How long does it take for a guest to get from the last Amen to the Car which takes him home?
My guess is that it is shorter than you think. I have timed some exits from church services and found a surprisingly small amount of time passes from the closing of the worship service to the point at which I am putting myself in the driver’s seat of my car.
Are you thinking 10-12 minutes? Try 2-4.
First-time guests, given no reason, are not likely to linger. They will head for the door.
Those few minutes, while your guest is still in the building and on the premises, represent the available time for the church to make what will be the final first impressions on its guests. And because that window of time is brief, every moment counts.
Here are some tips and insights to maximize the fleeting minutes of a guest exit.
BUILD A CULTURE OF FRIENDLINESS The idea is organic friendliness. Rather than orchestrating “friendliness” with an in-service Greeting Time, which for many guests feels contrived, artificial, and pressured, consider ways to train your regular attenders to spend the first 30 seconds after the close of worship to “Learn a name” of someone seated nearby with the added the incentive (for new comers and regular attenders alike) that “you might make a friend.” Who wouldn’t want a new friend? So, train your attendees with every Sunday closing remarks that go something like, “On your way out today, be sure to learn a name...you might make a new friend.” One advantage to this kind of post-service greeting is that it has none of the time constraints associated with the typical 45 second in-service Greeting Time; the unconstrained time allows for a natural conversation to occur... moving toward friendly, get- acquainted type topics and for 1) real relationships to begin to emerge. Additionally, a culture of friendliness facilitates a 2) mobilization of the masses. I often see church signs upon leaving church that suggest “you are now entering your mission field.” Okay, but what about the mission field of guests seated on the same row with regular attenders already inside the church? Might this culture of friendliness 3) awaken a heart and skill for reaching others with a simple, “learn a name...make a friend” approach to church guests? Finally, guests can realize with a culture of friendliness that there is 4) a way to get connected with this church. “It is not that hard to meet people here.” A culture of friendliness is much more effective than orchestrated friendliness.
INCENTIVIZE A STOP The guest will not uncommonly be looking for the door when the worship service concludes. But it is possible to slow the exit, i.e., to turn the 2-4-minute rush-out-the-door into a more gradual exit. Increased opportunity to meet guests, to address questions of the guests, and to minister to guests is a good thing. Right? Relationship formation can begin to take shape at guest stop-overs on the way out the door, assuming the guest finds enough value for himself to make a stop along the way. So, the question becomes what reasons can you offer to slow a guest down (I should say “good reasons,” as seen from the perspective of the guest). The question is “what value can you offer the guest that will alter his path on the way out the door?” Here are some idea starters: a guest appreciation gift which is valued by the attendee. Unabashedly, during the guest welcome, hold up in plain sight the appreciation gift offered to guests, inviting your guests to stop by on their exit and pick their gift up. If the gift is incentive enough, stops will occur and guest feedback will confirm it (BTW, a pen with the church’s name will NOT stop a guest). Other approaches might include: a get acquainted reception with the Pastor or Program/Ministry Kiosks scattered around the Lobby, e.g., to introduce Student Ministry to parents or to sign up for an upcoming Husband and Wife Retreat. You might want to consider a multi-stop approach which features a combination of several incentivized stop-over ideas. Just remember: Any old stop-over won’t do; unless there is a substantial reason to stop, the guest will keep walking at the 2-4-minute pace and quickly be out the door.
POSITION A GREETER In addition to the “everybody friendly” culture mentioned above, it is important to have official greeters (plural) positioned at strategic places as people make their exit. Yes, as important as Entry Greeters is the matter of Exit Greeters. You want to ensure that every guest exiting the building leaves with a positive impression. Have these official greeters face the exiting crowd and greeting everyone as they leave. This quick and casual farewell greeting confirms for the guest that the church is intentionally friendly and welcoming. Consider this carefully. A lot of people hit the exit doors rapidly. To be prepared for the sudden outflow of people will necessitate a larger than you might expect number of Greeters per exit door. But the payoff is big: it leaves a final first impression that is upbeat, caring, and winsome.
In the end, it “ain’t over ‘til it’s over.”
Make an effort to provide an exit for your guests that will communicate sincere welcome, demonstrate enthusiasm and care, open doors for ongoing relationships, connect guests to ministry and services, and leave a final First Impression that is altogether positive. When you do, you will see more guests making a return visit the following week!
I am interested in hearing other exit strategies you have experienced or may be using in your church. Others may well benefit from your input as well. Share your comments below. Thanks for your input!