It is important that we create positive first impressions.

Matthew 5:16, Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. 

I Peter 2:9, But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.

To “shew forth” is obviously a visible thing and has to do with the impression we leave on others. It is our responsibility to let the world see Christ. Our works ought to lead others to glorify Christ. Our light that we shine forth ought to impress people to have a heart to glorify God.

We must understand that many of the first-time guests we receive are lost, and how we treat them could make a difference in whether they ever get saved.

Matthew 10:16, Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves

We need God’s wisdom as we try to reach a lost world for Christ. 


Pre-Service Responsibilities

The second a person pulls onto our church property this process begins. What they see, what they experience starts to impress upon them. Is it easy to pull in? What do things look like? How are they treated?

As we all know, it is hard to shake the first impression. That is why it is essential to maintain things like the lawn, flowers beds, church sign and exterior of your building.

Do you allow a bad spirit, lack of planning to hinder your potential for church growth?

Absolutely everything speaks to a first-time guest.

Most people decide to either come back or not within the first ten minutes of their visit. Even before your first hymn or the beginning of your message.

First impressions take place in four areas.

1.   Do people feel welcomed?


Great people with a “Glad you are here.” People enjoy feeling welcome when they arrive.

Greeting involves such ministries as Parking Lot Greeters, Door Greeters, and Ushers.

Use of signs and banners can be used to help people feel received.

Sunday School teachers and nursery workers being on time and in place when your guests arrive.

2.   Do people know where they are going?


When someone pulls onto your property, is it clear where they are to go? If you are unable to have Parking Lot Greeters, then proper signage will work.

When they come inside, do you have people in place to show people to where they need to go? Again, wall signs are excellent. Many times people don’t want to ask a stranger where something is especially the ladies room.

Restrooms and children’s ministry areas need to be clearly marked.


3.   Do people feel you care?


Do you look at a guest as a number or a potential giver? Maybe they can start a new ministry?

We need to value them as a soul that will spend somewhere in eternity.

Do any gifts, we give, out demonstrate that we value our guests?

Make sure restrooms, and children’ ministry areas are clean. Be friendly.


4.   Do people comfortably find a seat?


Guest are not comfortable with asking strangers if they can come into the pew.

This is where it is important to have good ushers. Have your ushers ask members to move to the center.

Make sure you leave good seats for guest, not making them sit in the front.

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Now it is time to prepare for the:

Church Service Times
1.   Planning

I understand we need to leave room for the Holy Spirit to move, but planning is crucial.

Come early and make sure heating and air conditioning are working. Check to see if all needed lights are on. All computer and sound equipment is set up. Do not have people setting up mic cords as the service starts.

Do “all things decently and in order”.
2.   Worship   

True worship takes place in the power of God and His Spirit. Therefore, worship is to be powerful.

Worship requires that we have adequately prayed for the service, that the pastor is walking in the Spirit. Members have prayed and are right with God.

Begin the service expecting God to do great things. 

Come with a spirit to participate. If a guest is seeing you not participating in the service, why should they?

Do we impress our guests that we are entering into the very presence of God?

Hebrews 13:15 – By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name

Colossians 3:16 – Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.

Philippians 2:9-11, Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; 11 And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father
3.   Information Gathering

You will never get everyone to fill out a connection card, but I believe a proper system will help you to maximizes the number who will fill out a guest card.

You can use a generic card that goes into the pew but a custom card each week works best.

Give out the card and a bulletin to EACH person as they enter the service.

Have everyone fill out a card.

During the Guest Welcome.

Guests don’t like to be centered out. Ask during your welcome for everyone to fill out a card.

Guest are more comfortable, filling out the card when they observe everyone doing it.

This will involve teaching your members, in advance, the importance of filling out these cards. Ask members to fill out the name and email and ask guests to fill out whatever they are comfortable doing.

Teach the church family the importance of guests seeing them fill out the connection card. When guests notice the members doing it, it will encourage them to do it also.

During the Preaching

During your preaching or at the conclusion, you can draw people back to the connection card. You can ask them to make a spiritual commitment or ask them to commit to memorizing the scripture verse for the week.

During the Offering

Have everyone place the connection card in the offering.

Give people a reason to use the card. 

Have a place for people to sign up for events. Give them an opportunity to make a spiritual decision for Christ. 

