Four Ways to Get More Info Cards from Guests

So, you still have guests fill out a card…

Don’t worry! You’re not alone and it’s actually still the most reliable way to get information for solid follow-up.

You’ve got your checklist of follow-up materials for first-time guests after your Saturday/Sunday worship service(s).

  • You’ve purchased postcards (complete with your church logo and a hipster couple in a coffee shop), so someone can send them a handwritten postcard on Monday morning.

  • You’ve set up a system so that they receive a follow-up email from the lead pastor (automatically), also on Monday morning.

  • You’ve created a workflow that ensures someone has been asked to make a phone call to them by Thursday.

  • You’ve set up a sequential email campaign, so that additional follow-up emails go out at 2, 3, and 4 weeks after their first visit.

All that’s great! Except, how do you capture that information from first-time guests so that you can do any of that follow-up?

We’re going to look at a classic method of capturing guest information, the communication card (also known as a connect card, next steps card, or the tear-off flap). You may be thinking, “We tried that, but we couldn’t get guests to fill it out.” Well, that’s what these next steps are all about. You’ll likely never be able to get every single guest to fill out a card, but your chances improve greatly using the suggestions below.

  1. Mention the card multiple times.

“If you insert it, they will fill it out” simply doesn’t apply here. If you want guests filling out the cards, you need to mention them, from the stage, more than once every single Sunday. Will your regulars get tired of hearing about it? Yes. But, frankly, it’s not all about them! I digress, though. At a minimum, make reference to it early in the service, during some kind of welcome; and then refer to it again after the message or before giving time.

  1. Train your “regulars” to all fill out the card.

Notice we didn’t mention “guest card” at all in this post. If you have a special card that is only for guests, you’re doing it wrong. Guests typically want to avoid standing out. Anything they are asked to do that is different from everyone else will likely be ignored. The flip side of that – “If everyone else is doing it, I’d better do it, too, so that I don’t stand out.” So if I don’t see anyone near me filling out a card, I feel awkward if I do so; but if I’m the only one not filling it out, I’ll go ahead and do it so that I’m not “the weird one.” Include in your welcome some reason that everyone in the room should be filling out a card.

  1. Ask for something unique each week.

If the card never changes, my reasons for filling it out are reduced (whether a guest or regular attendee). So, ask for at least one thing different every week. One great example – on the back of the card, suggest some “next steps” that people can commit to, based on the message that day (which very naturally gives you a second time to mention the card, right after the message). Or, change the opportunities to serve each week, highlighting just a couple of areas of greatest need. If I’ve checked a box or written in a blank, I’m more likely to feel I need to do something with it, like turn it in.

  1. Collect during giving.

Conventional wisdom in churches is that guests feel awkward during giving time, especially if baskets (buckets, bags, plates – I was part of a church plant that used planter pots because they were cheap!) are passed through the rows of seats. Asking everyone to put their cards in those baskets is great in 2 ways: (1) It passes by every person, making it much easier to turn in compared to expecting guests to find some special welcome area (believe me – they care less about that great gift you promise than you think); and (2) It gives guests something to put in the bucket, so they don’t feel awkward passing the basket by and not putting anything in (yes, that’s motivation to put a card in the basket).

Get your follow-up team ready! If you’ll implement all four of these suggestions, you might find they’re a little busier than before.

Watch for future posts about recommended follow-up practices, and using language in our services that includes the first-time guest. In the meantime, I’d love to hear from you.  Email me your process for following up with first-time guests (jwalker@elexio.com).

Jerod Walker began serving as a pastor at the age of 19 while in Bible college in rural Missouri.  Since then he’s served in churches from 35 to 1800, as a children’s pastor, family ministries pastor, and lead pastor.  In 2011 he started Legacy Christian Church in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin.  Jerod currently serves as a ministry coach and resides in Wisconsin with his wife and 6 children.

How Guest Giving Tools Can Help Your Church

guests-300x199

Even if your church is utilizing technology to provide multiple options for people to give, you could still be missing out if you require everyone to create an account before making any contributions.

