In today’s episode, we unpack the reasons why most churches in the United States are not growing.
To put it plainly, if your church isn’t growing, you have either a front door or a back door problem.
Knowing which one you are facing is the first step in changing the tide.
Join us as we discuss some of the action steps your church can take to reach more people and grow.
Front Door Problem – Your number of local visitors annually is less than your average weekly attendance.
- Look at your website Calls To Actions
- Use the Google Grant
- Ask People to Review You Online
Back Door Problem – Fewer than 10% of your visitors are assimilated into the church’s life.
- Consider Pre-registering Visitors
- Build an Email Sequence
- Give Visitors One Clear Onramp
Thomas Costello – 00:00:00 In today’s episode, we unpack the reasons why most churches in the United States are not growing to put it plainly. If your church isn’t growing, you either have a front door or a back door problem. Knowing which one you are facing is the first step in changing the tide. Join us as we discuss some of the action steps your church can take to reach more people.
You’re listening to the reach, right podcast, the show dedicated to helping pastors and church leaders reach people the right way, hosted by me, Thomas Costello, and with me as always is my cohost Ian Hyatt. We’re here to help your church see more visitors and grow. Hey guys,
Thomas Costello – 00:00:58 Welcome to the REACHRIGHT podcast. Episode number 17. I am your host Thomas Costello as always. My cohost is with me today and he is in Hyatt. Hello, Thomas, and hello, our audience. Hey, Hey, and Hey audience. Welcome you guys. We’ve got a good conversation. We’re going to be having today. here’s the topic it is. Does your church have a front door problem or a backdoor problem? our belief is that almost all churches probably have one or the other, or you have room for improvement or in one of the other. and I think it’s a really important conversation for us to have, and we want to give some churches some solutions on how they can do some quick wins if they have a front door or a back door problem. Um, let’s, let’s start by guests by defining that a little bit.
Thomas Costello – 00:01:46 What, what do you think, what is a front door problem? What do we mean by when we, when we say that getting people into the church doors, or if you’re not meeting in this lovely pandemic season, getting them engaged online and first time visitors attracting first time visitors in some form. Yeah, that’s exactly right. And we have some technical details on how we’ll define that and how you can measure if you have a front door problem and a backdoor problem. But yeah, so that’s, that’s a front door is that you just can’t get people to show up or enough people. And if you don’t get people showing up, there’s no way to grow your church. It just doesn’t happen if new people don’t come. That was one of the most profound things. I remember when I was in a church planters intensive, the guy got up there on the stage and like he basically, his whole point was, if you don’t see visitors, your church won’t grow.
Thomas Costello – 00:02:38 And it was, it was so profound to me and it’s like, well, that makes so much sense. But like nobody really said it so plainly before. So it literally, it had an impact on me and changed the way we planted a church. I think when I heard that. So, um, backdoor as much like it is, it’s you have a problem, not so much with getting people there, but you have a problem with keeping them around. so, that people don’t stick, they don’t get assimilated into the life of the church. They don’t go from a visitor into a fully committed member within the church. And a lot of churches have that issue too. Um, which would you say is more, if you had to guess this is, I don’t have data on this cause it’s a arbitrary to some people, but what would you just say is a more common problem for churches
Ian Hyatt – 00:03:18 And, you know, that’s a good question. I would think what I hear more of on, on the front lines of serving as many churches as we have over the years. Um, I think it’s reaching more visitors, um, you know, that comes to mind, but I, but I also think that more churches while they, they don’t have the backdoor problem as much because they’re not reaching as many first time sinners, but they would have it equally. I think so.
Thomas Costello – 00:03:42 Yeah. I really, you can’t have a backdoor problem if there’s nobody coming in the front door because they have to get into the door somehow first. So if they’re not inside, it’s tough to measure that. But yeah, I would say too, that most of the churches that we meet are struggling to see people walk in their doors or watch them online or connects to the first time with the church. and, um, but I think both problems are really a challenge for churches. So, um, and here’s, here’s why we know this. Let’s see, I guess we’ll share a few stats with people about why we know this is an issue now you and I have been in this industry. And I know that for a long time, I, at least I said this, maybe you did too, that we used to say the numbers were off the charts, like 80 to 90% of churches are either a stagnant or declining in attendance. Maybe our audience has heard that to let us know in the comments, if you’ve, if you’ve heard that kind of thinking, um, I can’t seem to find a source that verifies that. And most of the current sources, they put that number at about 60 to 65%. So, here’s the encouraging. Yeah, I guess so at least 65% of us are stagnant or declining, so that’s good, but
Ian Hyatt – 00:04:52 Quite encouraging, but better than 85 to 90% or so.
