6 Reasons First Time Guests Never Return!

I don’t know about you, but I know I’m a glutton for punishment. Each week, after service, I take a look at the numbers to see how many guests and members were in service. I love numbers, but all I get is depressed. And maybe that’s the neurotic in me. But what about the guests? Why do they not return, after all that hard work to get them in the door?

Single woman sits on bench
getty images / Lawren

Don’t get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with looking at numbers. We have to in order to know how our organizations are doing. But when all we focus on is getting people into the door for the first time, we’re missing a whole section of people we would otherwise miss out on.

So, who are these elusive people that seem more important? This would be the second and third time visitors. I’ll explain in a moment.

There are six reasons guests don’t return and why we don’t retain our numbers.

1. We focus all our attention on getting people in the door, without thinking about the back door.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I love marketing. I love getting the satisfaction that people are coming through the doors that first time because of some campaign I did. It’s thrilling to see a fresh face that I don’t know. In fact, I love meeting them.

A lot of churches will focus so hard on getting them through the door that when they finally arrive, they have no clue how to keep them – let alone for them to become members. What we should be doing, once they are through the doors, find a way to hook them to come back. That is why I love second time visitors even more than first.

2. We become cliquish and ignore our new guests.

I know, it’s hard to break away from our friends. After all we’ve not seen them for seven whole days. We have to catch up. But a lot of the time, our catching up does a disservice to our new friends.

Take time to greet them. Don’t allow them to walk into your worship center without at least two different people welcoming them. Once you’ve taken he conversation as far as you can, pass them off and say, “Let me introduce you to someone.” Then pass them off and go find the next newcomer.

3. We don’t provide enough opportunities for people to connect.

I read recently in The Purpose Driven Church; “Over 75% of the respondents to a 400 church survey said, ‘I didn’t feel anyone cared whether I was there or not.’” The sad reality, most people don’t care that someone new walks in. I’ve been to many churches where I felt alone – not a fun feeling.

We need to be creating as many opportunities that we can for people to connect and make friends. There will be relationships that happen naturally, but maybe they just need to know how much you care before they care how much you know.

4. We don’t close the back door.

This attitude that first time guests will be back because they like the church isn’t good enough. The statistic that a first time guests ever becoming a member is 10%. Your church doesn’t stand a chance against all the other churches out there.

I know Brother Bob has a wonderful church, but they came to my church and therefore they are mine. I know that sounds extreme. But isn’t that the rule of marketing? When you have a first time customer, you want them to buy from you again. Create the atmosphere for them to be back. Incentives are great. We give a Starbucks card to every second time guest.

5. We usually stop after second time visits.

One of the biggest problems, other than not closing the back door, is we don’t care if they come back a third time. In our minds they are part of our church family now. But statistics say if they come back two times in a row they now only have a 25% chance of ever becoming a member.

This tells me the odds are still not good. We want them to come back a third time in a row. Why? If we can get them there a third time consecutively our odds move from 25% to over 50% of them ever becoming members of our church. What creative ways can you get them back with?

6. We don’t get them involved in ministry.

I know there are many churches that will disagree. But it shows that if you can get them in the door four times in a row our odds of making them members increases to 85%. That’s huge! Now we have an opportunity. That is to get them involved in ministry.

We don’t like to get people involved if they are not members. My questions is, why? Why not! The biggest way to get your church to grow is to get more involved in ministry. The best part, for every person involved in ministry there are 4 potential people that can come to your church for the first time.

We have this amazing opportunity to seize the day! The more people involved in ministry the larger our church can grow. It’s simple math and that’s why I love looking at the numbers. They tell me how many people I had in church, but they also tell me how many first time guests I had. And the more I know about them, the quicker I can get them involved in ministry so I can gain 4 more people.

What are you actively doing to keep you new guests? Do you have any creative ideas you’re willing to share on this site? Share below, on Facebook or Twitter.



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