Guests and newcomers to your church

Most churches tell visitors not to feel obligated to give—that it’s the responsibility of the members to provide financially for the church. But what about those people that want to show their gratitude for the church’s hospitality or an influential Sunday morning? Maybe they’re simply passing through town or they’re not quite ready to commit to being a part of your church, but they’d like to keep up with their regular giving to a local church.

Don’t make people feel like they have to be insiders to contribute to your church. You shouldn’t alienate the people who feel led to support your ministry, but rather make that process quick and easy. They should be able to whip out their smartphones and make a donation without the hassle of creating an account with your church for a one-time transaction.

Church finance expert Rusty Lewis says that this could even apply to your church website. Online “guests” who are watching your sermons and connecting with your church online—even those who will never step foot inside your physical church location—might also want to quickly give to your ministry.

But it’s not just people who are new to your church that would appreciate the convenience of a simpler giving process.

Members of your church community

According to a 2013 survey by Barna, 79% of evangelicals made a charitable donation in the previous 12 months, and two-thirds of that group gave to their churches—meaning only about half of the evangelicals polled made even a single donation to a church that year.

Another study found that of current members, between 33-50 percent of them don’t make any contributions to the church they call home.

So if you already have a variety of giving options in place but members of your church community aren’t giving, simplifying that process could result in more active donors. Of course, not everyone will immediately start giving to your church, but convenience is a driving factor for many people.

How to make giving easy for first-time givers

Your church can allow people to make contributions through your giving platforms—like an online portal, mobile app, giving kiosk, or text to give—without creating an account through a guest giving option. They can still utilize these tools without limiting major functionality—like the ability to designate gifts to any of your funds.

If you’re not passing the plate, you’re not pressuring guests to give. But having simple options available allows them to quickly give if they truly want to.

According to a recent survey of churches implementing giving kiosks, 27 percent of the contributions they received came from first-time givers. Swiping a card is much faster and easier than setting up a login and entering personal information—meaning first-time givers will be more inclined to take advantage of this tool.

This doesn’t mean you can’t track that giving coming from your church community. With the minimal information you’ve collected, your database can do some of that matchup work behind the scenes if it’s integrated with your giving solutions.

After falling into the habit of giving, those new donors who are members of your church community will likely create an account and become regular donors.

So make it easy for those first-timers with a guest giving option. Don’t make people jump through hoops to contribute to your church.

Should Your Church Print Weekly Bulletins?

trash-300x199

The bulletin. Worship guide. Or whatever your church calls those Bible stuffers that leak fluorescent pink sign-up cards all over the foyer.

What’s the purpose? Does your church really need a bulletin?

Many churches have been printing and distributing hundreds of bulletins each week for years without ever considering why. It’s just what they’ve always done. Typically church bulletins keep people informed of what’s going on in the church and include lists of upcoming events, recent giving and attendance stats, and some notes to accompany the sermon. Bulletins might also provide information for visitors and an opportunity for greeters to connect with these guests.

Why are some churches abandoning bulletins?

Even though printed weekly bulletins have effectively communicated these details for years, some churches are shifting away from them for a few reasons:

  • Printing hundreds or thousands of quality bulletins each week can become time-consuming or costly for churches.
  • Printed bulletins don’t allow for much flexibility and can’t be corrected of any errors without additional costs.
  • In some cases, they’re growing obsolete as people embrace new technology. Many people simply grab one because a greeter was there handing out bulletins. But they barely skim it then toss it in the trash.

What are some alternatives to printing a weekly bulletin?

  • Some churches that still want a physical paper bulletin without the hassle and cost of weekly printing opt for a monthly bulletin. This method can save the church money but must be planned even further in advance, so content isn’t as timely.
  • Video announcements have already replaced bulletins in many churches. While more engaging than a piece of paper, they’re also more limited in the amount they can communicate and only reach the people who are in the worship area as they play.
  • Weekly email newsletters have taken the place of bulletins in some churches. Even though most people now have email addresses, these messages often go unread and a portion of the church community never learns about important updates and opportunities.
  • Many churches make the information that would be included in a printed bulletin available through a mobile app. Although this is convenient for most of the church community, visitors probably won’t download an app just to access sermon notes or check out upcoming events.
  • To maintain the hospitality aspect, some churches place volunteers at a welcome station to provide the information that would normally be found in a bulletin. But most guests will be too timid to walk up and ask questions.