Thomas Costello – 00:04:55 That’s exactly right. Yeah. So Tom Rayner, he’s over at church answers, they found it with a study of a thousand Southern Baptist churches, that 65% of them are plateaued or declining. according to Lifeway research, they say it’s about 61% of churches are stagnant or declining. So great news. That’s that’s that’s that’s no, but really. So the go ahead. I’m sorry.
Ian Hyatt – 00:05:18 Well, I was just gonna say even, you know, everyone’s up, up and for more depressing news in 2020, so yeah. Let’s just give him some more
Thomas Costello – 00:05:24 Exactly it. Yeah. I think it is, telling that we have been in this pattern for a long time, and this is, we used to share these stats a Dover a decade ago, but I’d say for the last 20 years or so, it’s been obvious that more churches than not are in some kind of a stagnation or decline. And I think that, really in, in our view, there are really only two reasons for that. And you can boil all those reasons down to these two things is that your church either has a front door problem or your church has backdoor problem. So either you’re not seeing enough visitors or those visitors that you’re seeing, you’re unable to keep them sticking. And there are all kinds of reasons for this. And so what we want to do today is unpack some of those reasons. But, first I guess I want to, I want to tackle some of the metrics that we would recommend churches use to assess whether or not they have a front door or a back door problem, or if they have both.
Thomas Costello – 00:06:22 so for the front door, here’s the one that I use and I’ve always recommended and it’s looking and comparing the size of your church in total worship attendance. and I’ll say this to total worship attendance. Um, I think it’s still the best measure of the size of a church or the influence of a church rather than membership. Although I think even that is waning in this season of COVID because my church total worship attendance is this big for the last nine months or whatever it’s been now. so we’ve had, we, haven’t opened up here in Hawaii at all yet. So
Ian Hyatt – 00:06:57 Open, like my church it’s less than it was before. Of course.
Thomas Costello – 00:07:01 Would you say, have you heard any numbers from the church
Ian Hyatt – 00:07:03 There? I w I think we’re at about 75% from what I’ve gathered. Um, so, which again, we’re in Texas a little more open and
Thomas Costello – 00:07:13 Know 75% of what it was before. That’s, that’s awesome. Right.
Ian Hyatt – 00:07:16 Um, people have been hungry to get back. And so we’re seeing that, but, I’d say 70, 75%. Yeah.
Thomas Costello – 00:07:21 So we say all this, knowing that total worship attendance today, you know, October of 2020 may not be the best metric for your church, but total worship attendance. And you compare that number to the total number of local visitors that you see in a given year. So annual local visitors, and I say, local visitors, I wouldn’t count out of town, family, and people that come from other places who can’t come to your church. Normally I wouldn’t count them in your number of visitors total, but you’re looking for to compare that number of total worship attendance, and total annual number of visitors that come to your church. And if the number of visitors that you see annually is lower than your average weekend attendance, then you probably have a back or a front door problem in that case. So just to give some rough numbers.
Thomas Costello – 00:08:18 So, as an example, let’s say you have a church of 200 people, 200 people visit you on a typical, they’re there with you on a typical Sunday. If in the course of a year, you see less than 200 local visitors, then you probably have some kind of a, a front door problem, which really, I mean, that only comes out to like four people a weekend, if you’re a church of 200, and sadly, a lot of churches really aren’t even in that place where they’re seeing of a church of 200, they don’t see one family of four visiting on a typical weekend, which is a, um, you know, that’s a challenging place to be. So any thoughts on
Ian Hyatt – 00:08:53 That? I completely, and I, and you know, I know there’s a lot of factors for it. You know, that depending upon your location, how small of a community it is, or just, you know, if you’re in a rural area or you don’t have, you’re not very visible online and we’re going to tackle some of that stuff. But no, I think that totally makes sense. That’s a good thing to put in the mind of a pastors to think about how many people you have and just let that be your measurement for each year.
