than inspire.
– Use personal stories.
A believable story from your own life is better than an unbelievable story from another person’s life. And whatever you expect to mark your guests better have already marked you.
– Don’t be afraid to red-shirt illustrations.
Often we canabolize the great with the good. Don’t be afraid to save an illustration for another time.
– Watch your mouth!
Don’t use “churchy” language that makes them wonder what you’re talking about!
Several weeks ago I was at an airport where multiple carriers were in the terminal right next to each other, and I heard two similar announcements: one used a lot of “airline” words, but one of them got right to the point.
– Delta – “Momentarily all unclaimed and unoccupied seats will be considered surrendered and subsequently redistributed.”
– Southwest – “Lisa and Alex – we know you’re in here – we have your bags – you better get to gate A7 or you’re going to lose your seats.”
5. Outreach trickles down not up.
Leaders always want to know what program will make them more effective in reaching families far from God.
And that is ok.
My answer … How many friends do YOU have who aren’t Christians?
You see reaching people for Jesus is not a program, it’s a mindset and lifestyle.
To the extent that our hearts as leaders are broken and burdened for those who are far from God so will our church be burdened.
What I am saying is that pastors need a heart for the lost not a program for the lost.
I would also add, when reaching new families the accessibility and visibility of the lead/ senior pastor makes a subtle and powerful statement.
I know there are exceptions to this statement, but whether you are a church of 200 or 20,000 the lead pastor needs to be visible and accessible on the weekend. The larger the church the more you have to counter the rock star persona of pastors that many people expect in a church these days.
The bottom line is your guests have probably seen you enough on the stage; they need to see you on the sidewalk.