One of your primary missions as a church leader is to spread the word of Christ in a way that invites new church visitors to your community. Additionally, part of that effort means putting yourself in those potential new guests’ shoes.
How do they determine if they need a faith community in their lives?
Where do they go first when they’re feeling the pull of God on their hearts?
What makes a person decide to ultimately take the next step in visiting your church?
How does someone decide to officially join a ministry?
Share these questions with your church leaders. You’ll find the answers will spawn a deeper dive into understanding the path back to the fold. We’ll explore even further to highlight how new church visitors make these critical next-step decisions.
Here are 11 things potential new church visitors do before deciding to come to your church. Included are suggestions for meeting them where they are in their faith journeys. This clarity can help you to develop a more effective way to connect with people. Ultimately, it can help you improve how you engage and invite new members into your ministry.
Table of contents
- 1. New Church Visitors Feel a Tug at Their Faith for Something Greater
- 2. People Fear Judgment & Lack of Acceptance
- 3. Your Church Should Resonate with Their Needs
- 4. They WILL Visit Your Church Website First
- 5. Not Everyone Is Ready to Commit Yet
- 6. Your Church’s Youth Ministries Can Lead to New Church Visitors
- 7. New Church Visitors Will Explore Their Service Options
- 8. Before They Come, They’ll Ask Around
- 9. They’ll See If You’re Open to New Church Visitors
- 10. Evangelizing, Not Selling
- 11. Connecting Before, During, and After the First Church Visit
1. New Church Visitors Feel a Tug at Their Faith for Something Greater
Before a person starts searching online for a church to join, there is often an internal conversation that occurs. And for some, it could be weeks of feeling that tug on their hearts to deepen their faith before they move forward and take action.
As a ministry, you can speak to these people during this contemplation phase of their journey back to the church. Provide insights online and with your social media platforms. Maybe create a “frequently asked questions” series of posts. These can provide answers to some of those deeply personal faith questions. Or consider opening a live public-facing forum to offer guidance to those thinking about joining or rejoining a church.
In doing so, you can create a path for people to travel that leads them directly to your church.
2. People Fear Judgment & Lack of Acceptance
One of the most common concerns people tend to have about joining a church is fear. It might even keep them from attending as a visitor. They fear a lack of acceptance. Additionally, they often have some degree of anxiety about being judged by others. There’s a social belonging component to churchgoing that can keep people from becoming members.
To dispel these fears and welcome new church visitors, consider creating messages of support and friendship. Use a supportive and generous tone and style with your website content and online marketing. Make sure your ads inspire an open-armed sentiment to anyone first experiencing your church brand.
Be the love and acceptance that you talk about during your Sunday service. And extend those sentiments of belonging everywhere your church is present, both online and in person.
3. Your Church Should Resonate with Their Needs
In today’s noisy digital landscape, there’s an opinion on every page and ad suggestion in every menu bar. People are well-trained to “keep scrolling” when things don’t resonate with them or speak to their needs directly.
Knowing this behavior, your church can look for ways to keep the conversation flowing online about topics that matter to your audience. It’s important to share scripture and words of wisdom. But you can attract more attention if you’re also talking about solutions to today’s problems. It’s how you can connect with potential new church visitors in an authentic way.
For example, consider posting about depression struggles or coping with job loss. Offer local resources for parents. Explore how your ministry can support a community project. And promote those charitable good works, too. Talk about specific topics that are applicable locally and whatever matters most to your audience right now. Be present in what matters to them and you’ll be sure to get their attention.
4. They WILL Visit Your Church Website First
When people come to the realization that they’re ready to reconnect with their faith, they’ll begin exploring local church options. And they won’t just walk in one day without first doing some online homework.
Every church, large and small, needs to have a dynamic website. Make sure yours is polished and vibrant in an attractive way. Additionally, messaging needs to be consistent, with a bold statement that represents what your ministry does differently.
Remember, your website is your welcome sign to the world.
Don’t make it complicated to learn more about your services. And keep next-step options, including a “join us for online service” call-to-action front and center. It’s best to use welcoming tones of content and inviting language that appeals to anyone who visits the site, as well.
5. Not Everyone Is Ready to Commit Yet
In your church leadership experiences, you probably recall a few instances in which potential new visitors expressed a reluctance to officially join the church. They liked you. Your church members made them feel welcomed. They maybe even have sounded enthusiastic about their first encounter with your church.
But for whatever reason, the thought of official membership made them pause. This hesitation to commit is common.
Instead of asking for long-term membership or pressuring guests into a commitment, consider inviting them to events. They might not be ready to commit to membership yet. Meet them where they are. For example, asking others to join your ministry group for a charity walk is a less demanding way to increase participation.
You can also invite the public to help out with a holiday fundraiser or Christmas caroling at the retirement home. And with each new volunteer or participant, be available and supportive as you build those relationships. Eventually, once they become familiar and comfortable with your works, they will be more open to visiting for Sunday service.
6. Your Church’s Youth Ministries Can Lead to New Church Visitors
Some moms and dads may already have a skewed or tainted perspective about a church in general. But even the most hardened of anti-church folks can be open to youth-sponsored events or activities.