Thomas Costello – 00:09:20 Yeah, yeah. If you’re watching us on Facebook right now, we’re going to include a survey. It should pop up right now that, asks you, does your church have a front door problem? Maybe do you have a back door problem? You can go ahead and answer that. We’d love to get your feedback on who’s listening here. So what do you think? Um, so here’s the challenge I think, is that so many churches have a have a front door problem. and some of the solutions to that are really, they’re not easy, right? To, to fix that, to get visitors to come in. This is one of the age old problems that churches have had. You could spend a fortune on advertising and marketing. I know that like really what it comes down to is how well known you are in your community. so you know, a larger church usually is they have more people driving by their highway side church, and they have a lot more presence online. But what I want to give people, I guess there are a few things that maybe aren’t those big, like things that take you two years to execute kind of things, but what are some quick wins that maybe churches can have to, to solve, to solve some of their front door problems? Do you have any ideas?
Ian Hyatt – 00:10:25 Yeah, let’s talk about it. That’s exactly it. Some easy wins as we can. We can call it that because I think that, like you said, this is a big picture type issue and that there’s a lot of stuff you could talk about, you know, how good your preaching is, the spiritual health of your church. You know, you know, you know, we know God is the Jesus is the one who grows his church first and foremost. So, but we can discuss some easy wins to keep it pretty simple. And, and that gives some encouragement to, for pastors to, to want to grow. So I think one of the first easy wins and something you should be able to change relatively quickly is look at your websites, call to actions. Okay. So there’s a term CTA, it’s a marketing term, calling people to action. That means inviting them to respond some way.
Ian Hyatt – 00:11:10 Um, every church website should have that. It’s really, it sounds like it’s such a minute small thing, but you and I have seen over the years just with what we do at reach, right? Even getting churches to respond and get in touch with us, by making that small little tweak of inviting, you know, having a call to action. That’s very clear. And, and it gives someone a clear, you know, next step to take, whether or not that’s filling out a form, um, or, you know, on our church’s website, it could be submitting a prayer request and an online connection card, whatever it would be. But I think that’s something you can look at it. You can look at your website and say, am I calling someone to action to show up on a Sunday or to stay engaged online? Yep, man,
Thomas Costello – 00:11:54 I cannot tell you how many churches I see church websites. I see that totally missed this. And I like to compare it to a good sermon, right? So we’re talking about getting better at preaching is something you can do to grow your church. Yeah, well, that definitely helps, but anybody that has preached a few messages, they know that if you preach a message without a call to action without some kind of an application. So now that I’ve heard this go and do this next, that you’re really just preaching to the wind. It’s not going to get you anywhere if you’re not asking people to respond in some way. And I see so many church websites that take the same approach, where we just dump information on people. Hey, if we tell them our vision statement and what we believe, they’ll figure out how to do that.
Thomas Costello – 00:12:38 What’s next, they’ll figure out what the next step is for them. And that’s just really, isn’t the case. You need to make it crystal clear and make it obvious and make it almost something you’d have to be. You’d have to be foolish to miss. You have to make that clear what their next step is when someone’s on your website. So, I just, in general, I think the website is the front door for the church. It is the first impression people will make. So it obviously starts with taking a hard look at your website. If it’s bad, you need to address that. But I think the clearest thing you can do on your website is taking a hard look at your calls to action. And what you’re saying,
Ian Hyatt – 00:13:11 That’s it exactly. I’ve seen so many like about pages on a church website that just say, here’s our pastor, this is our beliefs. We hope to see you Sunday.
Thomas Costello – 00:13:22 That’s almost a call to action, but I think it’s beyond just go ahead. I’m sorry.
