As guests drive onto your church property, their minds are most likely going at full speed.
They are probably somewhat nervous–never having been to your church before. And if they are new to church in general, then they are probably wrestling with apprehension, doubt or even fear. Reading their mind before they even arrive is vital for giving them the best chance possible to have a great experience.
Intentional communication is an effective way to help.
1. It starts with clear signage at the road.
Identifying your church and where to enter. It also helps to have a parking team (check the previous blog for more info on that topic). Once they enter the parking lot, it is vital that they can understand where to park and where to enter the building. Doesn’t everyone have the fear of walking in the wrong door, right into a full auditorium of people who look at them in disbelief?
2. Clear and accurate signage inside your facility.
This is very important, especially to direct them to restrooms, children & student areas, and even into the main room for worship. Don’t assume they can naturally follow traffic flow to any of those destinations—help them along on their journey and make it very easy to see.
3. Communication needs to be very intentional.
From print media, video screens, and of course live from the stage, communication should be scripted with guests in mind. In a word…simple. No one wants to drink from a fire hose, so think through their questions ahead of time and answer them in clear, thoughtful (and even creative!) ways.
4. Make next steps that they can consider taking that day or beyond.
Communication to guests can mainly center around what will happen to them that day (like length of service, what to expect, where to go with questions, etc). Most guests will need a couple visits to get comfortable enough before they want to be contacted. With that in mind, make the next steps for them (fill out a card, stop by a table, etc.) very much on their terms. This will disarm them and assure them that it is ok to kick the tires for as long as they need to before attempting to take a next step.
5. Speak about them from the stage.
Finally, it will mean a lot to the guests to feel like they are recognized. The welcome, announcement time, or even offering can be scripted in a way that guests are acknowledged, coached and even given permission to sit back and observe until they are ready to participate.
All of those efforts are designed to meet guests where they are and help make their visit to your church a positive one. They might even feel like you have read their mind, which is a good thing when you use that info to enhance their church experience.
Matt Vanderbilt is a Michigan-native who has been serving as a pastor for over 15 years in North Carolina. He is currently preparing to launch a new church plant in early 2015. | @mattvanderbilt | Website