In this section, we would like to explore two leakages, Leakage 2 (Lost Traffic) and Leakage 3 (Lost Visitors). These 2 leakages are interrelated and best addressed together. Visitors are the lifeblood of your church growth. Your ability to turn visitors into members is the single most important action that will give your church sustainable growth.
Now, there are many factors that can cause visitors not to return to a church. They might not like the music, the preaching, the building, or the “general feel” and there is not much that can be done to change the culture of your church overnight. Not every church is for everybody, and that’s okay. But if your visitors aren’t sticking around because they weren’t properly welcomed and followed up, that’s a problem that should receive the attention of the leaders.
Before I go any further, I would like to present 3 questions that will shed some light on how your church is performing in the area of visitor conversion.
Question 1: Your Number of First Time Guests.
To maintain your current size, you’ll need three first-time guests each week for every hundred regular attenders. To grow, you’ll need to average five first-time guests per week for every hundred regular attenders.
What’s your number?
Question 2: Your Percentage of Return Guests.
The average church sees 6 to 10% of their first-time guests return for a second visit, 25% of their second-time guests return for a third visit, and 35% of their third-time guests become regular attenders.
What are your numbers?
Question 3: Percentage of Guests Who Stick.
Average churches see 6-10% of their first timers become regular attenders. Outstanding churches see as many as 30% become regulars.
What’s your number?
These questions will give you an idea of our approach to visitor conversion. We believe that every church needs a methodical and rigorous process of managing visitors. It does not matter how you slice or dice it, a church that can effectively convert visitors into members experiences the most growth. When you see a growing church, it is not by coincidence nor is a random act but rather it is because when they get first time visitors the visitors decide become members. Every single person in any church was a first-time visitor at one point.
In order to successfully convert visitors into members, you need to be able to attract, welcome, capture and nurture the visitors. Attract: you need to be able to attract them to your church; this could be by way of evangelism and outreach programs in and around your community. Secondly, after you have attracted the visitors to your church, you need to put proper systems in place to make them feel welcome. This may involve how they are greeted when they come or whether they are made to feel at home while they are there etc. Thirdly, after welcoming them, you need to properly capture their information to allow for effective follow up afterwards. Lastly you need a team that is effective and skilled in communicating with the visitors during the follow up process.
One common mistake that churches make is not recognising the importance of collecting visitor information; they assume that if a person has walked into our church today, they will come back by themselves but this is not always the case. It is therefore necessary to properly capture their information into your church database so that you can effectively follow them up. You may not know this but when a visitor attends your church for the first time, they are observing everything around them to see if they could possibly fit in. After leaving, they may need some convincing to know for sure if this is the perfect place for them. It is therefore imperative that their basic contact information is captured.
Lost Traffic are those visitors who come to your services and they depart without leaving any of their contact details. When this happens, the follow-up process is killed before it even starts.
To further illustrate the components of the visitor conversion process, we will use the Visitor Conversion Rectangle shown below:
Studies have shown that first impressions matter as they influence visitors on coming to a decision about your church. Studies say that the first 10 minutes are critical in ensuring the attitude of the visitors towards your church/ service and those 10 minutes determine whether they come back to your church or not. That is why it is critical to ensure the hospitality teams, church greeter in particular are well trained. Greeters through their warm welcome, servitude, communicate the degree of hospitality the church has. When people walk into a church for the first time the individual that greets them is, to them, the church. The opinions they are forming of the particular individual who is helping them are the opinions they are forming of the church.
Anyone who has ever visited a new church understands the awkwardness of being in a new environment while assessing the visitor experience. Your church should take a moment in each service to acknowledge visitors and welcome them to the church. Be sensitive to the visitors and don’t do anything that might embarrass them. For example, calling them to the front of the church and interviewing them in front of the entire church might not be the best approach to enticing them to come back. Some people want to be noticed while others want to sneak in and out while they assess the environment. Regardless, taking a moment to thank them for coming goes a long way in sending a message of acceptance. Sometimes part of acknowledgement involves asking the visitors to stand up or raise hands, this also a great opportunity for the data collection team to identify the visitors.
Visitor Information Capture
Once the visitors have been welcomed and acknowledged the next step is to invite them to provide their basic contact information. One of the most popular ways to accomplish this is through visitor card. Other popular names for the church visitor card is Connect Card or Guest Card. It’s important to have a well thought out method of getting the visitors to participate fully in providing their information through the cards. Here are a few tips to help you effectively gather a guest’s information:Explain What Connect Cards Are: Make an announcement at the beginning and/or end of the service explaining what the visitors’ cards are. Hold them up so there’s no confusion and explain where they can be found. Don’t forget to have pens or pencils in each pew in case someone is without one.
Ask the Ushers to Distribute the Cards: After welcoming the visitors and explaining what the connect cards are, ushers can walk around and pass them out to first time visitors.
Tell them Where to Turn it in: During your announcement, tell your guests exactly where they can turn in their completed connect cards. If you have a visitor lounge the cards can be turned in there. Some churches will ask the visitor to put them in the offering basket whilst others will have the ushers stand by as the guest completes the card
Provide them with Motivation: Although your guests may want to connect to your church, they may need additional incentive to go through the trouble of completing your visitor card. Consider offering a gift to every guest who completes and turns in a card.
As you collect information on visitors, you have to understand that some visitors want to check out a church and remain anonymous. 63% of guests prefer to wait until at least the second visit to let anyone know they are visiting. Use non-threatening welcome strategies to respect their boundaries but still provide a way to connect with your church.
We believe that every church should have a predictable step by step process of how the follow up team communicates and interact with visitors from first contact until conversion. By having a predictable process, it means that the follow up process can be standardised. The basic principle of an effective follow-up process is that when a church comes into contact with a visitor the best way of guiding that visitor into becoming a member is by nurturing them through communication.
The follow-up process is where most churches lose visitors because those responsible for this important task are ill-prepared. The process is usually haphazard, each person does what they think will work and there is no progress tracking and monitoring.
Below are interesting statistics that reflect how the timing of the follow-up process affects the retention rate of your first time church visitors.
• 85% of guests return if followed-up in 36 hours
• 60% of guests return if followed-up in 72 hours
• 15% of guests return if followed-up in 7 days.
In the solution section, we will discuss the Visitor Conversion Module and Church Growth App. The Visitor Conversion Module was designed to ensure that your church has a robust system of capturing visitors before an automated follow-up process is initiated. The automation process comes in the form of a 7 Step Follow-Up protocol designed to ensure that every visitor who come through your church is strictly and methodically followed by the follow-up team. Every church that believes in the importance of visitors in their church growth vision will absolutely love this one of a kind tool. We have also put together extensive training material for your Hospitality Teams and anyone involved in the visitor conversion process. We believe that proper training will help your teams with effectiveness and efficiency.