Ian Hyatt – 00:13:26 No, that’s it. I just, I just say it is taking a step further. It’s just kinda like you, you picture, you know, pastors one, all their members to evangelize, right. And if one of their members is out in front of someone who needs Jesus or there’s unchurched or whatever, you would hope that they just say, yeah, we go, you hope that they wouldn’t say, yeah, we go to a great church and then just stop there. You know? And a lot of websites, that’s what they do. They just put some information out there and it’s just kind of like, there it is,
Thomas Costello – 00:13:52 Church. Do what you will take that information and hope it works for you. I think it’s every area of the site though. So you’ve got to think about your, your kids’ ministry page. What action does it call people to your youth ministry page? Your, um, your, if you have a church history page, you know, why is it there? And then what step are you asking people to take as a result of seeing that? So that’s, we can go on and on about that, but I think that’s an easy win that it could probably be changed in a day that I think will make a big impact for churches. So what else do you think is out there? Yeah.
Ian Hyatt – 00:14:22 What else can churches do? Yeah. Another easy win is use the Google grant. I know we’ve talked about the Google grant at something that we help churches with and churches are, they’re starting to become a little more wise to this grant out there and, and it is not too good to be true. It is that Google gives you up to $10,000 a month in free ad words, marketing dollars. That’s why it’s an easy win is because it’s free money. It’s free money that if you are a five Oh one C3 Google’s you to use. And again, to be clear, this money is in the form of ad words, marketing dollars, which these are online ads when people are doing specific searches, right. But this is where you’re going to be visible. Just like everyone’s ending up at your website, 85% of the time. Well, they’re Googling first. And so if Google’s giving churches free money, it’s an easy win to just take advantage of.
Thomas Costello – 00:15:12 Yeah, my goodness. if your church hasn’t taken advantage of this yet, I think it’s something that is a really easy thing to grab onto. Um, it doesn’t take a lot of work to get it. Um, and as you said, we, we do help churches get it and use it. And if you really want to maximize that $10,000, you could do that. But honestly, there’s no requirement that you pay anybody to do any of this for you. It’s something that you can get out there claim if you have the time and want to learn how to dig into all of Google, Google ad words, and their whole platform to learn how to do it, you’re more than welcome to. But, I took advantage of this at the church. I pastored in Madison, Wisconsin. And, my goodness, we saw literally hundreds of people come to our church as a result of jumping on, and seeing us on an ad.
Thomas Costello – 00:15:59 And it was just really fantastic. Something easy that every church could, should be able to get out there and claim. So if you haven’t done it yet, please take advantage of that. Google it. Yeah, there you go. That’s it. So we have some, a link in the description. If you want some information, how we can help your church do that. Even if you want to just see if you qualify for it or not. There are a few things that you have to, to get through. Um, most churches should qualify. We have an eligibility checker on our website. We’ll have a link to that in the description here. So what else? Any other quick, easy, quick wins.
Ian Hyatt – 00:16:30 Yeah. Third and final, easy win for the front door. Problem is ask people to review you online. And it is isn’t. It is an easy thing. If you have someone that’s been going to your church or checked you out and they gave you positive feedback, you can have them, they can, it takes a matter of minutes for someone to just jump online and give you a review that, Hey, your church served them well, they had a great time and, and they’re, they’re considering coming back or they’re coming back and that’s an easy thing to do. And as we know in this day and age, everyone is, well, I shouldn’t say everyone. I think most people, um, are, I know like everyone in, in 2020 has done more online shopping than ever before for obvious reasons. Right. And one of the things that I think people have learned is to look at the reviews. I know I look at the reviews of every product that I’m looking for online. I look at the reviews for a restaurant, especially if it’s, obviously, if it’s a new restaurant that I haven’t been to, I want to see what people are saying about it. Same thing for a church. And it’s easy thing. It’s free to have someone do this too. Yeah.
Thomas Costello – 00:17:33 Yeah. So I think every pastor knows the power of a testimony, right? We we’ve talked about it. We it’s taught in scripture that that’s how we, we overcome by the blood of the lamb and the word of our testimony. I think a lot of times we get weirded out by the idea of someone reviewing a church, right? So like putting a, putting a review on Yelp for a church or on Google reviews or one of those places to have your people go out there and do that. Um, because it’s more something you do for businesses. And where does someone get off reviewing a church or, but really what it is is it’s a modern way of delivering a testimony that people actually use. What you’re doing is you’re when you read a review about a restaurant or an Amazon product, you’re reading about someone’s testimonial about their experience with that product.