Internally, adults may feel there is no hope for them. But they won’t deny a wholesome, biblical experience for their littles.
Whatever your ministry offers in the way of youth services or programs, promote them often. Church camps during the summer months or sponsoring a post-prom event can be just the entry point you need to start a church-joining conversation.
Promote what resources your church has available to kids of all ages, including any daycare services or teen hangout events. As the children grow more comfortable in the church setting, they will be more apt to receive the Word of Christ and open a line of faith-based dialogue at home.
7. New Church Visitors Will Explore Their Service Options
Before anyone will join your ministry, they might sample a few other organizations and try every service on for size. They’ll look for the message of the sermon to see if it aligns with their core beliefs. They’ll weigh which church had a more welcoming environment for guests. And they won’t tell you anything about why they never came back.
Consider preparing for these church sampling visitors by evaluating your new guest welcome strategy. Conduct an audit of how you and your church members recognize new church visitors. Make sure you’re introducing yourself, collecting contact information if possible, and inviting new guests back to next week’s message.
8. Before They Come, They’ll Ask Around
Just like with any business, before consumers engage, they’re going to ask around for outside opinions. Before they set foot in your church, people will talk to friends and family about their churchgoing experiences.
To improve engagement with people at this “testimonial-seeking” phase of the faith journey, turn to your Christian army. For example, talk to your members about sharing their experiences with others. Ask faith leaders to share both online and in conversation. Inspire them to tell their stories of finding Christ. This sharing can help others in taking those first critical steps back into the church.
Testimonials resonate more with the human spirit than any other form of messaging. Make sure you’re tapping into the faith power your church already has to attract new church visitors.
9. They’ll See If You’re Open to New Church Visitors
Some churches lose sight of the mission to attract new guests because, well, it’s hard. And it’s easy to give up when you’re used to not seeing results. Additionally, if you don’t expect to have guests, you won’t.
The truth is, people won’t visit if they believe you’re not open to guests. If they already think church is an exclusive social club to which they don’t belong, they won’t likely take another step.
To keep your new church visitor welcome sign brightly lit all the time, consider these tips. Add a special “bring a guest day” to your services calendar. Make it a routine for existing church members to invite others once a month. You can then promote these special invitations online and via social media for maximum exposure and constant reminders.
10. Evangelizing, Not Selling
In any commerce engagement, the business gurus will tell you that consumers hate to feel like they’ve been sold on something. So they’ll refuse to buy a $1 subscription if they think the pitch is too salesy.
Keep these consumer habits in mind as you coach your ministry. It’s about inviting and evangelizing others. Spreading the word of Christ means sharing the message. It doesn’t mean selling someone on a belief.
Evangelize in a way that inspires someone to take the next step in their spiritual journey on their own terms with God. And be the light that shows them the path they must walk themselves to salvation.
A simplified definition of evangelism is to present the good news of Jesus openly and freely. Additionally, it’s about trusting God to then “convert” people (see Acts 16:14.)
Here are a few things Christians Want to Know says people should look for in a new-to-them-church experience. And it’s worth taking notes because these are the decision-making deal-breakers your church will want to be the strongest at providing.
A Place of Discipleship
A disciple is a person who is trying to learn how to live like Christ. A supportive and healthy church environment is one that is just as concerned with growing individuals in their faith as it is with growing numbers of new church membership. In a church, growth in both respects signifies spiritual vitality.
The significance of sound church doctrine cannot be overstated. Most churches have a doctrine declaration. But only those focused on growth will also include these doctrine beliefs everywhere they have a digital presence.
In reviewing your church website, how prominent is your doctrine statement?
A proper doctrinal statement should address pillar faith issues. These include the Trinity, salvation, sin, human destiny, scripture, and Christianity. Your doctrine can outline clear definitions, in relatable terms, for those exploring their church membership options.
Be intentional about how you clarify and describe salvation in your doctrine online. People will look to instinctively align themselves with doctrine statements, and ultimately, your church.
Christian Fellowship Brings New Church Visitors
Christian fellowship entails more than just pot-luck dinners and social get-togethers. Of course, these sorts of enjoyable activities are often accompanied by fellowship but don’t underestimate the significance of being together.
Fellowship means supporting each other. For example, people need constant encouragement. They require assistance and instruction. And it’s the direction from other believers that can inspire change.
Ongoing Worship Encouragement
Worship isn’t simply about sitting through a Sunday service or singing along to songs. At the heart and soul of worship is an intimate relationship with God. The church looking to attract new guests must be in a position to assist people in this spiritual connection. These efforts are essential on Sundays and in everyday life.
11. Connecting Before, During, and After the First Church Visit
The key takeaway here is that engaging new members requires constant effort. For example, your outreach strategies should include welcoming messages for before people come. Additionally, connect authentically during their first visit. And be sure to follow up after they’ve left.
If you need help improving your church messages to meet people at any stage of their faith journey, let ReachRight be your guide. We can help with your online engagement efforts, including the impact of your website, to attract new church visitors ongoing.