If you’re sticking with the traditional bulletin, how can you make it better?

  • Consider your audience. This bulletin will be handed to both guests and regular attendees. While it should keep your church community informed, a bulletin could serve as the first impression of your church and should be conducive to guests. Avoid church lingo and ministry acronyms. Provide the contact information that visitors need to connect and take the next step. Don’t just tell them to talk to Brother Bill after the service—they have no idea who that is!
  • Include the necessary information—no more, no less. If your bulletin would benefit from a table of contents, it’s too long. People are more likely to read and remember your important announcements if there are fewer distractions. Eliminate the stagnant content and cut down on the amount of announcements. It might leave ministries fighting for inclusion, but you’ll create a more effective bulletin.
  • If you’re going to do it, do it right. Produce a quality bulletin that follows your church branding, contains no grammar or spelling mistakes, and reflects your church well.

So what’s the right choice?

Well, it depends on your individual church. Consider the culture and demographics of your church. And see how many bulletins are just left crumpled in the auditorium after a service.

If you find a way to more effectively disseminate information, don’t be afraid to make a change to the way you’ve always done things. There’s no perfect solution, and you might leave people dissatisfied no matter what you choose.

What do you think—bulletin or no bulletin?

Check out these other resources for more helpful tips and ideas:

Simple Guidelines for Better Bulletins

4 Technology Options that Might Kill the Church Bulletin

 

Image Credits: istockphoto

4 Tips To Bring Christmastime Visitors Back To Your Church

005-600x375

Whether they’re Chreasters or families looking for a new place to worship, your church has the rare opportunity to connect with a large number of visitors this Christmas season. Some may be out-of-towners, but most guests attending your holiday services are locals who could potentially become a part of your growing church community. Follow these tips to make sure they come back even after the decorations are put away:

1. Deliver on your promises

When you promoted the Christmas program, did you embellish at all just to get people there? If you advertised an ornate live nativity, but you’ve really got a baby doll and some plastic donkeys, you’re probably misleading visitors.

Remember your long-term goal—bringing those guests back so they can connect with your church and be discipled. But why would they want to come back if they’re disappointed and feel like they’ve been hoodwinked this time around?

Set the right expectations and deliver on those promises. Better yet, under-promise and over-deliver. They’ll be pleasantly surprised.

2. Provide a positive experience

It’s not just about the vocals or the chocolate chip cookies you hand out after the cantata. It’s about every interaction from the moment guests walk through the door.

  • Ensure your check-in process is fast, easy, and secure. Christmas visitors are usually coming with the entire family, so prepare for packed nurseries and leery parents. A system that quickly prints food allergies and medical information on nametags will be a relief to families.
  • Keep it kid-friendly unless you’ve specifically planned an adult-only event. Parents will be able to enjoy themselves if their toddlers aren’t squirming around the pews out of boredom. People are more accepting of sentimental cheesiness this time of year, anyway. So let the toddlers sing away!
  • Don’t get stuck in a rut, but don’t stray too far from tradition either—especially if it’s worked for you in the past. People are familiar with the Christmas story and know what to expect. It’s the one time of year when most people take comfort in tradition rather than search for something new. So unless you’ve told them that you’ll be switching things up, keep your Christmas lineup simple.
  • Be genuine, but still put your best foot forward. Christmas at church is kind of like a first date: you want to be your true self, but the very best version of yourself. Don’t leave out important details so visitors feel like your services aren’t too “churchy,” only to change your tune the next week. People can usually see right through the façade or they’ll be unhappy when they return to a completely different environment later.

3. Show them what you have to offer  

While you’ll be focusing on the Christmas story, don’t forget to let visitors know what else your church has to offer beyond Christmastime. Give them a preview of what’s coming up next and highlight those ministries that would be of interest to visitors. Invite them to the upcoming sermon series or special event. Just don’t let them leave without seeing how your church can be relevant to their lives year round.

4. Follow up with them

Collect guest information at check-in or through visitor cards and enter it into your church database so you can follow up with them after the holidays. While you’d typically reach out to visitors within a day or two, people don’t want to be bothered by phone calls or emails while they’re spending quality time with family. Once things calm down after the New Year, reach out to your Christmastime guests and invite them back.