Thomas Costello – 00:18:19 so my goodness, it is such an easy thing to ask for them. Now you can’t game the system. Most places like Yelp, they really have some good algorithms that are able to weed out people that are, if you go to your church and ask a hundred people on the same day to go in there and fill out, and you do like a big thing, pull out your phones and do a Yelp review. All right. Now, you know, Yelp is wise to that and they’ll know you’re gaming their system. But I think if you ask key people or maybe you hear someone share, Hey, I just wanted to tell you the impact that has, as we’ve seen in our family, since we’ve been coming to this church, I’d say it might be great. Hey, would you mind sharing that in front of the church? And then maybe even this might sound weird, but would you share that testimony on Yelp or on Google reviews and kind of tell people about your experience here? It makes an enormous impact when we can do those kinds of things and like it or not, people are getting onto those kinds of sites that before they show up in your church and they’re reading about it. so, um, yeah, I’d say that’s an easy win just to kind of ask people to do some of those things.
Ian Hyatt – 00:19:17 Yeah. And you just, you hit it on the head there. I mean, we know that that’s what a lot of people are doing and just think about it as a pastor, you know, it, that could be the last step someone takes in considering whether or not to come to your church and then considering to be saved and, and get to know Jesus. Yeah, absolutely. Right. All right. Well, let’s talk
Thomas Costello – 00:19:35 A little bit more about, I guess, the backdoor problem and where that comes from and how we quantify that. And here’s the metric that I’ve used for that is that if fewer than 10% of your local visitors are assimilated into your church’s life and to what’s happening at the church there, then you probably have a backdoor problem. so, um, let’s use that church example we had before you have a church of 200 and you’re doing good on the front door side, you have 200 people coming in every single year, 200 new visitors. If less than 20 of those people get integrated into the life of the church, then you probably have some kind of a backdoor problem, or you’re not assimilating them the way that you could be. and this is so common. I know that as we dig in deep with churches, they, a lot of times will come to us looking to solve a front door problem, and we’ll uncover a serious backdoor problem. Cause how often do we hear, we’ll ask questions from our, some of our clients have, Hey, tell me more about your assimilation process. Right. And I think the most common answer we get to that is not a detailed assimilation process. They’ll say that’s something we’re really working on right now. We’re still
Ian Hyatt – 00:20:45 Working on it, my mouth, that’s it. We’re still working on it. It’s a work in progress.
Thomas Costello – 00:20:50 Yep. Yeah, that’s exactly right. So, and by assimilation process, I think it means just what are those next steps that a visitor takes to go from someone that’s totally new to your church? Their first Sunday to somebody that is a fully committed, giving, small group attending, serving kind of a member within your church, whether that’s a, you know, whatever your process is, and we’re not here to sell or encourage one specific assimilation process, there’s lots of different ones. I just think you have to have a process that there has to be one that, that you’re actually using and working it, and it should be formalized and know what it is. And you should be able to, um, to talk about what it is and kind of give the details of it there. So, um, so a lot of churches seem to have a problem with that.
Thomas Costello – 00:21:37 what are some now, again, this is another one of those things where there’s hard wins. There’s really challenging wins. Like if you want people to come back to your church, more, the obvious one is be better at preaching. You know, that’s something you could do or, you know, have a great worship team that is dynamic and as good as a elevations worship team, you know, you’ll probably grow if you preach like Steven Furtick and you have an elevation worship team there and your church will get bigger, that’ll happen. But I think that that’s not everybody we can all solve that problem today. So what are some quick wins that you think churches can take to maybe close some of that backdoor? The backroom,
Ian Hyatt – 00:22:17 Exactly. Right. Just like the front door problem. This is a, this is a big picture thing, but the easy practical things we can kind of carry out right away is first one is maybe something that you’re not doing and it’s really easy to do. And it starts a good assimilation processes to consider pre-registering visitors. Okay. And this is actually easier to do these days, because look, we’ve been, in 2020 here. if you are physically able to go somewhere, a lot of restaurants make sure you RSVP for our store. Um, you know, a lot of churches have moved to like an RSVP system because they can only have a certain number of people worshiping on a Sunday, based on whatever the regulations and rules are from state to state. and, and so it’s easier to kind of start this now. Now churches were already doing this, um, before, the coronavirus and those churches were seeing great results. So pre-registering visitors can be something like having a plan, your visit page where someone lets you know, that they’re coming and I’ll let you speak to that a little bit because you saw that be very successful at your last church that you pastored.
