“Why Aren’t Our Guests Coming Back for Another Visit?”
Are you wondering why so many of your worship guests don’t come back to your church?
If you haven’t been the guest at someone else’s church in a while it’s easy to underestimate the weight of the experience. A lot is being processed by them in a very short amount of time, and the guest’s first impressions will weigh heavily in their decision to visit again soon or keep looking.
Why should you care?
In chapter 8 of his book “Habits of Healthy Churches,” Marcus Carlson writes about how healthy churches are focused more on those outside the church than those inside the church. So, first and foremost, the reason we care is because we are Christ-like servants to our guests. We are the ones living out 1 John 4:19, “We love because He first loved us.”
However, there is a practical reason you should care. Your visitors are telling you if your congregation’s future is one of growth or decline. If your people care about those outside your congregation, the congregation has the opportunity to grow. If they do not care, the congregation will decline. It is as simple as that.
Visitors see what the congregation is, not what the leaders want it to be. So, even though you may not like what you hear from visitors, you need to listen to them. They are telling you whether they feel welcomed or ignored. They are telling you whether they feel loved or unwanted. They are telling you whether your facility shows you care or are careless. They may not be telling you all that with their words, but they are telling you with their feet. Do they come back a second time or not?
The question is, “Are you listening?”
What can you do?
- Have your leadership team take a few Sundays and be the visitors at different churches. Visit several. Monitor your feelings. What impressions are positive? What are harder to overcome?
- Having had these experiences, make a list of items that impacted your first impressions. For example:
• The church’s website (Most guests check the website before making a decision to visit)
• The parking experience
• The odors or aromas of the facility as you walked in
• Outdoor and indoor signage
• Are children valued (Is there security or chaos? Are their accommodations for families with young children?)
• Authenticity (Are people real? Is there real interest, care, inclusion… or not?)
• The worship experience itself
• A friend of mine once said that visiting churches is like visiting someone else’s family reunion. How did your visits make you feel – included or like an outsider?
- Finally, ask your worship guests if you can interview them about the list above. Whatever their answers, receive them as important insights. They see the congregation as it actually is, not as you want it to be. Listen carefully. They are telling you what you need to know.
Greg Finke, Executive Director, Dwelling 1:14