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How to Help Guests Self-Identify at your Church

Churches are notorious for making guests feel awkward and out of place. I attended a church once that asked every guest to wear a rose sticker on their shirt and then remain seated during a time in the worship service when everyone else would stand up walk around and “greet” the new guests. Super awkward, but honestly mild. I could tell some really embarrassing stories how churches make guests feel uncomfortable.

The guest experience is an essential part of your church reaching new people. But building a great guest experience isn’t just about church growth and numbers, it’s ultimately about helping people feel like they belong at your church, so they can then begin to believe in the life-changing news about Jesus.

There are a few simple things your church can do to help guests self-identify.

Guest Parking:

Priority parking for guests and a great experience in the parking lot with a parking team and good clear signage is a great way to help guests self-identify.

New Kids/Family Check-in:

Having a new family check-in area for first time kids in the kids ministry is a great way to help new families self-identify.

New Ministry Engagement:

Simply pay attention to new ministry engagement each week. The first time someone gives, the first time someone jumps into a group, the first time they volunteer, or any other way they self-identify, check to see if it is their first point of engagement.

Mention Guests in your Weekend Services:

Make sure you address guests directly in your weekend worship services. Thank them from the stage for being your guests that weekend and tell them what step you want them to take. Some churches have a communication card they want guests to fill out and turn in, some direct guests to a particular place to receive a special welcome and meet the staff, and I’ve seen others invite guests to self-identify and on their behalf the church donates a financial gift to a ministry…i.e. “By simply being here this weekend you’re providing clean drinking water to kids in…let us know you’re here and make a difference in the life of a kid.”

So, here’s how the math behind it all works…

  • We know that the average church in America has around a 15% attrition rate annually. People move out of town, people get mad at something the pastor says and leave, and people die. There are all kinds of reasons attrition takes place.
  • We also know that the average church that has a great guest experience and weekend worship experience (including a strong kids ministry), retains about 1 in 5 guests, or 20%.
  • So, if a church that averages 500 people on the weekend is going to grow by 5%, or 25 people on average then they need to help 500 1st time guests self-identify. That’s a 1:1 ratio of guest to attender for the year.
  • Still not following? Say that church of 500 people is on average going to lose 15% of people to attrition, or in this case 75 people. If that church has a 1:1 first time guest to average attendance ratio for the year, that would mean that church would have 500 first time identifiable guests. If they retain 20% of their guests, or 1 in 5 first time guests (which would be 100 people), that church would grow by 5%, or 25 people in average weekly attendance.

Obviously, there are other ways to get things growing at your church. You could “close the back door” and cut the attrition rate, or you could strengthen the retention rate of new guests.

But none of that matters is you can’t help guest self-identify and get them in your assimilation pipeline.


Posted in Leadership

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  1. The Top 10 Leadership Posts I Read The Week Of September 16th | Brian Dodd on Leadership - September 20, 2019

    […] How To Help Guests Self-Identify At Your Church by Paul Alexander […]

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