Thomas Costello – 00:23:22 Yeah. So I think that what people miss about this as they think that pre-registering visitors is a front door solution, when really it’s more of a backdoor solution. So it’s not a tool to get more visitors to show up. Cause I don’t think that here’s D don’t misunderstand when someone it’s not going to help you see more people because people don’t most people won’t preregister even if you have that on your site, more people will still show up organically and not have given their information online. So what we did at our churches, we gave people a chance to preregister. We, they let us know where they were coming and then we promise them a gift that we honestly probably would have given them any way had they just shown up for the first time, but we promised them a gift. We promised to show them around and introduce them.
Thomas Costello – 00:24:05 we promised to put them in the middle so they wouldn’t stick out during service. And we just tried to make them as comfortable as possible and reduce any apprehension they had about visiting for the first time. And that didn’t get more people to come. But what it did do is it made people that came, that filled that out. We had about 30% of our visitors, I would say, filled that out. Those that did were much, much stickier. so their odds of coming back, they were much, much higher if they filled out that form. And the reason for that is because we were able to kind of bring forward some of our communication with them. I would personally email them before they ever showed up and say, Hey, make a point of talking to me. I want to make sure we connect at service this weekend.
Thomas Costello – 00:24:47 And I almost always got to have a conversation with them. And I think it just really is a stickiness tool. Um, so again, just to be clear though, don’t do this thinking that it’s to that everybody’s going to do it or that it’s certainly not a requirement to show up. You don’t say, Hey, if you don’t fill this out, you can’t come in unless you have COVID restrictions that make that the case, but that’s not the case. It really is a stickiness tool to help you pull forward some of your assimilation and have more conversations with people and actually engage with them there. So yeah, that was really great for us. Yeah,
Ian Hyatt – 00:25:18 That’s good. And I think it, I think just in closing on that easy win, I think it also will help it’ll force a church into getting better at their communication and their assimilation process. Because when you start getting people, giving you their information who feel comfortable doing that, you’re forced them to do something with that information that they’re giving you. So I think it’s a good thing to, next one is build an email sequence. Um, and so we had a podcast hero, a few episodes back where we, we kind of dedicated almost the whole podcast to it. So we won’t get into all of the steps for that, but, let’s just face it most churches and, and even larger churches, they don’t have the leadership and personnel to send like a, an individual email or make a phone call to every visitor that comes in and stay on top of those visitors to come back. So an email sequence is an easy thing to get going. That’ll handle a lot of communication for you easily, right?
Thomas Costello – 00:26:17 Yeah, I think so. Um, I think that when we say an email sequence, so just be clear. So our audience, all for anybody that doesn’t know, this means that you have a set of emails that are delivered at a defined sequence. so, um, someone comes for the first time and they have a set of emails, maybe the day they come the middle of that week, that next Sunday to reinvite them a few days after that. So there’s maybe five, six, seven emails that will be delivered, helping to kind of nurture those people into the next step in the process there to kind of come back for another Sunday to maybe come to one of their, their membership classes or whatever your church might do there. So building a set of emails that does that. Now here’s the thing is that, um, so thinking about those numbers, we just looked at before, let’s say a church of a hundred people, they have a hundred visitors over the course of a year.
Thomas Costello – 00:27:10 That’s only two visitors a weekend, right? So it’s not like there’s a huge volume. You know, obviously if you’re a church of 3000 people, you’re going to be seeing a lot more visitors every single week. And so it’s going to be a different challenge, but a church of a hundred, a couple of people every weekend, that’s not too many to email to, but I think just having a formalized sequence that requires you to, to do that same thing and give everybody that same level of care, I think it really makes a huge difference to do that. So, um, I think an email sequence is good because it keeps you consistent with that. Now I will say this churches under 500 or so when you’re dealing with, you know, four or five, six, seven emails a weekend, something to that effect, try to personalize some of them.
