Easter is almost here, and by now your service is planned and your volunteers are lined up and ready. Easter provides a great opportunity to see more visitors come to church, but unless you are strategic about it, many of your visitors won’t be back until Christmas. So how do you turn an Easter guest into a regular attender? Here are four steps to engaging your Easter guests:
1) A Great First Impression
How you welcome and treat your Easter guests will go a long way towards deciding if they will return or not. There are a lot of details that go into first impressions but here are a few things to consider:
Welcome & Acknowledge them – Take time during your service to publicly acknowledge and welcome visitors to your church in a non-threatening way. A simple statement like, “I want to thank all of our visitors for joining us today” can go along way.
Invite them to participate – Beyond a greeting and thank you, having guests take a small step toward being involved in your church can help them feel more like a participant and not just an observer. Have something specific you can ask them to do (that doesn’t embarrass them) – for example, ask them to complete their connection card and drop it off at the Information table for a free gift.
That may seem like a simple request, but studies show that many millennials are reluctant to share personal information on their first visit so a second “action step” is to ask visitors to visit your church’s social media page and “Like and Follow” your church. This will build your online engagement and allow your online updates and posts to be seen by your guests.
Give them a good gift – this is a pretty subjective decision but consider your audience: what is the average age in your community, what stage of life are they in? Try to include information on your church’s programs along with something nice like a T-shirt, Gift Book or a Coffee Gift Card.
2) Quick Follow Up Communication
You may have a lot of visitors on Easter, but don’t let the volume prevent you from sending a thank you note and email within 48 hours. BUT in your quest for a speedy follow-up, keep these things in mind:
Make it personal – do not send a mass email that is addressed Dear Guest or Dear Friend. And if you call, don’t use an automated phone call system. Use your guest’s names and if possible, send a hand-written note in addition to any electronic communications.
If your guests checked their children into your Children’s ministry, have your Children’s Director send a note to the kids too! Taking good care of their children is a huge step towards winning the hearts of parents.
Don’t be pushy – Sending a short email followed by a personal note is a nice touch. Sending notes and calling every week for a month is a little over the top. Be caring but not overbearing; welcoming but overwhelming. Your guests shouldn’t be made to feel weird or like they are being stalked by your church.
3) Give them a reason to come back
In our current culture, attending church weekly is no longer the norm, so you can’t expect your Easter guests to immediately get into that rhythm. In fact, it may not occur to your Easter guests that they SHOULD attend church more than once or twice a year. That is why creating additional events after Easter is a good idea – it gives your visitors a compelling reason to return to church. Here are some ideas:
Plan a compelling Sermon Series – A great sermon series that speaks to the needs people in your community may be experiencing is a great way to keep people engaged. In fact, if you start your series on Easter and continue it for the next few weeks, your visitors are more likely to continue attending to hear the conclusion. One great resource is the new This is Love series – which is designed around Easter and the theme of God’s love.
Invite them to a Meal – Plan a “Pizza with the Pastor” or an “RU NEW Cafe” – or any event that is designed to welcome newcomers and help them get acquainted with your church. Try to plan one within a week or two of Easter so that all your visitors can be invited. Try to have most of your pastors and lay leaders attend and keep the atmosphere more social rather than a lecture on your church history. Guests will feel more inclined to come to church once they have made a connection with other people who also attend.
Promote a Special Event – Guest speakers, movie nights, and non-Sunday events are another way to encourage visitors to come back. Again, the idea is to give your guests a reason to come to your church and to make connections there. Then they will feel more comfortable becoming regular attenders.
4) Keep Reaching Out
Often life gets in the way of best intentions, and since your Easter visitors are not in the habit of attending church, it may take time before they reconnect. Occasional emails about activities and events at your church will help remind visitors that your church is a place that offers things for the whole family.
But note that these emails are “occasional,” not weekly – you don’t want to appear pushy. Send short notes about things that newcomers may truly find interesting and helpful. Summer events like VBS, picnics, and carnivals are all great topics to reach out and invite people to attend.
Finally, don’t forget about the power of prayer. During your staff meeting the week after Easter, divide up the connection cards of all the visitors and have each staff member take a couple and pray for the new families. You never know how this spiritual act could influence a family for the Kingdom.