Attracting First Time Guests: 3 Secrets to 400 Guests in One Month
For the past 8 years, I’ve spent 100% of my days trying to attract & disciple first time guest at Christ Tabernacle. I would read countless books then I’d try something, fail, go to a conference, learn something new, and fail some more.
But after a couple of years of trying, making some progress, we finally had a month where our expectations were blown.
I wish I could say that I knew we were going to attract 400 first time guests. But truthfully, you try things and you hope and pray.
One day you see the fruit of all of your labors. I decided to document exactly what we did, so that you can experience similar successes.
[In my storytelling voice]
Once upon a time, in the summer of 2013. August to be exact.
When attendance and offerings dipped so low it seemed like they were dancing limbo.
In a church in Queens, New York, where finding parking might taking you longer than the actual service.
This might sound like a fairytale.
We attracted 400 first time guests in one month.
We were blown away ‘cause it was summer time [Yes, I am repeating for emphasis] summer time.
Which tells me you don’t have to succumb to the summertime blues.
Here are the 3 secrets we stumbled upon, [yes stumbled – I wish we were smart enough to plan this]. It just all happened and we learned a couple of things. So I wanted to share our learnings with you.
Secret #1 Reach In To Reach Out:
We were launching a 3 week series in August, so we took the last two weeks of July to challenge our people. This is super important. Every member is a minister, but your congregation must believe that they are called and can impact their neighborhoods. Our message was simple – We must stand against the works of the enemy in our neighborhood. We called the series “Not in my Neighborhood,” We just told our congregation,“there are things we are not standing for anymore. We are tired of:
- drug abuse,
- domestic violence,
- loved ones dying in sin.”
There was a holy discontent, or anger that burned in our congregation. So we committed to pray and invite others to pray with us.
We launched the series with a bang. The first service consisted of great worship, 3 video testimonies that people could relate to and the gospel message.
[callout]Hint: Every testimony does not have to be super dramatic – it doesn’t need to be about an ex-drug lord who got saved and is now running for president. [/callout]The testimonies should represent the challenges your audience is facing. Maybe a young man growing up without his dad made some bad decisions, met Christ and now his life has changed.
Here is an example of a testimony video we used.
Secret #2 Give Great Gifts:
Ok raise your right hand and solemnly swear not to repeat this again.
I am ashamed of this….
we used to….
give out the sermon cd’s that would not sell at our resource area as a gift to our first time guests. That’s got to be worst than regifting.
Your gift reflects the value you place on guests.
It was obvious that we didn’t value them very highly. .. But we got hip to it.
We changed the gift to mason jars and decorated them well. We included a small card that contained the letter of our pastor.
For some churches, budgets are low. But I know plenty of churches with small congregations and small budgets who do a phenomenal job giving out gifts.
Here is an example of a first time guest gift from a church in Mumbai India I got to work with.
Here are some pics from El Tabernaculo, a church in NJ, with an average Sunday attendance of 65 and a limited budget.
Secret #3 Value Guests:
We started giving out the gifts during the service.
Yes, we stopped asking our guest to go to a lobby or a guest center in order to pick up their gifts. We had an extremely small lobby and it would get congested.
So instead we did it during the service and oh my gosh.
We knew we had stumbled onto something. Here is a sample script the host would use to greet first time guests.
We are so excited about a bunch of special guests who are with us this morning. If you are hear for the first time we’d love to acknowledge you and love on you – so if this is your first time let us know by lifting your hand and we’ll get you an amazing gift. Can you do my one more favor, so that we can see you – would you please stand. Come on church lets show them some love.
Our guest service workers are trying to get you a gift once they do you can sit down. Thank you so much for visiting with us, I hope you love your gift.
Everything in that package is yours except for the connection card, if you’d like you can give us your name and email address and we’ll follow up with you. We’d love to get to know you, be assured we won’t sell or give your emails away. Once you fill out the card you can drop it in the offering basket.
Thank you so much for joining us.
PRO TIP: Create Scripts for your host… just include areas where they can add personality to the announcements.
We used to give out Connection Cards in the service, have people fill them out and then ask them to go to the back of the church and pick up their gifts.
Connection Cards are BORING!!!!
Instead, we decided to give them the gift first.
We learned a simple principle that applies to every area of ministry but which especially works for first time guests, which is:
Add Value First…
Before you ask for a name or an email, give them a gift.
Before you ask for your congregation to serve, serve them first.
Before you ask someone in your community for a decision for Christ, first give them food, clothes, and any other bare necessities.
As Church Leaders we should be givers… we should be the most generous in our communities.
When it comes to your first time guests… Add Value First.
That Sunday, when the first time guests saw the amazing gift they were going to receive, everyone raised their hands.
That Sunday, we had over 100 first time guests.
The following 3 weeks in August, we averaged over a100 first time guests.
- Secret #1: Reach In To Reach Out
- Secret #2: Give Great Gifts
- Secret #3: Value Guests
Where we failed!!! Follow up:
Confession time, here is where we dropped the ball. Our follow up process stunk.
We would send out one email, and maybe make a phone call and hoped our guests would return. This is the reason we were only connecting with an average of 3% of our first time guests.
There were 1000 members but we’d only add like 20 or 30 new ones.The reason it was so hard to connect people was because we did not know what we did not know.
Failure #1: We had no clue about a follow up strategy or how to build trust or automate our follow up.
The result was that we felt like we wasted money on first time guests’ gifts. We spent about $1,600 on them. We probably connected around 20 of them.
That means we spent $80 to connect a first time guest. We did not have that kind of budget.
Failure #2: The other challenge was that our follow up process depended on volunteers making phone calls.
We would send one email and make one phone call. We had a team of about 8 volunteers. It was pretty overwhelming having 8 people make 400 phone calls.
We did not have enough volunteers to follow up with that amount of first time guests.
Because of those factors, on average it took us 2 to 3 years to turn a first time guest into a member. Then we connected an average of 3%.
Which meant for every 1,000 first time guests we connected with 30 of them. That’s not a good ratio.
That is horrible. We would enter their information into our membership system (Fellowship One). Then we would send them an email. And this is where our follow up system lagged. It just wasn’t good.
Today, we average 250 new members a year and 60% of those new members visited for the first time that year. That’s pretty amazing.