Visiting a church for the first time is intimidating.
People may wonder where to go, who to meet, and wonder what they will experience. It's a big reason people ignore new places in general.
Regardless of why someone visits your church, easing the tension your first-time guests feel is essential. By creating a positive experience, you will compel them to visit your worship service again or take the next step in getting further involved.
One way to create a better connection with your guests is to share with them a small gift for visiting your worship service.
Why you should give gifts to your first-time guests
Inviting people to your house (or house of worship) is a big first step.
You’re extending a personal invitation for someone to enter your space, and making your guest feel comfortable is a hallmark of Christian hospitality.
Think about it.
You’re inviting someone new into your family’s weekly gathering. There will be many people they don’t know. They probably won’t know how to handle him or herself. And they’ll have no idea where anything’s at in your facilities.
By giving your first-time guests a gift, you’re not only creating a good first impression. But you’ll be able to do three additional things:
- Show people you care
- Get their contact information
- Follow up later
When you give a gift to a first-time guest, you’re letting them know you care. Gift giving is a simple act that lets people know you planned ahead for their visit, and that you’re thankful for their presence.
By providing your visitors with a gift, they will be more inclined to share with you their contact information. When visitors share with you his or her contact information, they’re expressing an openness to hear from you in the future.
Following up with your guests is essential in encouraging them to consider visiting your church’s worship service again or to get further involved. Touching base with your guests after their visit is one way you can extend a positive experience, answer any questions, and let them know you’d love for them to visit again.
To accomplish this goal, be sure to include connection cards in your gift bags.
With your connections cards, aim for simplicity. In other words, only require visitors to share with you the bare minimum of information—their name and email address. Making it easy to complete your connection cards will increase the number of visitors who will actually complete them.
By giving your first-time guests a gift, you’ll be better able to close your church's backdoor and encourage visitors to come back.
How to make people feel comfortable—not awkward
Giving someone a gift is more of an art than a science.
Here’s the deal:
Make guests feel comfortable—not awkward.
What time you give a visitor a gift during your worship service is key and there are several times you can choose to give them a gift. But one of the best ways to hand your guests a gift is after your worship service.
To pull this off, here’s what you need to do:
- Dedicate a space to first-time guests
- Let first-time guests know where to go after your worship service
For this last point, it’s best to let your guests know during your announcements where they should go and to include this information in other places, such as your bulletin or in your foyer.
If you have a dedicated space with clear signage and volunteers present, first-time guests will be better able to identify where they need to go. But whatever you do, make sure this location is easy to find and not tucked away in a dark corner of your worship space.
One final point:
Don’t ask your guests to raise their hand or stand up during your worship service to get their gift.
For the vast majority of people, this is uncomfortable and making this request is arguably the number one way to drive away your guests. If you didn’t know, now consider yourself informed.
10 Guest Gift Ideas
Not sure what your first-time gift should be? The ideas below will help you to get started.
Whatever gift you give, make sure it’s also something you think your visitors will like and that it’s relevant. For example, providing a gift to first-time guests with children may look different than a gift you will give a single person or grandparent.
In the meantime, here are some first-time guest gift ideas for you to consider:
The sky's the limit with the type of book you can give away.
Sharing copies of the Bible, The Jesus Storybook Bible for families or seasonal books related to Christmas or Easter are all viable options.
With the book you give, keep this in mind: Make sure it’s relevant and accessible.
Giving everyone a copy of a children’s book may cause some blowback, and giving someone a book fit for a seminary class isn’t the best idea, either.
How Good Is Good Enough by Andy Stanley is a good option. Saddleback Church gives guests a coupon for a free Bible that they can redeem at a local bookstore.
Make sure any book you give away is relevant and accessible. Handing everyone a copy of a children’s book may cause some blowback and giving someone a book fit for a seminary class isn’t the best idea, either.
Pro Tip: Include a bookmark that has more information about your church.
#2. Gift card
Do you know what most people feel after your worship service?
Hungry or tired.
Not because your service is long or boring. Since 10:00 AM is the most popular start time for Sunday services, most people will be ready for a bite to eat or a little coffee afterward.
With this in mind, consider giving your visitors a gift card to a local restaurant or coffee shop. You can get custom gift card sleeves from ChurchINK with your church name on them.
#3. Coffee mug or tumbler
Did you know that 64 percent of Americans drink a cup of coffee every day?
Did you know that tea can be found in 80 percent of American households?
These stats may sound random, but here’s the point: A coffee mug or tumbler is an excellent choice for a gift.
There’s a chance someone won’t appreciate this gesture, but we don’t talk to people who don’t drink coffee, so that’s okay (just kidding).
#4. Local item
Is there a small gift from a local business you can provide?
Not only will this gesture support local businesses in your community, but it’s also a way to share something heartfelt from your town that people will enjoy.
Giving away food can be tricky.
Since nearly 15 million Americans have food allergies, you’ll need to give away basic food, such as:
- Hot Chocolate
Speaking of popcorn, you can pair this treat with a gift card to Redbox, Amazon, or iTunes to create a movie night experience for your visitors.
#6 – An invitation
Give guests a personal invitation to share a meal with the pastor. You could give them a voucher for a “VIP breakfast” to get meet a few people in the church or ask some questions.
At Northpoint Community Church in Atlanta, someone usually kicks off the service with something like this:
If today is your first time with us, we hope it's not the last time. If you're ready to meet someone, we invite you to stop by a room called The Studio right after the service. Just walk through these doors to your right. There are some people who would love to meet you and answer any questions you may have.
#7 – Scripture Cards
#8 – Gas Card
You never know how financially challenging it might’ve been for someone to get to church. A gas card is a little help that anyone would appreciate to help them fill up for the week. Include a handwritten note that lets them know you’re thankful they made the trip.
#9 – Goodie Bag
They’re not just for kids’ birthday parties. You could fill a guest’s goody bag with small snacks like candy or chips, a pen, a brochure about your church, and more.
How much your first-time gift will cost
Sharing gifts with your first-time guests is a nice gesture.
It can do all of the things we just talked about above and more.
However, if the gift you share is done half-heartedly, you’ll end up discouraging people from returning, which defeats the entire purpose.
When planning your gift, be prepared to budget accordingly.
After talking to 33 church leaders across the United States about the gifts they provide to first-time guests, Rich Birch discovered that the average cost per gift was $4.88. In his research, he discovered that the least expensive gift was $0.75 and that the highest amount spent was $15.00.
How much you spend will look different from church to church and city to city.
For your gift, we suggest investing in a few gift bags to get started. This will let you know how much you should expect to pay, how much time it takes to put them together, and what type of feedback you’re receiving from your visitors.