Visit these other resources for more Christmas tips and ideas:

5 Last-Minute Christmas Service Improvements

Plan for Growth During the Christmas Holidays

5 Videos for Christmas Church Services – Note: Link is no longer live

7 Ways Your Church Can Reach Chreasters This Holiday Season

006-600x375

Chreasters. Or maybe you prefer CEOs (Christmas and Easter Only). You know—those people who only step foot inside a church two times a year.

They’re looking for a place to go this holiday season. According to Google trends, searches for the word “church” spike at Christmastime, second only to Easter. Are you taking advantage of this season when people who wouldn’t typically join in worship are searching for a church to visit?

1. Get specific

Is your church putting on a Christmas cantata? Are you hosting a candlelight Christmas Eve service? Be specific about the details in your promotion of events. People are more likely to attend a special holiday program than a regular Sunday morning worship service because they have certain expectations this time of year. Childcare and refreshments will also leave people more inclined to be your guests, so tell them ahead of time what you have to offer.

2. Get online

People are searching for a place to go over the holidays, so make sure they can easily find you. Keep your website current and provide plenty of information about Christmas events. Larger churches hosting a variety of major programs might even find value in a dedicated microsite. Check out these eight examples for inspiration.

3. Get noticed

Don’t count on people just finding you organically online. Consider some online advertising during this time of year—try out Google’s Ad Grants program for free. It can serve as a good test to see if this kind of advertising is worthwhile for your church and won’t cut into your tight budget.

4. Get social

Actively promote your Christmas festivities throughout your social networks. Tweet details of your services and create events on Facebook that your church community can share with friends. Create some graphics that will catch people’s eyes rather than a status update that most will overlook. Check out these free resources to get started.

5. Get communicative  

Take advantage of the contact list that you’ve collected. Send an email blast to people who’ve visited your church before and consider a physical mailing based on your audience. The personal invitation will serve as a good reminder of their experience with your church. There’s no better time to reignite their interest in your church.

6. Get creative

There’s no one right way to get the word out—it all depends on the local community surrounding your church. Some close-knit communities find success participating in parades and distributing flyers with candy canes, while a young megachurch in the heart of a modern city might not see the same results. However you choose to advertise, make it personal. Provide invite cards for your church community and challenge them to invite friends and family. They can drop one off with a tray of cookies at a neighbor’s home or hang some in local coffee shops and on community announcement boards. Don’t be afraid to try something new.

7. Get prepared

If you’re in an area that could possibly see snow and ice, develop a communication plan in the case of a cancellation. Make a decision as early as possible, and be sure to at least communicate updates everywhere that you promoted the service. Visitors won’t be happy with your church if they brave the elements only to arrive at an empty building.

Take advantage of this holiday season to turn those Chreasters into year-round disciples. Only 23 days till Christmas—better get started!

Check out these other great resources for more ways to reach your community this Christmas season:

5 Ways Social Media Can Help Churches Connect at Christmas

Church Christmas Ideas

Thanksgiving Church Communication—Throughout The Entire Year

008-600x375

It’s easy to be thankful when you’ve got a stomach full of turkey and pumpkin pie while watching football surrounded by family.

But expressing gratitude shouldn’t be limited to Turkey Day. Especially in the church, we should have a Thanksgiving mindset all year round. And that attitude of gratitude should be incorporated into your communication strategy.

Volunteers

Most churches depend on a team of volunteers to keep ministries running each week. You probably shoot them an email when you need help, but is recognizing their efforts a part of your regular communication strategy?

Although people don’t serve in order to receive praise, gratitude will leave volunteers more inclined to continue serving because their efforts are recognized and appreciated.

