The Key to Keep Church Guests Coming Back

fallsemester_serve2Let’s continue to look at Nelson Searcy’s rockin’ assimilation book, Fusion: Turning First-Time Guests into Fully-Engaged Members of Your Church. Today, we will look at God’s assimilation plan discussed in chapter 2.

But before we get into our discussion, let me encourage you to check out his blog and the free stuff that he is providing to help churches in their work for the Lord. Here are some helpful links to his website:

. . . . Now, on with the discussion. In chapter 2, Searcy wrote,

God has not only given us the responsibility of being hospitable to His guests, but He has also given us the perfect example of how to go about it. Jesus came to the earth to serve, not to be served. Throughout the New Testament, we see His examples of selfless service for those He had the opportunity to influence. And we’ve been left with the challenge of doing even greater things. When we serve our guests well, we reflect Jesus’ attitude and mindset toward them.

Although Searcy provided a thorough definition of assimilation in chapter 1, he sums up assimilation here as follows:

Assimilation is simply well-planned biblical hospitality through service. The head of our organization is the greatest server of all time. Doesn’t it follow that we should be the ultimate example of such service to our guests? With the right system in place, we can serve in a way that will truly touch lives for God’s kingdom.

For more details about  improving assimilation in your church, see the following posts:

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Great Book on Assimilation by Nelson Searcy

19_largeIn the next few posts, I am going to be discussing Nelson Searcy’s excellent assimilation book entitled, Fusion: Turning First-Time Guests into Fully-Engaged Members of Your Church. Searcy is the founding pastor of Journey Church in New York City and formerly served as the founding director of the Purpose Driven Community with Rick Warren at Saddleback Church. He has personally trained more than 20,000 pastors, church planters, and church leaders through Church Leader Insights.  I have been privileged to particpate in one of his 12-month coaching networks–I highly recommend it!

In chapter 2 of his book, Searcy discusses the concept of “biblical hospitality.” Here’s an excerpt:

The Church–your church–truly is a family expecting guests. And you should be ready to show them intentional hospitality when they arrive. While they are in your company, they need to feel comfortable and valued, no matter where they are in their spiritual development. When they leave, be proactive in giving them a return invitation they’ll be hard pressed to refuse. Your church is a representative of the bigger family of God. As you put a system in place to effectively integrate guests into the family, you will be able to fulfill part of the responsibility He placed on you when He prompted them your way. God is honored when you show your guests true biblical hospitality. . . . Assimilation is simply well-planned biblical hospitality through service.

I like the phrase “biblical hospitality” because it reminds us that being hospitable to others is biblical. When God sends guests to our church, He expects us to prepare for their visit, speak the truth in love, and minister to their needs. He expects us to meet them where they are, regardless of their level of spiritual maturity and move them closer to Christ.

As the church, we should put our best foot forward, treat our guests with kindness, and let people know we care.

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Putting Your Best Foot Forward

lexington-ky-hotel-location-topLast week, two members of the Kentucky Baptist Convention Church Consulting & Revitalization Team and I spent part of the day in Lexington, Kentucky touring the Downtown Lexington Hilton hotel for a future event we are planning. Throughout the day, I observed the hotel staff members utilize many basic, but impressive welcoming principles that can and should be applied to the church. See if you can pick up a couple of things from this post that can help in your setting.

The hotel did a good job of putting their best foot forward. We had an appointment with the Convention Services Manager, Emily Dowd, but she was tied up on a telephone call when we arrived.  Instead of making us wait, she sent another manager to greet us and make us feel welcome until she could break away from her call. When she arrived, she welcomed us and offered us coffee or a soft drink. Throughout our visit, she was helpful, ready to listen, and extremely knowledgeable about her facility. As we randomly ran into other hotel staff members throughout our visit, they smiled and said hello. Some even asked if they could help in some way. Mrs. Dowd invited us to join her for lunch in the hotel restaurant and made sure that we received a validated parking pass as we were leaving.

Here are some basic welcoming principles that impressed me from the day. I believe all of them apply to the church setting as well….

