Every church wants to be able to connect to their guests. It can be a struggle for churches of all shapes and sizes. Larger churches may often hear that it is hard for guests to connect at their church because it is so large. And smaller churches hear it is hard because everyone seems to know each other already.
This doesn’t have to be the case. As pastors, we all want more people to not just come to our churches, but to become involved. To be a key person, leader, volunteer, etc. We want them to feel like our church is their church. But how do we do that?
We believe you can do this through developing a guest to membership pipeline. And we’ll lay out a real life example for you in this post.
1 – A guest simply attends.
Easy enough, right?
The first step in your pipeline to make guests into regular attenders, and then members, is to have guests! This is not the stage where you want to be pushy and scare anyone off.
Guests at church like a certain amount of anonymity. They like to feel like they can walk in, sit in the back of a dimly lit auditorium, and leave if they want to without getting sucked into a million hand shakes and hugs on their way in and out. Not everyone loves that. Some people are weird about their personal space level.
The action step here: Be welcoming.
The best thing you can do is create a welcoming environment, so that your guests know that you know they’re there, but still letting them remain anonymous. This could look like:
- Putting friendly, smiling people in first impression and greeting roles.
- Training your volunteers to wave and smile, rather than stop and shake hands with each and every individual.
- Welcoming and acknowledging guests in the announcements or beginning of the sermon.
- Explaining more than you would in a sermon than if you were talking to a fellow believer (even if you know everyone in the room is a believer). Your guests will make themselves known when they feel ready. And when they do, you’ll be ready to move onward to the second step.
2 – A guest is ready for a “first look”.
This is the first step in which you are interacting with a guest (beyond a smile and a wave).
In this step, you can create an actual room or space that guests can come to to meet the pastor and staff, have their questions answered, and get connected. City Church in Tallahassee, FL actually calls this time “First Look” and they have guests simply come up to the front of the stage after the service if they’re interested in meeting some of the staff or have any questions.
The action step here: Be available.
You can also use a specific location for this. The goal is to make it more an informal, laid back time where guests can come to you when they are ready to make themselves known. You’re putting in the work of letting them know you’re there and once they’re ready, this is the perfect time to get to know them better, develop some relationships, and get them connected to your church.
3 – A guest attends a “101” class.
So now your guest is interested in learning more about how they can become connected in your church. They’ve expressed interest and you want to make sure they remain interested.
So you’ll want to invite your guests to a “Your Church 101” type class.
The action step here: Keep it simple.
This is really just a class that covers the basics of your church. Keep this broad. Church of the Highlands has four different classes, in their growth track program, that begins with letting guests know what their church is and how they can connect all the way to helping guests become members and use their specific gifts to build the church.
You can also keep it simple with one class like NewSpring church does. They let their people know who the class is for and what to expect. Makes it much less intimidating for a newcomer.
You can get creative with this. You can make it a 15-20 minute class after the service each month where you share information about your church with a Q&A at the end. Or you could make it a lunch or dinner, so you’re getting to serve your guests while letting them know the ins-and-outs of your church. Whatever you do, make sure your guests walk away with one action step they can take.
4 – A guest attends a “201” class.
After some time has passed, your guest should be involved in your church somehow for some period of time. Whether it is through a small group or through a volunteer role.
You’ve seen this person around. They’re no longer a stranger. In fact, they may have even become a key person that has been extremely useful to a particular ministry. They’re ready to “take the plunge”, so to speak.
Like one goes from dating to marriage, this guest is ready to make the commitment.
The action step here: Get specific.
Now that they know plenty about your church and have gotten to be a part of the community, a “201” class gives you the opportunity to remind them of the church’s mission and purpose, to provide any remaining information about your church, and to lay out expectations of what you expect from your church members. We love how detailed the Village Church in Dallas, TX lays out their membership expectations.
Make sure this is clear, as you want someone making a serious commitment, but don’t be so serious that you’re restrictive about letting people become members. During this class, you can point people to how they can become a member.
If they’re in this class, they’re most likely interested and wanting to take the step anyway. Like with step one, don’t be pushy here. Once you’ve laid out your expectations, let your guest come to you when they’re ready to make the step.
A friendly e-mail broadcast to people that attended your class (since they already took the step in showing they were interested) may be beneficial as well, but no more than one or two reminders.
5 – A ‘guest’ becomes a member.
Every christ follower is called to be involved in a local church. Church membership helps us to love, serve, and learn from one another. The Village Church in Dallas, TX also has a great explanation for the reasons they believe in church membership. “Membership recognizes and responds to the call of discipleship in the context of gospel-centered community.”
At this stage, your guest has been coming for a few months and they’ve gone through both classes. they’ve had time to think, pray, and they’ve decided that they’re ready to call your church home. They’re ready to do things like commit to attending Sunday services, studying Scripture, and being a part of some sort of community or ministry within your church.
The action step here: Make it easy.
Once they’re ready, you can make this process as easy as filling out an online application or having a form that guests can fill out in person. Just make it easy. Someone shouldn’t have to jump through hoops to become a member, or they may never get around to doing it.
So What's Next?
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