Thomas Costello – 00:27:53 I’m not saying that you just, you know, have an email that says, dear visitor, it was great that you made it to this Sunday when we talked about sermon series, you know, so try to personalize it. You put their name in there. If you had a chance to meet them and you can find a way to work in something about your conversation, letting them know that they’re actually talking to a real leader within the church, or, I mean, honestly if you’re under 400 or so in attendance, and you’re seeing, you’re doing a few of these, the pastor’s name should be the one on those email addresses, the lead pastor, the person that spoke should be someone who’s directly involved with that. So, um, I think the main point here is though, is that it has to be personal. but I think a sequence where you do something consistent that kind of forces your hand to keep connecting with people.
Thomas Costello – 00:28:39 that’s important. In addition to that, I think also building a sequence around maybe sending text messages, maybe someone sends a text to someone before your next service sending a personal written card. We had great results from that when we actually wrote a handwritten card that said, thank you for coming, sending cards to kids, what we would do at our churches, we would send cards to kids and put like stickers and little things in the card. So when they got that, they’d get a bunch of, something that’s to really remember their time on Sunday morning with you. So build a sequence around those things. Maybe it’s email, I think that’s a part of it, but really around every kind of communication have a formalized sequence that people go through when they come for the first time.
Ian Hyatt – 00:29:18 Yeah, well said, and I think there’s a lot of easy solutions to find for that out there and very affordable, uh cost-effective solutions for it. So
Thomas Costello – 00:29:26 Absolutely there’s free ones for the emailing, for churches that are under like 2,500 in their list, which most of our audience will probably be in that category. And there are free solutions for all of them. So yeah, that is not a money. Shouldn’t be an objection to that. Right. Go. Well, good last
Ian Hyatt – 00:29:42 And not least, here for an easy win for closing the back door is to give visitors one clear on-ramp okay. So what is the saying? I’ve you can be, trying to do too many things to where you’re no good at any one thing. so that saying comes to mind because I think that we get excited in ministry because there’s opportunities for people to serve and volunteer there’s opportunities for baptism there’s opportunities for small groups. Um, and, but, but you know, someone who’s new and isn’t quite, you know, familiarized with all of those things yet that can be overwhelming to them. And they may not know where to go first. So it’s good to give them one clear on ramp. So if they’re new, what is that one next step that they should take and, and just, let’s just stick with that and, and drive that home, moving forward.
Thomas Costello – 00:30:34 Yeah, that’s exactly right. I saw, I’m not gonna be able to tell you who it was on Twitter, but I saw a great post just the other day where they said that, um, when you go to a restaurant, there is a sign usually that tells you what your next step is. It says either, please be seated or please wait to be seated. Right. It’s very clear on what your on-ramp is into your meal. That you’ll your next step is very dialed in for you and you know what it’s supposed to be. Um, and to pull that into like the church life, I think a lot of times we miss that and we just kind of assume that people know what that next step is and people, they, they think it’s kind of that they kind of expect that a church is just going to have you come and you’ll keep coming to services if you want to, or don’t come, if you don’t want to.
Thomas Costello – 00:31:20 And they, they may not know what that next step is. And so if you’re not really clear on what that on ramp is, and I think for most churches, it’s going to be some kind of a transitional step between a membership class. and they’re visiting their first visit. There’s some kind of a, Hey, let’s get to know a little bit about the church or get to meet the pastors of the church, some kind of connection that way. So maybe it’s coffee with pastors or pizza with pastors, or maybe it’s a zoom call where that happens. Now, if you’re in a COVID lockdown area, I don’t know what it is and what that on-ramp, I don’t really care as much as to what that next step is, but I just think that you need to think through what is that the best thing for someone to do after they came to a service for the first time.