  • Be on time. Although we had an appointment, our appointment was simply for the “late morning.”  As a result of not setting a precise time of arrival, Mrs. Dowd could not help that she was tied up on the phone when we arrived.  Knowing the importance of being on time, she was courteous and asked another manager to “fill in” until she arrived.
  • Be prepared. We were there to get information and to make relational connections. Although, we did not expect the managers to know everything about their facility, we did expect them to know most things. We expected them to be organized and prepared for our visit–we were not disappointed!
  • Be nice. Everyone provided a warm handshake, a friendly smile, eye contact, and good manners! They acted as if they were truly glad we were there and honored we were utilizing their facility.
  • Be real. A mechanical “sales pitch” is obvious. It was nice to meet real people who were working at a real jobs. It caught my attention that everyone seemed very genuine.
  • Be flexible. Throughout the visit, we ran into a hotel staff member who is in charge of Audio/Visual. Although we had not planned to do so, we spent several minutes talking with him about new audio/visual improvements in the hotel. Mrs. Dowd was very patient and flexible throughout our visit.
  • Be thorough. When we’ve held events in that hotel in the past, the staff always sends a very nice thank you note or letter that conveys their appreciation. It’s a small gesture, but little things make a BIG difference.

Surely, if the business world can do such a good job of welcoming people simply for the purpose of their business, the church can do a good job of welcoming people for the purpose of God’s business. Keep striving to put your best foot forward!

For more help in this area, please see the following posts:

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Easter Guest Follow-Up

Guest Follow-upThis Sunday your church will probably experience the largest weekly attendance of the year.  As you prepare for the Easter crowd, remember there is one KEY ingredient for effective follow-up to take place–you must get the CONTACT INFORMATION of your guests!  The only way for an effective follow-up system to work is to have a way to communicate with guests the following week.  Here are some tips for obtaining the contact information from your guests.

How to Obtain Contact Information from Your Guests

1.  Guest parking.  Save the best, most visible parking spots for guests.  The guest parking spots should be near the desired guest entrance and parking lot greeters should be near the area where guests park.  Making a good first impression in the parking lot relaxes guests and increases the likelihood that they will share their contact information when asked to do so.

2.  Utilize good greeters.  Every church should utilize a greeter team.  Although the church may not need parking lot greeters in order to park cars, their presence is still vital.  They can cheerfully greet guests and members as well as answer questions as folks are entering the facility.  Greeters should be stationed at every outside entrance and greeters or ushers should be placed at all the entrances into the worship facility.  If the building is large, greeters should be scattered throughout areas of the building as well.

3.  Use a connection card in the worship guide.  There are lots of ways to obtain guest contact information, but one of the best ways is to insert a connection card in the worship guide.  A card that is attached to the worship guide is good, but it is noisy when someone tears off the perforated portion.  Some guests are hesitant to tear off the card because they do not want to attract attention.  When inserted in the worship guide, the connection card should be placed on fairly thick paper.  Cards can be printed three-to-a-page on standard 8.5 x 11-inch 70-lb. paper.  70-lb. paper is better than the thickest 110-lb. card-stock because it will not fall out of the worship guide as easily.  It is also good to have connection cards on the back of the pews or seats in case some guests do not get a copy of the worship guide as they enter the worship service.

4.  Ask for less; get more.  Most people ask for TOO MUCH INFORMATION on the connection card.  As a result, guests avoid filling out the card altogether and follow-up does not take place.  Ask for basic contact information such as name, address, email, best phone number, etc.  Generally, when you ask for less information, you will get a higher rate of return from your guests.  It’s better to receive less information from your guest than to receive none at all.

5.  Recruit the right person to extend the welcome.  In many cases, guests are never even acknowledged during the worship service.  Of course, they should never be singled out or embarrassed, but it is helpful to acknowledge them and to thank them for coming.  The church should recruit a genuinely friendly person who is able to communicate in a comfortable, relaxed mannner.  Many times the best person for this role is someone other than a staff member.  At some point during the service, this person can verbally welcome guests and ask them to complete the connection card.  Encourage the guest to drop the completed connection card in the offering plate as it passes or to hand their card to an usher after the service.  It is best if the offering is taken up at the end of the service, so guests will have more time to gain confidence in the church leadership and more time to complete the information.

