Turning first-time visitors into repeat guests

Launch is his book on church planting.
Fusion is his book on turning first-time guests into fully developing church members

How do you get people’s information?

First, you try different things and see which works best.
For us (in NY):
There is a heavy stock 1/3 of an 8.5×11 page in the program/handout/bulletin.
Everyone fills out a card every week. (Even members.)
Everyone places it in the offering. (Even visitors.)
Everyone has steps to follow.

You need to make pens available that write, first time out.

25 minutes into the service tell them to grab their communication card.

If you’ve been here before, just give your name and email.

If you are new, fill in as much as you are comfortable with.

The person who is teaching references the card at the end of the service.

Without this, you get 30-40% cards returned. With this, we get 85-90% return rate.

You need EVERYONE pulling out the card.

You are trying to give people a lot of entryways into your church.
So on the back you have
service (choir, missions, whatever)
small group
fun events (about 1x a month)
Invite all of the first and second time visitors to the fun events.

We have a place for prayer requests on the back of the card. You’ll be amazed at the prayer requests.

It takes about six months to get everyone used to filling out the cards. But if most of your members are filling them out regularly, the visitors will too.

We tell them there is a book as a free gift. First time people will often fill out the card, to get the book. We have about 50 first-time-visitor cards each week and about 53 books go away. I don’t know who the other people are getting books, but… I guess they need them.

They like getting the gifts so much, they’ll mark second-time visitor and, even though we don’t have a place for it, third-time visitor. (ed. I wonder why they assume “regular attender” if this is your third time coming.)

We have a table by the exit with a free gift for first time visitors. We give them Lee Stroble’s book The Case for Christ. Our demographic is highly educated; we have mostly folks with masters’ or above. But you can give them a book that hits where they are and moves them closer to Christ.

Inside the free gift include a card in which you
1. thank them for coming
2. ask them to fill out a 30 second survey online. We often get their email from the survey.

Questions from the 30 second survey:
1. What did you see first?
2. What did you like best?
3. What was your overall impression?
4. How can we pray for you?
It is optional to give your name and email, but most people do.

Truly unchurched people do not want to criticize the church, but if there is a problem they will tell you in answer to the overall impression question.

You can see the surveys here and (second survey for second time visitors) here.

Be friendly. Be friendly even in the restrooms. Present yourself well.

We used to live in the Research Triangle and the Ritz Carlton in DC would have $99 specials. So we went. The first time we drove up in our old car (ten years+) there were two bell hops. One ran around the car, opened the door for me, and said, “The gentleman from North Carolina has arrived.” across the top to the other bell hop. Then he ran back around the car, opened my wife’s door and asked her name. Then he turned to the other bell hop, “Mr. and Mrs. Searcy are here to check in.” It was amazing.
Then Kelly said she had to go to the bathroom, so we went in and went to the restrooms. We both came out and said, “You should have seen the bathroom!” Kelly’s had perfumed soap and moisturizer and all kinds of girl stuff. They men’s bathroom had candy. When you come visit Journey, guess what is in the men’s bathroom? That’s right. Candy.

Don’t ask for information you aren’t using.

Don’t ask them to tell you the date. If a person doesn’t know the date, and they often don’t, they’ll quit right there.

A lot of people are sensitive about their age. Don’t ask them that. (ed. I’m going to have to check the 46-50 age group now. I told R two weeks ago that I didn’t want to do that.)

Why ask for their occupation? You don’t use it.

And we no longer ask for their kids names and ages. We already got that when they did children’s check in.

Remember that men may hate going to church.

Think about what you call things. Instead of saying it’s a “Newcomers tea” (ladies go, men don’t), give it a more masculine name. We used to say “I am beginning a relationship with Jesus” but now it says “I’m becoming a follower of Jesus.” It matters how you say things.

Guys love a challenge, so I also write: “These are five events we are having. I challenge you to come to one of these five.”

If you get the guys, you’ll get the whole family.

Notes from Innovative Impact: Nelson Searcy, Breakout