Thomas Costello – 00:32:03 And we need to ask people to do that all the time, like every single service you need to give that on ramp and make it very clear when their next opportunity to take that step is going to be how they can sign up, to take that step, what they need to do next you to talk about that in your email communications, in your text communications from the pulpit on Sunday mornings at your visitor center, but having one clear on-ramp. And I think the mistake churches usually make to your point is that a Jack of all trades master of none kind of an approach, they’ll say, Hey, if you’re interested in kids, get involved here. If you a want to be part of a men’s group, go to this, do you like sewing? We have a sewing group that meets on every third, third, Thursday nights. And so you can, you can take any step that you want and that’s all good. You can have all of those ministries, just the first step. The first on-ramp should be one clear thing. That’s how you kind of keep people and make them stickier.
Ian Hyatt – 00:32:59 And to that point, it’s the same reason why you shouldn’t have 20 ministries. If you don’t have 20 leaders leading each one of those ministries, it’s always great to say, Hey, we got kids, we got sewing, we got ladies tea, we got a men’s breakfast. And if those things aren’t happening regularly or being led well, if you’re getting, you’re not going to be good at any one thing. And I think also one thing to just kind of close on this is that also don’t just jump ship after you decide on what that one thing would be. Th th these things need time to test just like anything, in, in life. You know, you can’t just jump from one thing to the next, um, just like you don’t want visitors to jump from one church to the next, you know, it’s it’s consistency and staying the course, because that’ll allow you to kind of measure and track things and see what’s working and how you’re communicating it. So once you find that one thing, and you’re clear on what that is, keep doing it for at least an extended period of time before you scrap it and go to something else.
Thomas Costello – 00:33:58 Yeah. Just make it clear what that one thing is. But I’ll say this too, just to end on an encouraging note, I talked to a lot of pastors that feel discouraged, if, when visitors don’t come back for the, like out for a second visit, right. You know, I I’ve pastored long enough to know like, man, what did they, what did I say? You know, who was it? My preaching, was it the worship time? You start to wonder those kinds of things. Listen, 10% is a win, right? So one out of 10 people come back, you’re winning. You’re doing a great job. It’s, that’s, that’s much better than what the averages look like. I’ve seen average numbers that are closer to five to 7%, is that retention number. So if you’re seeing one out of 10 people coming back this to be an encouragement to you, that that’s good, your, your numbers are really solid with that. Keep pressing in, because I think that 25 and 30% you combine good preaching and good worship with a good assimilation process, you could be up at those kinds of numbers there. And so keep pressing to really make this happen. don’t just rely on any one skill set or one gifting that you may have as a church leader, but really work the, um, the administrative parts of it like this. I think it makes a really big difference there. So any final thoughts for people on this?
Ian Hyatt – 00:35:10 Just a funny thought. you just reminded me of one of the reasons why I didn’t come back to a church after visiting for the first time was we got there a little bit late. we got there about, five, 10 minutes late, and we had someone tell us, Hey, listen, glad you’re here. But our pastor really hates it when people show up late. And so, you know, just to encourage that pastor, it may not be because pastors always want to go back to a dead man. Did I just not preach good or not say something? I think same thing happened to you
Thomas Costello – 00:35:38 Too. maybe w when we were visiting the same church, I don’t remember who it was, but I kind of remember them. You’ll have to tell me offline. I don’t want to put it out here. So hopefully that leaves someone on a, it makes sure your members are friendly and saying good things too. Yeah. If he can, I think we’ll, we’ll leave it at that this week. Guys. I hope this has been helpful in, thinking through whether your problem is front or back door and maybe some quick solutions on how you can solve that. If any of the solutions are, this has been helpful to you. we really do love the impact. This has made already on our audience. We’ve heard some great feedback. And if you’re part of that, we would love to get more feedback. and the best way to do that is rate, review, subscribe, or leave comments, wherever you’re watching or listening to this. It means a lot to us, and we just want to help as many churches as we can with, helping leaders to be able to better lead their church as well and reach people the right way. So, so that’s it for this week,
Thomas Costello – 00:36:32 Catch you guys next week. Thanks for listening to the reach right podcast. We hope this episode will help you reach people the right way, looking for more resources for your church. Check us out online at reach, right studios.com. If this episode has been helpful to you, it would mean the world to us. If you would rate, review and subscribe on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts. Thanks again for listening. And we’ll see you next week. <