3 Factors for Improving Visitor AssimilationIt’s tough to improve on something unless you are tracking progress, have clear goals and have a system.
1. Measuring & BenchmarkingAre you measuring your current ratios of new visitors to members and where they are being lost in the process? You need to know where you are today in order to properly assess what works and where improvements can be made. Recent statistics show that only 10-17% of new visitors will stick and eventually become members.
2. Goal SettingAs with life and the church as an organization you certainly must already have written goals and plans and visitor integration numbers and conversion rates ought to be a part of this. While the average church may only see 10% of visitors stay, this can reach as high as 20-25%. Shoot for excellence in this area as in everything else you do and have a plan.
3. Systems & ProcessThere are many efforts and strategies for improving visitor experience but unless tracked, measured and systemized it is tough to get to your church’s goals. Any new strategies and programs you put into place must be scalable in order to continue to be effective. If this all seems like a lot to do at one time break integration down into 3 easy steps. Focus on:
- Turning new visitors into second time guests
- Repeat guests into regular attendance
- Regular attendance into fully integrated members
Stage 1: 3 Pillars of Converting New Guests into Repeat GuestsThere are 3 factors which make all the difference in whether guests will return or not…
1. First ImpressionsThe overwhelming majority of advice on visitor assimilation out there today focuses on the first 10-15 minutes of a new guest’s experience and points to this as the deciding period in which they will determine they are coming back or not. However, while it is crucial that your congregation is friendly and welcoming this often has more to do with your church’s style than anything else and this may not be something you believe should be compromised on. Fortunately is it really what you do next that makes all the difference.
2. Connecting & Building Relationships [Beyond Greeters]Besides a friendly congregation and atmosphere what matter most to most is actually being able to connect quickly and building relationships. It is sad to have new visitors who love your church and could even be excited about joining just float away because they aren’t connected with. For example; instead of having a literal maze of greeters with big smiles and handshakes is it not more important ot have fewer but who actually get to make personal connections and are able to interact with visitors before and after services? You can offer coffee and cookies after morning services and dinner in the evening but beyond providing the structure what guidance and encouragement is given to members to actually reach out and converse with new guests? Social media is also one of the best tools for this stage today and guests should be invited to connect online right away.
3. Answering QuestionsHow easy is it for visitors to ask questions and get answers? We aren’t just talking about directions to the restroom of kids’ club either. Visitors want to know what your church is really about. Are you giving them the opportunity to find out? Some churches have staff available afterwards with “Questions???” badges which is a great way to invite questions without seeming to aggressive. Are your leaders accessible? Having a large church is great but today this unfortunately means pastors are constantly out of reach. Are your leaders more like rock stars being shielded from rabid fans by bodyguards busy ushering them away or do they make themselves available?
Stage 2: Converting Repeat Guests into Regular AttendeesA huge part of developing regular attendees and pushing visitor assimilation along is getting them involved and making them a part of what you are doing in addition to being fed during weekend services. 4 ways to convert more repeat guests into regular attendees:
- Develop more community groups where members can connect with attendees
- Invite everyone to help out in the church
- Invite everyone to join community activities from backpack drive for back to school to meal services
- Get more family members involved. The deeper and broader the connection the less likely they are to leave
Stage 3: Questions to Ask About Your Membership OfferingIf you want to increase church membership some important questions to ask include:
- Are you letting attendees know about membership opportunities frequently enough?
- Do those newer to attending church even know what membership is about?
- Are you being too tough on membership criteria?
- Is your membership program too short or long?
The Golden Keys to Spiking Visitor Assimilation NumbersIf there are two things you can begin doing more of right now to spur more visitor integration and repeat visits it is to follow up and get feedback. Get feedback from those going through each stage of the process to see where you can improve and perhaps even sit through them yourself to experience it from a new perspective. Follow up is critical. Some don’t want to be pushy or come across as hard-selling sales people but the reality is that these visitors came out for a reason, have a need and are often waiting for the call. Showing their attendance is noticed (or missed), is appreciated and the church is really there to help them on a personal level can make all the difference.
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