  • Personally thank volunteers while they’re in action. If you’re passing by the nursery on Sunday morning, take a few seconds to thank the volunteers who are changing diapers and handing out snacks.
  • Highlight a volunteer in your newsletter, on your blog, or with a Facebook post. Thank Sarah for her 12 years of selfless dedication to the youth group with a brief story of her experience in ministry.
  • Recognize volunteer efforts during church announcements. Give credit to the team that organized your Trunk or Treat outreach and feature a few snapshots from the event.
  • Turn the tables and host a thank you event where the typical volunteers are honored guests.
  • Automate. Sometimes you can’t personally thank every single volunteer, so schedule an email to participants following the Christmas cantata.
  • Send a handwritten card. Whether it’s a birthday wish or a simple thank you, the personal touch will go a long way in making volunteers feel appreciated.
  • Say thank you—without actually saying thank you. Sometimes actions speak louder than words, so show your gratitude by finding value in volunteers’ experience and understanding. Make it easy for them to communicate any needs or concerns with church leadership. Actively seek their input and take it to heart. Provide all the tools and training they need and work to accommodate their schedules.

Check out 33 Ways to Show Appreciation to Volunteers at Your Church for more ideas.

Visitors

You probably work hard to bring new people into your church, but do you thank them for coming once they visit?

  • Thank them from the pulpit. Don’t embarrass visitors by making them stand up or raise a hand, but tell them that you appreciate them joining you in worship.
  • Offer them a visitor gift in exchange for some basic contact information. Check out these ideas to make an irresistible gift bag.
  • Follow up with them. Whether it’s a letter, a phone call, or a personal visit, express your gratitude by following up with each person that visits your church for the first time or attends an event—and make sure it’s timely.

Visit 5 Ways to Keep Visitors from Coming Back to Your Church for more tips on visitor care.

Staff

Some people think that since church staff members are getting paid for their service, they don’t need to be thanked or encouraged. But pastors and other church staff typically make some kind of sacrifice in order to work in ministry—and many will end up suffering from ministry burnout. So make sure you’re expressing gratitude to your entire team.

  • Stop by their offices to say thank you—especially after they just completed a major project. Show them that you see their accomplishments as important too.
  • Encourage the church community to thank them—and not just those in leadership positions. The secretary and IT person should be recognized too.
  • Automate some thank you communication. After the busyness of the holiday season, send out some emails thanking your church staff for all their hard work preparing for the musical, outreach event, and Christmas Eve service.
  • Make sure you’re not grossly underpaying church staff if you can afford to give them a decent wage. Just because someone is dedicated to ministry doesn’t mean his family should live in squalor.

Check out Employees Need Appreciation in Churches Too for more information.

Donors

While it takes staff and volunteers to manage the day-to-day responsibilities of your church, they couldn’t get much done without the financial support of your church community. Are you thanking the people that faithfully give?

  • Incorporate a thank you in the bulletin or on a slide along with your weekly giving report. This might also serve as a reminder for those who’ve neglected their giving.
  • Include a thank you message with year-end contribution statements. If people print their own statements online, you can send them an email recognizing their financial support over the past year.
  • When your church reaches a financial milestone—like paying off the mortgage or raising the funds for a special missions project—express your gratitude in an email or letter to the church community.
  • Make it easy for people to give. Invest in the technology that will allow your loyal donors to give when and where it’s convenient for them and make sure you’ve communicated how to use these different options.

See HOW TO: Thank Online Donors for more insight.

God

While you’re not going to send Him an email or tag Him on Facebook, isn’t God the one who deserves the bulk of our thanksgiving?

It’s easy to get caught up in the things we don’t have—megachurch attendance, hundreds of volunteers, unlimited resources—but we need to acknowledge all that He has given to us.

Share with your church community what God has already done for your ministry rather than solely focusing on your wants for the future. Set an example of gratitude. Regularly thank God for his provision as a church family.

Because you can’t automate those thank yous.

5 Ways To Keep Visitors From Coming Back To Your Church

030-300x210

Your church would never post a sign telling people they aren’t welcome, but could you unknowingly be giving visitors the same impression by the way you’re treating them?

Here are five things NOT to do if you want to see visitors return to your church:

1. Make them feel like outsiders

Have you ever been to a party where everyone is laughing about an inside joke, but no one bothers to fill you in? Makes you feel pretty uncomfortable, doesn’t it? Don’t do the same thing to the people visiting your church. Avoid using obscure acronyms and evasive ministry titles in the bulletin or when delivering the announcements. Visitors may not know what an ABF is, but if you explain the opportunities to get involved with a small group, they’ll understand.

2. Forget about them

I once visited a church and filled out a form requesting more information and provided all my contact details. I never heard back from them. Nothing. It left a bad taste in my mouth, and I didn’t want to go back.