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The last phase to prepare for is the:

Post- Service Responsibilities
1.   Gift


Offer every guest who puts a communication card to receive a gift available in the lobby.

Have these gifts sitting out for guests to take.

If your people are hovering, it will make them feel uncomfortable.

The pastor may, however, want to walk over and talk to the family as they take their gift.

If husband, wife, and kids take one that’s alright. This is a small investment in the lives of a family.


2.   Information


At a Guest Table, in the lobby, have Guest information books available along with other resources on baptism, membership, and church beliefs

3.   Follow-Up

It is imperative to follow-up on these guests right away.


Today the home is a very private place and people often don’t fill out cards because they don’t want a visitor from the church coming to their door. Also, we live in a tech-savvy world.

Send an email within the first 48 hours thanking them for coming and asking them to return.

Personal Card

Within 96 hours send a personal card. Do not send a form letter in a number 10 envelope. These kinds of letters are discarded most of the time.

Use an Announcement size envelope like the ones used for wedding announcements. A Number A2 (4 3/8” X 5 3/4”)

Handwrite the card and envelope. If you have terrible penmanship, have someone fill it out for you and sign your name.

Use a 5.5”X8.5” paper and fold it in half. Again, handwrite the note.

Also, place a small gift in the envelope as a thank you for visiting. Gifts could include a $5.00 coffee gift card. We use this because a husband and wife can get a coffee and a donut for that amount. Again, this is a small but important investment into a new family.

Visit in the home

Pastor’s need to decide how quickly to visit guests in their home based on the culture of the area you serve. In some regions, showing up at someone’s house a few days after coming to church, would cause the guest never to return.

If you get to talk to the guest after the service, try asking them to meet for coffee or invite them to visit you in your office for coffee. You should only do this if you make a connection with the guest while talking to him.

One Month Follow-Up

One month after a guest visits, send them a letter from you again thanking them for coming and letting them know how they can get involved. Upcoming activities, special services, Adult Bible Fellowships geared to their age and fellowships are good ways to get people plugged in.

Data Entry

It is important to have a system in place to track every guest.

When a card is turned in, the information must be recorded for tracking.

If the guest never returns you will have their information to invite them to special services down the road.

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There are two key areas to focus on once a guest returns a second time.


1. Church Service Times

Again, it is very important to use your connection cards. First of all, this will tell you who are your returning guests. Also, this gives them an opportunity to get connected into the church.


2. Follow-Up

Just as with first time guests, it is essential immediately to follow up with returning guests. Obviously, any opportune time in this process to present the gospel, should be taken.


Send an email within the first 48 hours thanking them for coming and asking them to come back.

This email should try to get the returning guests involved with the church. Let them know about such things as your Adult Bible Fellowships, Children’s Ministries, upcoming activities, or a new sermon series that is coming up.

Gift at The Door


By Thursday, guests should receive another personal letter from the church. Another option is to leave a gift at the door in a bag with your church info on it or with a card from the church member delivering it attached.


Personal Visit or Meeting


A visit by the pastor or leader from an appropriate Adult Bible Fellowship teacher is an excellent way to follow-up on second-time guests. Another option would be to send the ones who first invited the guest, if they are qualified to make such a visit.

The priority of this meeting should be to make sure everyone understands or possibly has the opportunity to put their faith and trust in Christ.

This is an opportunity to enroll them into an Adult Bible Fellowship.

Sometimes it is impossible, or a person does not want an in-home visit. Sometimes the culture of the area will help you with this decision. A visit at a local coffee shop or in the pastor’s office is a good alternative.
Getting Them Engaged


Obviously, a returning guest is showing a desire to get more involved. They are looking for godly influences and godly relationships.

It is crucial in your follow-up to try your best to engage them in the church by offering opportunities for them.


Sunday School, Junior Church, and Adult Bible Fellowships

If possible, try to connect the guest with the appropriate aged Adult Class.

Follow your Adult Class Policies for incorporating them into the class.
Church Events
Family Nights, class activities, banquets…
Service Opportunities

Find opportunities for them to be able to get involved. An example would be that Bob and Sally invite unsaved friends to their Sunday School Class. The next week they could ask their guests to come early and help them set up the class.

I know this is a difficult area, but we need to think of ways that non-members and possibly non-believers can feel a connection to the church without giving them leadership roles.

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