Four Steps for Welcoming Easter Visitors
There’s a line that old school pastors used back in the day to conclude their Easter Sunday sermon. As they wound down and looked over the largest crowd of the year, who just so happened to be wearing clothing colored brightly enough to survive the first day of hunting season, they would say, “Well, I guess I will see most of you on Christmas.”
The vast majority of the congregation would laugh awkwardly as they knew the pastor was talking directly to them, while avid church-goers would laugh loudly because the comment made them feel good about themselves.
What made the quip cut so deep was the fact that it was true.
For many churches, it’s a foregone conclusion that guests who show up at Easter will not likely come back.
When you accept the Easter-Christmas phenomenon, it eases your mind of the responsibility to engage and pursue these holiday attenders. But while you may shrug off the fact that most guests don’t come back (at least for 8 months), the blame is not entirely on them. There are practical steps you can take to increase retention among these visitors.
The fact is, a lot of churches are just not very intentional about making positive connections with new guests. They don’t concern themselves with thinking about the nonverbal messages they could be inadvertently communicating. They don’t give due consideration to creating a hospitable environment for outsiders. And as a result, most guests don’t come back. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
What if this Easter was different? What if you had a strategy for effectively engaging guests when they show up at your service?
Don’t let Easter be a wasted opportunity to grow your church. Here are four simple steps you can take to prepare yourself to welcome and connect with this year’s group of Easter visitors.
1. Consider Your “Curb Appeal”
If you’ve ever watched HGTV, you know that curb appeal matters. It can be the difference in a buyer choosing one home over another, or a seller getting full asking price. Curb appeal refers to the first impression of a house. It typically involves landscaping, shrubbery, and those final exterior touches that polish off a home’s “it-factor.”
While your church is not something you are selling, the point here is first impressions matter. From the time a guest pulls up into your parking lot, what message are you communicating? This is a question you must consider.
You want to communicate, “Welcome!” Guests should know that you are planning for their arrival and that you want them there. This might mean clear signage. If there is ever a time to invest some cash into your church signage, it’s Easter.
This doesn’t only apply to signage outside your facility. Make sure there are clear directions once guests enter the building. They should be able to easily find bathrooms, and parents bringing infants to the service need to know where to take them without having to find an usher.
Make sure you have some people out in the parking lot to welcome folks as they pull in, and to give aid to anyone in need. Have more greeters as people walk through the door. Coach your team on being warm, friendly, and greeting each person with a smile.
You also may consider organizing a cleanup day at the church before Easter. Get volunteers to do simple repairs. Pull out the power-sprayer and hit the sidewalks and parking lot. Pick up trash and do a little landscaping. This is no different than what you would do if you had guests coming over to your house for dinner.
2. Be Friendly
Easter Sunday is no time to be bashful. Encourage your congregation to approach visitors, to intentionally remember their names, and even invite them to sit to sit with them. Leaders should model these practices. You want to work toward creating a culture in your church that welcomes new faces.
Take time during the service to directly address your guests. Tell them how honored you are that they have chosen to join you. Encourage them to participate at whatever level they feel comfortable. Make yourself available to answer any questions they may have about the church. Explain elements in the service that need explaining. Avoid “Christianeze” language and define words that must be used but need defining. Make sure that committed attenders spread out and approach newcomers with a welcoming smile and handshake.
3. Give Guests A Next Step
Make sure that you give a clear next step for visitors in attendance. Keep it simple and repeat this step multiple times both verbally and non-verbally (signage). Maybe it’s to fill out a connect card, maybe it’s to go to the connect table, or to drop a card in the offering plate, but give guests a defined next step.
It doesn’t do you much good if you go through the trouble of welcoming guests in if you have no way to get in touch with them. Be sure that whatever the “next step” is, it involves obtaining basic information (name, phone number, address, and email).
In addition, encourage your congregation to informally exchange information with visitors so that they can follow up and even connect over social media.
4. Follow Up
Follow up with your visitors right after Easter weekend. Whether it’s an email, phone call, or personal visit, do not neglect to follow up. At D2Design, our goal is to serve your church with effective communication and marketing services. As you implement a strategy for making guests feel welcome and valued, we would love to help! Our direct mail service would be perfect for follow up, inviting visitors to come back, or telling them their “next step.”
These are just a few key ways you can work toward making genuine connections with guests, and increase the likelihood they come back (before Christmas). What systems and processes do you have in place to welcome visitors to your church? We would love to hear from you.