Don’t make this same mistake. Show people that you have a genuine interest in them and help them learn more about your ministry—and don’t wait too long. Nearly 90% of church visitorswill return if someone follows up with them that same day. That number drops to 60% if you wait 24 hours to make contact.

All of this follow up doesn’t need to—and often shouldn’t—be made by the pastor. Depending on the size of your church, delegate follow up to teams of volunteers based on location, demographic, or special interests. If you’re going to follow up in person, consider taking a small gift and be prepared to answer any questions they may have.

3. Be pushy and pressure them

While you should provide visitors with information on how they can connect and get involved with your church, don’t force them to sign up for a small group, the church picnic, and 15 ministries on their first visit. They shouldn’t feel like they’re signing their lives away, and you don’t want them to say “yes” out of guilt or obligation.

But you can help them with the next steps if they’re interested. Offer more information about the church and its ministries. Answer questions. Let them know the best way to get involved. Determine the next step you’d like them to take—attend a visitor’s luncheon or informational meeting—and give them an easy way to sign up.

One of the biggest complaints of the unchurched is that they believe churches only want their money. While you’re actually passing around the offering plate for your members to conveniently give, some visitors feel uncomfortable letting it pass by without dropping in a donation. Consider nixing the traditional offering in favor of giving kiosks, online giving, or an offering drop in the foyer.

4. Neglect them

If a visitor walks into a church of 75, everyone will likely notice. But recognizing visitors in a church of 7,500 can be a challenge, especially when you host multiple services.

So create a welcoming atmosphere from the time they walk in the door. A smiling face and kind word can make all the difference. Make sure you have friendly greeters stationed at the entrances—but don’t stop there. Encourage everyone in your church community to reach out and introduce themselves to people they don’t know. Avoid questions like, “Is this your first time here?” that might insult a longtime attendee. Opt for “I don’t think we’ve met yet” and a cordial introduction.

While we don’t like to compare church to a business, you really are trying to make a great first impression to visitors in order to sell them on your church. So think about a great customer service experience you’ve recently had—how did that coffee shop or bookstore make you feel valued? How can you recreate that positive experience for your visitors?

5. Keep them in the “visitor zone”

When people keep coming back to your church, don’t be afraid to move the relationship forward—they probably want to be more than just visitors. Let them out of the visitor zone!

  • Encourage them to check in from the very first time they visit—you’ll get their information for follow-up communication and help them make attendance a habit. Show visitors that you do want them to attend regularly.
  • Treat people like they’re more than just numbers. Form relationships with them. Help them get connected to a small group where they can grow and engage. If they find just five friendsthrough your church, they’ll be less likely to leave.
  • Once they’ve decided to become a part of your church community, don’t make it easy for them to just blend in. Whether it’s attending a Sunday school class or serving in a ministry, keep them accountable and don’t lower your expectations. Thom Rainer has found that people generally don’t want to be active in a church that expects nothing of them. When people can just coast along unnoticed, that’s when you’ll see a higher turnover.

Check out these other great resources for more insight on church visitors:

6 Ways to Follow up on First Time Church Visitors
Church from a Visitor’s Perspective
How to Engage Church Attendees…Easter and Beyond

 

Image Credits: istockphoto

How To Engage Church Attendees…Easter And Beyond

054-300x300

Lent is here.  That means Easter is fast approaching and church staff is putting in overtime to prepare for this most holy of seasons.  While it is easy to fall back on traditions and get caught up in busyness, it is important to take a step back and ask, “Are we making an impact? Are Easter worshipers engaged after Easter?”

Easter traditionally brings more people to church than any other time of year.  However, even this most sacred of Christian celebrations is facing lackluster attendance.  According to a poll conducted by LifeWay Research, 41% of Americans planned to attend an Easter worship service last year, almost the same as the number who planned not to attend (39%).  Another 20% were unsure.  Among Christians, only slightly more than half planned to attend. Protestant (58%) and Catholics (57%) were most likely to attend while only 45% of nondenominational Christians planned to attend.

