I have been doing some thinking recently about the needs of Sunday morning first-time guests. Curiously, guest needs are not a common consideration in Church Guest Services planning. And it should be!
How can a church minister to its guests without taking into consideration the needs that guests have? I am afraid that the answer to that question in some churches revolves as much around expediency, tradition, trends, and preferences as it does around the actual needs of guests. Guest empathy is largely lacking! How guests think, feel, and act go unnoticed and ill-considered. And, so I am rolling out for you here some guest needs, real ones, as seen from my perspective as a frequent first-time visitor. Here they are: ONE: I need three bits of information to appear for me (in a matter of seconds, preferably) on the church website: start time, location, and a warm welcome. Don’t make me have to spend my time looking around pages and pages of a church website for what a church should make readily apparent for the guest if it really want guests to visit. Meet the need with immediate visibility on the website for all things guest related. TWO: I need a soft landing when I arrive in the building. Don’t make my arrival, just 20 steps inside the front door of the church, be marked by a hard landing of unfamiliar spaces devoid of assistance and lacking a friendly welcome. Meet the need with greeters beyond the entrance doors offering answers, information, and escort to the guest --- and right on time. THREE: I need worship volume to be dialed in at an appropriate listening level. Don’t make my shirt bounce up and down on my chest with 100 plus decibels or make me miss what is being said altogether with 45 decibels because the sound tech is setting volume levels to his own whims. Meet the need with trained techs with tested presets and prescribed volume settings. FOUR: I need someone to call me by name and remember it the next time they see me. Don’t make me think that no one took a personal interest in me after 90 minutes at church. Meet the need by coaching attendees and greeters to discover and, yes, to remember names.
FIVE: I need a living bridge to the next step. Don’t put the onus on me to break my way into church connection groups filled with strangers or stand in line at an Information Booth to ask "what do I do now?", e.g., for church membership. Meet the need by bringing someone alongside the guest to walk with them (bridge them) with introductions, connections, and relationships. (see the Guest Reception blog) SIX: I need someone to finish off my first-time visit with a friendly acknowledgment. Don’t make me walk out the door in a steady wave of exit-makers, with zero sense of connectedness. Meet the need with exit greeters outside the worship doors and/or near the exit doors saying something as simple as, “Have a great week!” SEVEN: I need a personalized follow up. Don’t make me a recipient of volleys of completely depersonalized communications after my visit. Meet the need with communication that either offers or demonstrates personal involvement by the sender: e.g., handwritten notes, pastor contact info, willingness to meet face to face. REAL NEEDS met get the attention of visitors. REAL NEEDS met make positive First Impressions. REAL NEEDs met are ministry.
Tell me what you think are real needs of first-time guests. Add your comments below. Thanks for joining the conversation.