Turning First-Time Easter Visitors into Returning Guests

by Andy Stanley

How do you keep those first-time visitors coming? 

Every single Sunday, the goal of our services at North Point is the same: to create an experience so engaging that folks will want to return next week. Each week, we’re trying to earn one more Sunday. This affects everything from how we make announcements at the beginning of the service to how our volunteers say goodbye at the end.

So on Easter Sunday—when so many new faces fill the rows—we want to make sure we hit the bullseye on that target. Here are three things we do to turn Easter Sunday first-time visitors into returning guests the next week.

1. Assume they’re in the room.

We start the service by explaining to first-time guests what they can expect from their visit (e.g., We’re going to sing a couple of songs, hear a message from Andy, and we’ll make sure you’re out of here in just over an hour so you can make it to your brunch reservation on time). We don’t make any insider-specific announcements. And we often open with a secular song or a funny video so guests can sing or laugh along with us instead of feeling like outsiders looking in. When we assume visitors are in the room, it’s easy to see how we need to adjust our communication to make them feel comfortable.

2. Acknowledge their skepticism.

Agreeing with everything that’s said from stage isn’t a requirement for sitting in our seats. And we say so. In his message, Andy often acknowledges the skepticism of visitors by saying things like, If you’re here today and you’re not a Christian or you’re not sure about Jesus or the Bible, you’re off the hook for this. You just get to listen in on what us Christians are expected to do. This is an intentional way of telling visitors that they are welcome to keep coming back, even if they don’t believe everything we do.

3. Provide an easy next-step.

Church should be the safest, most logical place to go to ask questions about faith, right? But how does that happen? Should someone with doubts or questions just interrupt the sermon? Or whisper his or her question to the guy sitting nearby? We think it’s imperative to create a safe space for these folks to speak up. For us, that environment is called Starting Point, an 8-week small group conversation where doubts and questions are welcome. When we know we have lots of first-time visitors joining us, we pitch Starting Point as an environment created specifically for them and make it easy to get more info or to sign up for a group. Many churches offer a 6-8 week class to introduce visitors to Christ and to your church.

www.npc.org. Used by permission.

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