ATTENDANCE IN GENERAL

A recent survey by Pew Research Center found that 37% of Americans reported that they attend worship services every week, and only 33% reported attending monthly or yearly.  Among religiously affiliated Americans who report that they only attend worship services a few times a year, the following reasons for not attending more often were cited:

  • Personal priorities (24%), including 16% who say they are too busy.
  • Practical difficulties – work conflicts, health issues, or transportation difficulties (24%).
  • Religious or church related issue – disagreement with the beliefs of the religion or church leaders (37%).
  • No particular reason (9%).

GETTING THEM TO RETURN

So, how do we engage more Christians before, during and After Easter?  In an interview with TheBlaze,  Thom Schultz, co-author of  Why Nobody Wants to Go To Church Anymore, suggested 4 four possible solutions to the church attendance problem:

  1. Radical Hospitality – “embracing a church paradigm of full acceptance.”
  2. Fearless Conversation – sharing of divergent viewpoints.
  3. Genuine Humility – true concern for addressing the issues, without being a hypocrite.
  4. Divine Anticipation – a focus on God’s providence in today’s world.

According to ChurchLeaders.com, the majority of de-churched people (62%) are open to the idea of returning.  Getting them to return may be as simple as inviting them.  In fact, 41% said they would return if an acquaintance or friend invited them.  Younger adults, ages 18-35, are even more likely to return if invited (60%).

Of course, the way we invite people may vary greatly.  Some people are perfectly comfortable with simply inviting their friends and acquaintances to worship.  Others feel more at ease inviting friends and family to celebrate a religious holiday or attend a ministry event (e.g., youth activities).  Small groups are also a great way to establish a personal connection and give people who would consider coming back to church a chance to openly explore issues and share different viewpoints.

The key is to discover what matters most to the people you would like to invite and engage them on their terms.  Be patient.  It is not a sprint to the finish line.  Give them a chance to re-engage in a way they feel comfortable with.  In fact, nearly two-thirds of the de-churched who decide to return prefer to remain anonymous until their second visit.  Provide a way for them to access information about small groups or learn about how various ministries serve the community without making them feel like everyone is going to pounce on them the minute they enter the worship center.  A Self-Service Kiosk is a great way to let them learn more on their own while at church.

Open up to people and be authentic about your faith AND your life.  Christianity is not about Christians, it is about Christ.  It is about having an eternal relationship with God through Christ. Of those who left church and expressed dissatisfaction with the membership, 45% felt church members were judgmental and hypocritical.  Demonstrate a little humility while extending the invitation to come to church.   Listen to any objections they may have and show true concern for addressing the issues without attacking the messenger. After all, we refer to our faith walk, not our faith 400 meter dash.

Need help connecting with church attendees and finding new ways to engage those that grace your front step?  Contact us.

Image Credits: iStockPhoto

The Qualities Of My Favorite Coffee Shop And Someone’s (Potentially) Favorite Church

068

I’m sitting in my favorite coffee shop for an interview with a local reporter about our church and our church’s love for our community.

When the reporter asked where I wanted to meet, without hesitation I said, “The Blue Mug.”

It’s my favorite coffee shop. I’m here about six times a week for meetings and to write sermons. They get a lot of my money (i.e. I pay to go there.) and devotion because they are really good at what they do.

As I’m sitting here at a place I love, I’ve started reflecting on what makes The Blue Mug my favorite coffee shop because I also think these qualities are the same qualities that could make any church someone’s favorite church.

Here you go.

Why The Blue Mug is a My Favorite Coffee Shop and How Your Church Can Become Someone’s Favorite Church:

1) They know my name.

It’s nice to be called by name.  It makes me feel special. Are you, as a church leader, working diligently to make sure that everyone who visits or regularly attends your church has someone who knows his/her name?

2) They serve a really good product.

I wouldn’t come to The Blue Mug if their coffee wasn’t good.  Is you church producing a really good “product”?  We never compromise on presenting the truth of God’s word.  That being said, I believe it’s important to present that truth in an excellent way.

3) The environment is conducive to fellowship.

The Blue Mug was designed to encourage small group interaction.  There are a variety of tables, chairs, and couches–all arranged for a small group of people to be together. I believe small groups are the heart and soul of any healthy and growing church.  Does your church have a physical and/or philosophical structure that facilitates people interacting in small groups?

