10 Commandments for Effective Guest Response

10commandmentsAs a strategic outsider in the church world, I get to experience many forms of worship across denominational lines and stylistic genres. One of the most sought after, yet most misunderstood facets of most every church’s worship service is the recognition of and response from guests. Point of views on guest recognition span the spectrum.

There is the “Those (Guests) of Whom We Do Not Speak” approach, because in no way do we want guests to feel uncomfortable or ask them to be identified or respond.

There is the always awkward “Members Please Stand, Guests Remain Seated” wheat and tares approach. Many times I have confidently stood to avoid remaining conspicuously seated. Anyone remember the VISITOR ribbons? I guess it could be worse.

No matter where you fall in between, the sought after grail in guest attendance is getting contact information for follow-up.

Here are 10 Commandments for Effective Guest Response:

I.   Thou shalt not ask them to fill out a card and drop it in the offering plate, when thy worship leader hath them standeth in worship for 30 minutes. Remember to plan your service to allow for more than 15 seconds to sit down and fill out a card.

II.   Thou shalt not forget to provide pens. Stock the seat backs or provide one with every worship bulletin at the door. Encourage everyone to take their pens and leave them with the server at lunch, along with a great tip.

III.   Thou shall only ask for minimum information necessary. Do you REALLY need to know every data point in their life, or will simple name and email or twitter handle suffice for now?

IV.   Thou shalt provide thy own contact information first. On screen or in print. Why would you ask for their cell phone number if you are not willing to broadcast yours first? Unless you are ready for them to randomly call you, do not expect to be able to randomly call them.

V.   Thou shalt let thy guest knoweth why. Go beyond just asking for contact information, tell them what you intend to do with it. Set their expectations on your follow-up and they will be more likely to respond.

VI.   Thou shalt return favor with a gift or item of value. One great way to get response is to give something of value. Consider “swapping” their response card for a Bible, devotional guide, teaching resource or other tangible item. A trifold church brochure is neither tangible or valuable by itself, just saying.

VII.   Thou shalt not forsake thy vision language. Let guests know how their response furthers the church’s mission, how it demonstrates a core value, becomes a next step or establishes a baseline for a successful spiritual growth process.

VIII. Thou shalt not send thy guest to back rooms or dark corners. If you are serious about connecting with guests, position any “next steps” or “meet & greet” areas in prime locations within the flow of traffic. Nobody wants to swim upstream to huddle under the balcony stairs with you.

IX. Thou shalt not be one dimensional. Create multiple opportunities to garner guest response. Provide online web forms to complete, Facebook group pages with which to connect and regular orientation classes to attend. Get beyond the tear-out card and remember that guests have no hesitation giving you contact information when their child’s safety is involved, so team up with the Kid’s Ministry too.

X. Thou shalt have a Guest Experience Plan. Think through the whole experience a new family will have, from the moment they google your church until they are engaged and growing with your fellowship. Set up a system to track responses and provide opportunities for next steps to happen, and give one person ownership over the process. Failing to plan is planning to fail at great guest response.

What is one way you have been able to encourage guests to respond?