6.  Offer a gift to those who complete the connection card.  It is often helpful to offer a gift to those who complete the connection card.  One effective approach is to place copies of a small Christian book on tables by the exits in the worship center.  During the welcome time, guests can be told to pick up a copy of the book as they exit the service as a gift for completing the connection card.  The church should place a generous supply of books and allow guests to take them on their own.  That approach seems to say “since you are trusting us with your contact information we are trusting you with our stack of books.”  The church demonstrates a generous spirit with this approach.  Be sure to hide a letter inside each book that thanks the guest for coming and invites them to attend again in the near future.

These are not the only ways to obtain contact information from guests, but keep it mind, you MUST get the contact information from your guests in order to follow-up.  For more information along these lines, check out the following posts:

Churches Are Too Much Like Car Dealerships

The Chick-fil-A Church

The 3-minute Rule


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The Chick-fil-A Church

imagesThe average church could learn a lot from Chick-fil-A. About once a week I drop by our local Chick-fil-A for lunch. I always have a wonderful experience. Good food, great service, fair prices! Their mission statement is simple, “Be America’s Best Quick-Service Restaurant!” The founder, Truett Cathy, may well have fulfilled that statement.


  • Clean and neat. The restaurant is well landscaped, clean, and bright. The atmosphere makes me comfortable and relaxed from the beginning.
  • Friendly, prompt service. The employees who take my order make eye contact, smile, welcome me, and process my order perfectly.
  • Generous. Condiments are available at the condiment station and I’m trusted to get the amount I need. A whole basket of delicious mints are available for the taking. (Note: I only take one.)
  • Great product. Of course, the main reason I go to the restaurant is to eat. Their food is always hot, tasty, neatly packaged, and delivered with a smile.
  • Customer-oriented. Let me tell you what happened one day when I was there. After my meal, I walked to the counter to get a refill of their delicious sweet tea. At that particular moment everyone was busy, but a gentleman who was wiping off a table saw me, stopped what he was doing, quickly came up and said, “Sir, could I get you a refill.” I really don’t think it was his job to refill my tea, but he left what he was doing to serve a customer. After I thanked him, he said, “It’s my pleasure sir.” I’m sorry, but that was just flat impressive!

I’m not going to bother trying to make an application to the church because I think the application is obvious. I repeat, the average church could learn a lot from Chick-fil-A.

For more help with assimilation, see The 3-Minute Rule.

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The 3-Minute Rule

stopwatchAny church can immediately become more effective by practicing a simple little rule each time they gather for worship.  I call this rule the 3-Minute Rule. It’s simple, and it ONLY takes three minutes.

Here’s how the 3-Minute Rule works. Immediately after the morning worship service ends, all the regular attenders spend the first 3 minutes talking with guests, newcomers, or simply people they do not know, before they begin talking with their friends. If possible, they introduce those they meet during the 3-Minute time to their friends with the hope of including them in the group. This intentional approach would greatly improve “first impressions” of the church and assist with the assimilation of newcomers. We should always keep in mind that . . . .

We are a culture craving relationship. In the midst of our crowded existence, many of us are living lonely lives. We live and work in a sea of humanity, but we end up missing out on the benefits of regular, meaningful relationships.  (Andy Stanley)

I think we should practice a similar rule before the service as well. I call it the 2-Person Rule. Strive to meet at least two new people before the service begins. Imagine how many people you would meet after a few weeks. Remember . . . .

People are not merely looking for a friendly church; they are looking to make friends at church.  (Steve Rice)

It’s true that worship can be a time of personal reflection and adoration for the Lord, but it can also be a place of service. Make an effort this Sunday to meet at least two new people before the service and then take the first three minutes after the service to venture outside your normal conversation circle.  You’ll be blessed and you be a blessing to others as well!

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