4) The environment also allows for privacy.

I’m by myself right now.  No one is within 20 feet of me.  I picked a chair in a corner because I needed some space to talk to the reporter privately when he arrives.  I think it’s important for churches to also provide ample space and time for people to be alone with God.

5) The managers and staff talk to me–and everybody who comes in.

This is one of the first things that brought me back to The Blue Mug.  It was brand new when I first started coming and the owners went out of their way to meet me and invite me back.  I felt really special, but they do that to everybody.  Even though I know they make money by selling coffee, it’s obvious to me that Art and Karla (the owners) are not really in the coffee business; they are in the people business.  Last week, when I was in the hospital, they sent me free coffee every day (by way of my staff).  On Monday, when I saw them, they asked if they could pray with me.  What is your church doing to make people know they are special?  Is your church in the sermon, Sunday School, and worship production business, or is your church in the people business?

6) They are very friendly.

Ask anyone who comes to The Blue Mug regularly and they will tell you the same thing: It’s a friendly place.  Is your church a friendly place? In my experience, I’ve come to the opinion that being a friendly church is more than just having friendly people; it’s about having intentionally friendly people.  In one of my ministries, I was hurt when I asked a guest his first impression of our church and he replied, “You are very friendly…but only to each other.  No one, except you, has spoken to me.”  Ever since that conversation, I’ve done all I can to make sure that any church I serve makes it a point to be friendly to guests and not just each other.

7) They always thank me for coming.

When I walk out the door in a few moments, Victoria will speak out, “Thanks for coming, Arron.”  Does your church make guests feel, not only welcomed, but wanted? Does your church go out of its way to thank guests for visiting?  Our church, like many other churches, gives guests a nice gift when they visit because we are so thankful that they chose to come to visit Journey.

8) They serve people really well.

They work diligently to make sure your order is taken and prepared properly.  If it’s not right, they’ll make it right.  If it’s something that needs to be prepared or if they are really busy and backed up, they bring your coffee, pastry, or whatever you order to your table.  They even will often clean up my stuff for me while I’m in a meeting.  They go out of their way to serve their guests.  Does your church serve people well?  People who visit? People in your community?

9) They play really good music.

Atmosphere is really important.  It’s so important that entire companies exist just to produce the music that is played in department stores, restaurants, and elevators.  Does your church give any thought to its atmosphere?  At Journey we are very intentional with the type of music we use to facilitate worship singing because we know how important it is. We are also very intentional with the music we play before and between the services.  I won’t say anymore about church worship music here because I’m not in the mood to stir up and deal with any drama.  I’m listening to Nora Jones and she has me in a really good emotional place and I’m not going to let your griping and complaining about how much you hate the music your worship minister plays ruin my mood. You guys need to find your own favorite coffee place, drink some coffee, and work that our yourselves.

10) They accept everyone as they are.

The Blue Mug has no dress code. There’s no social code either.  All are welcomed. Right now, it’s occupied with many different types of people: a pierced college student, an attractive 60ish-yr-old woman in a fancy dress, a woman who looks like a mom, a guy in skinny jeans who is probably a worship minister somewhere, a middle-aged man who looks like he just finished a round of golf, and a preacher in jeans, Sketchers, and a Florida Christian College volleyball t-shirt. Is your church the kind of place where people are accepted as they are or are people expected to dress, talk, and vote a certain way before they will be completely welcomed into the fold?  For more on my thoughts on this, I’d encourage you to read my book Eats with Sinners.

—–

So, an interesting thing just happened.  I just finished my interview for an article about why some people love Greeley and why some don’t.  I was interviewed because the reporter knows, based on what our church does for this community, that I love Greeley.  I do.  I really love my town. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.

The reporter asked me to list some of the things I love about Greeley.

The Blue Mug was on the list.

I pray that one day, when people in this town are asked to list the reasons they love living in Greeley, Colorado, Journey Christian Church is one of the things on their list.

Author bio: Who is Arron Chambers? Pastor of Journey Christian Church in Greeley, Colorado, Author, Husband of a Lovely Wife, Father of Four Kids, Evangelism Champion, Leadership Consultant, Marriage Coach, and Blogger. Find his books here: Arron’s Books