This is the second post in a series on guest retention. If you missed the first post, you can read it here.
After last week's post, Gail Heiston of Mt. Olive Brethren Church writes,
"We do a welcome meal with our new people. The goal is one every other month but sometimes that doesn't work. Guests at Mt. Olive on a Sunday have 78% higher chance of staying when they attend one of these meals with the staff. It gives us time to get to know them and them to get to know us plus find ways to begin plugging them in or meeting other people in the congregation right away."
Well done, Mt. Olive. Nearly 80% higher chance of keeping your guests? Holy smokes, this is a no-brainer!
Today, we'll cover some training and delivery tips to help you and your team give the best welcome message possible. Once you've generally scripted out the welcome message, the next step is to find and build a team to deliver it and customize the message to fit each person.
An important aside here: your church, no matter the size, should be doing this in teams. Even a small rural church can create a rotation of folks who can do this well. Yes, Pastor, you may be the best public speaker in the place, but other people can be empowered to do this, and do it well. And it will carry more weight with your guests, just because it's not the pastor delivering the message.
Customizing the Message
If you remember, Step 1 of the Welcome Message includes a personal connection from the person giving the message. So, each person on your team should know that personal connection. This is a great chance to communally work together to discern the most potent personal connections for each person to share.
Maybe it's something like "I grew up in this church, and this place has always been family to me," or "I went through a tough divorce a few years back, and my kids and I found refuge and healing here at Anderson Brethren Church."
Whatever the connection is, it should be tested around the group, given feedback, and tweaked to ensure it's the perfect way of illustrating what your church is all about, and providing a real, honest, vulnerable connection to the guest of what they might be able to expect if they continue to come to your church.
Your guests want authenticity, not polish. But authenticity can be done with intention and excellence. Authenticity ≠ ad-libbed. Practice this. Test it. Refine it.
Tips for Delivery
1. Use a notecard, not a script
Don't have your folks wing it, but don't provide a written text either. A simple bulleted list on the back of a half-sheet of paper will work well. It's pretty easy to throw your church's logo, or the Brethren logo on a piece of cardstock, and either print or write the bulleting points on the other side. Two note cards out of every sheet and even your notes look intentional.
2. Train Your Folks To Look Up
Our belief of someone's honesty is directly based on their eye contact, so make sure they're scanning the room, making eye contact. Second, it's hard to follow what someone is saying if their head is buried in notes.
3. Stay on Message
The trick to doing this welcome message well is to keep it concise and straightforward. Ad libs and long rabbit trails detract from what you're trying to do.
4. Resist Believing, "People are tired of hearing the same thing."
The opposite is true. The more folks (even your regular attendees) hear the same messaging, the more likely they are to internalize it, believe it, and begin to act on it themselves. By giving a welcome message every single week, regardless of whether you have guests or not, you get a chance to remind every attendee of WHY your church exists, what your unique approach to ministry is, and how much you value guests.
When you communicate that you value guests, your attendees are FAR more likely to invite guests.
4. Be Prepared
If your call to action is to have attendees fill out an attendance pad, then have a spare attendance pad in your hand when giving the welcome message.
If you want guests to join you in the fellowship hall during coffee hour, then show a picture of the coffee hour on the screen while you're talking about it. You have a cell phone. Snap a photo and make a slide.
If you'd like guests to join you after the service for a quick "Intro to Our Brethren Church" Chat, then show them where it is with a photo, and tell them what to expect.
Finally, look happy! Your church should be glad to have guests, and it should feel like it!
Next week, we'll cover a follow-up schedule for guests after Sunday morning. We'll give you a downloadable worksheet for figuring out the best way to follow up with visitors, without being overbearing, but also without losing them!