Easter marks a time of year when you know your church is going to see a massive influx of first-time visitors, giving you an incredible opportunity to capitalize on its momentum by moving first-time visitors to fully engaged members of your church.
And that influx may include those having their first experience of church – ever. It may also include those who’ve had a really bad experience and vowed never to return, yet they find themselves lining the pews again with hopes of a different experience this time around – or possibly with no hope at all.
So how do you ensure that everyone God brings through your doors makes a meaningful connection?
You make sure that you have an assimilation process in place to give you and your church every opportunity to connect and engage your visitors.
"...By taking the time establish this assimilation process before Easter, your church could experience a huge return in growth, discipleship, and community impact..."
Assimilation, the process through which we forge connections, plays a critical role in creating disciples. It fosters intimate relationships and interactions, and lays the foundation for meaningful connection to the church. It begins with a person’s first visit to your church and ends when that person connects with your church.
Here are the four basic tenets of assimilation.
Church hospitality is like home hospitality – you greet every guest at the door and warmly welcome them. Passive directional signs and information for newcomers make navigating the church easier but active, intentional hospitality calls for us to welcome newcomers with people available to greet and help anyone entering our doors.
2. Information Gathering
When churches gather information, they often find that they had more visitors than they realized. And churches that gather information will uncover ministry opportunities to make each person feel more valued and important.
Follow-up is recognizing what people need, when they need it, and gives you opportunities for pastoral ministry through the information gathering that provides the dates, milestones and prayer requests that connect people when it matters most.
People often connect to church when they develop meaningful relationships, and when people feel that their church is intimately invested in them, they are more likely to sacrificially and intimately invest in their church – becoming members, givers, servers, volunteers, and ultimately, intentional disciples.
Further, if you want to make the most of your opportunity to engage first-time guests on Easter and beyond, here are four things to remember about your first-time guests to stay the course to convert drop-ins into disciples.
(And if all this reads like dating advice, don’t be surprised: The process of getting to know someone for what may prove to be a lifetime commitment should be thoughtful, slow and intentional.)
1. Getting to know you.
Adrift in a sea of unfamiliar faces in uncharted waters, it’s easy for a first-time guest to feel swept away by sensory and social overload. Be sure to share all the different ways newcomers can get to know you and your church that doesn’t involve an enormous congregation in an enormous building. Direct them to your website or mobile app which will allow everyone – not just newcomers – to search all the ways they can get involved on their own time.
2. Take it slow.
Rather than inviting first-time guests to join a weeks-long orientation Download your free copy of . requiring a much bigger commitment than they may be willing to make, consider offering a 20-30 minute meet-and-greet with the pastor and a few other key church members. You can include an introductory video and maybe a question-and-answer session.
You can also consider including an ‘Ask the Pastor’ feature on your website or mobile app wherein newcomers can ask questions with relative anonymity and privacy.
3. Practice reciprocity.
Not all first-time guests will complete a connection card but if they take the time to do it – and this may seem obvious but is often missed – be sure to follow up within a day or two. A simple, personal email thanking them for coming and inviting them back is a great way to keep the door open without it feeling like a full-court press.
PRO TIP: Don’t add their email to the church email list … yet. Again, take it slow.
4. Allow for acclimation.
Visiting a new church can feel a lot like visiting a foreign country. Everyone is bustling around, knowing exactly where to go and when to be there, all while knowing each other well and speaking what may seem like an entirely foreign language.
"...moving first-time Easter Sunday visitors to fully engaged members should always be the end-goal, but first, invite them to return..."
Not everyone is fluent in ‘the blood of the lamb’ or knows that ‘The Club’ is your children’s ministry so it’s important to recognize that in order to communicate effectively and make them feel welcome, we have to speak in more universal terms that they can understand.
Your church is going to see a huge surge in first-time visitors, so it’s important to be intentional about stewarding everyone who chooses to join you. Moving first-time Easter Sunday visitors to fully engaged members should always be the end-goal, but first, invite them to return. Having processes in place to invite them to their next faith step when they are ready will help keep them there every other Sunday of the year.
There's always a next step:
Volunteers are a precious component of church life. And they can do amazing work to help grow the Kingdom. Download our NEW ebook, . It isn’t about staffing a team of random people; it’s about knowing enough about each individual to offer a customized volunteer opportunity to fit their specific interests, skills, passions and gifts.