Engaging the first-time visitors to your church and making them feel welcome is one area of focus that can help you to grow your church plant. We asked a few Vineyard pastors about the different ways they interact with people checking out their church for the first time and the advice they have for new churches about how to bless and engage visitors.
We extend a special welcome to guests during our announcements and encourage them to stop by the Welcome banner to meet one of our leaders at the end of the service to get a free book, Practicing the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence.
Then they receive a hand-written card in the mail from our lead pastor. In the card, they are given an invitation to an upcoming event that would be a good opportunity to connect. We also send an email with another welcome and a survey of their first impressions of our church.
If they checked anything on the communication card about wanting to know more about Jesus or the church, we call them if they provided a phone number.
For kids who are attending for the first time, we encourage their parents to fill out a connect card. Then we send their kids something in the mail that week that includes a Vineyard Kids music CD, candy, and handwritten card for the child. We also include a letter to the parents about our kids’ ministry.”
We also recently installed a guest kiosk near the entrance and one of our pastors (usually the preacher for that day) stands there so that they can connect with new people as they leave.
These two things, along with a quarterly newcomer dessert, have been far more profitable than guest gifts and even the email we send to guests that visit.”
During our service, we say a brief, "Welcome to the Vineyard! If you are visiting us this morning, we are so happy you are here and we hope you are able to relax and enjoy being part of the service."
Then we give a welcome packet to all visitors that includes information on our church, the Vineyard Movement, and our pastoral team.
We encourage the visitors to fill out the information tab in their bulletin so that we have their names and basic info on file. The following week, we send a note thanking them for visiting and we include a $5 gift card to a local coffee shop.
On the first Sunday of each month, we also offer a Coffee and Connections class. Anyone who is new to our church has the opportunity to sit down with our pastors and elders and hear about the history of the church as well as our vision and values. Attendees are given the opportunity to ask questions about anything they would like to know about the church.
The Coffee and Connections class has been helpful. It's a fun way to get to know the people that come through our doors, and it's also a good way for them to get a better idea of whether or not our church is a good fit for them.
We do all this in hopes that each person feels valued and cared for when they walk through our doors.”
1. Be prompt to acknowledge someone's visit. Most churches will come up with a way to capture people's info. Do an initial follow-up on that no later than 36 hours from their visit.
2. Be genuine. Don't try to be or project something that your church is not.
3. Extend an invitation to a next step like a welcome lunch, a coffee conversation, or an event. It doesn't seem to matter as much what it is, as long as it is an accessible next step for that person.
We’ve started doing something monthly called “Dinner Together” where we post that our staff will be at a local restaurant one evening from 5:30-7:30pm and invite new folks to come join us.
What is more successful for us than connect cards or anything like that has been taking time to intentionally train our leaders to have eyes to see new folks and greet them and invite them to events like Dinner Together. Most of the folks who have stuck with us never filled out a connect card, but made a personal connection during their visit.
Churches are built on relationships, so our hope is to constantly and consistently be reminding our people, and especially our leaders, that these relationships are ours to initiate and nurture and carry.
The visitors have an opportunity to share their email information if they want to be on our mailing list so they will be informed about church activities and small groups. Then that week they receive an email from our hospitality team thanking them for the visit and encouraging them to return.
We also have a couple from church who invites them out to a free lunch after service. Our church family is pretty friendly and we’ve found that they approach and interact with visitors.”
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