First, don’t try to abbreviate it. It doesn’t work well.
(And I keep expecting a Borg reference. I guess that shows my age. ed.)
1. Your first time guests are a gift from God.
God is entrusting you with the process of moving them towards Christ.
When they first decide they are going to go to church, all hell is going to break loose in their lives. Satan doesn’t want them in church.
That they are there shows sheer determination.
2. Increasing retention of first-time guests will dramatically impact your growth.
If you have 1600 people a week coming to church, about 100 will be first-time visitors. If you could keep all of them, at the end of the year you would have 60,000 more people.
The average church keeps 1 out of every 20 visitors.
Sometimes the smallest changes can make a difference.
Change your assimilation process.
How can you keep more first-time guests? How can you wow them? How can you create an atmosphere where they want to come back?
3. You have seven (7) minutes to make a first impression.
What does the signage say? The building? the lawn? the greeter?
If you’re renting, they’ll give you a break on the outside, but if you own, you are responsible.
Everything about your church is speaking.
“Church is a family expecting guests.” (Andy Stanley) If you were expecting me to come visit your home, what kind of things would you do? Use that same diligence to prepare for first-time guests at church.
4. You need a consistent system for follow up or else a guest will fall through the cracks.
People say NO to what is confusing.
Look at tangible and intangible greeting: What will they see, what are they going to experience?
Look at the children’s area specifically.
How are they directed?
Helping people get to where they are going is a big business.
Being lost raises stress levels.
You need a LOT of signs.
Guys don’t like to ask for directions.
How do I get someone seated?
70% rule: If your church is more than 70% full, you are full.
If there aren’t many seats, an usher should walk with the people and have the usher ask the people on the row to stand and allow the newcomers into the row.
Get the guests’ information.
Follow up with an email in 36 hours.
Follow up with a handwritten note within 96 hours.
Include a small gift with the letter. We give Metro cards. A church in Tulsa gives Sonic cards.
Then 30 days after the first visit, you need to follow up.
5. Define what a fully assimilated person looks like.
What are they doing?
6. You must prepare before God sends you people.
There is a principle of spiritual readiness: You need to be prepared for Jesus to bless you.
At Billy Graham training, I was told that if they train 3,000 decision counselors, about 3,500 people will make a first time decision. If they train 7,000 decision counselors, about 8,000 people will make a decision.
There is a correlation between our preparation and Jesus’ blessing.
You can be prepared without getting a blessing, by you need to be ready.
Train, buy gifts for guests, get stationery to write them, before the blessing of first-time guests coming.
We were having an event. We decided we would give all first time guests a movie ticket. I thought about 50. But X said, no, we need 150. So we bought 150. We had 110 guests. Now I wish I’d bought 200 movie tickets.
Notes from Nelson Searcy’s “Saturday Keynote” at Innovative Impact.