What will Guests Remember This Easter?

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Every church I know works hard to create a great Easter experience. Traditional churches are practicing their choirs and cantatas. Others put and an enormous amount of work into a passion play.   Contemporary churches are learning a new song and decorating creatively but all of us are trying to put our best foot forward.

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Here’s the truth

The frustrating part of Easter is:  With all those hours put in, most guests will not remember what songs we sang, if the drama was good or recall most sermons.

So what will a guest remember about your Easter service?

They will remember how they FELT in your church.

I know it’s important to preach the gospel.  I know it’s important to praise the Lord and to pray.  If guests are nervous of feel unwelcome they are less likely to receive the gospel or the presence of God.

I hope if you’re reading this blog, you don’t make the mistakes that some declining churches make, of berating those that only come on holidays.  I once heard a preacher say, “It’s nice to see a full church for Easter but what would be great is if you all came back next week.”  While I agree with his intention (to get people to come back) that’s not the way to do it.  What guests were hearing was that the preacher was mad at them because they only came on Easter.  Guess what will happen?

Next Easter they will choose another church or worse…choose not to go to church at all!

Make guests feel welcome, as you would do in your home.  Give them free coffee and a cookie.  Most important greet them.  Smile, shake their hand, and introduce yourself.  Encourage your members to do the same.

People who feel welcome will like your church but not remember why.  They’ll have an ’emotional memory’ that will make them more open to returning when you invite them back.

When I talk to someone who has been attending our church for a month or more, and I ask them about the music or sermon they day they first attended they hesitate. They have trouble recalling those details but they can always recall how they felt.

I hear phrases in our church such as “I felt safe.” or “I genuinely felt like people were glad I was here.”  What they are describing is an emotional memory.

How will they feel on the drive home from your Easter service?

Church Leaders should also read: What is the Most Important Part of Easter?

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How to can make sure Guests do NOT come back

Subtitle: how to turn guests in to one-time visitors

In our church we call new people guests not visitors.  To understand the difference, think of your home. A visitor shows up unexpectedly, uninvited and doesn’t stay usually.  A guest you’ve invited, you expected them, you’re glad to see them and you want them to stay.  You want guests to enjoy themselves and feel welcome.

We prepare at House of Praise for guests.  We’re glad they came, we’ve invited them and we want them to feel so welcomed that they want to join the family.

If you want visitors to just visit and leave, here’s what you do as a church member:

  1. Don’t talk to them.  (Remember it’s US and THEM) Look at them awkwardly and quickly walk away. Only talk to people you already know and most importantly, don’t welcome them.
  2. If you see someone who hasn’t been to church in a while (A Creaster- Christmas and Easter only) point that out to make them feel awkward.  Say “Wow, haven’t seen you for a while.” Or even better, “We’d like to see you on more than Easter and Christmas.”
  3. You wouldn’t think this matters but it does.  Make sure we all dress in suits and expensive clothes so guests feel under dressed.
  4. Let guests find their own way around. (Think “It’s not my job.”)  If they do dare to ask where something is, just point in the general direction and say, “that way.” Or something so complicated “Louis & Clark couldn’t find it such as,  “Our kid’s ministry is out those back doors, to the left, then another left turn, down a hallway, then turn right, go outside into the other building.”
  5. Mistreat their kids.  Yell at the guest’s kids for something kids normally do like running or taking a 2nd cookie.  If you’re volunteering make check in a long and painful process. Help make the kid’s areas dirty, cluttered, & poorly with extras from the Walking Dead at the door. If a baby cries in maim service, immediately kick the family out of the sanctuary.  They won’t be back!
  6. Keep tension in the air.  Argue or speak rudely to someone in front of the guest. They won’t know it’s your friend you’ve been feuding with all week.  They’ll think we all treat everyone like that.
  7. Above all, Don’t invite guests back.  Don’t speak to them as they leave and don’t follow up on them later in the week to see what they thought

If you will do these simple steps it will keep your church from being filled with new people.  More people will give up on church so their lives won’t improve and yes more people will probably also give up on God and go to hell BUT you can keep your church a comfortable size where you know everyone.

Of course, if that’s not important to you…in our church we treat new people like honored guests.  We include them in conversations,  walk them to where they go, make sure their kids love it, let them know there are NoPerfectPeopleHERE, tell them we are glad they are here and invite them back.  If they’re our friends we may even call them next week to see how they’re doing. Why? Because we genuinely care about them improving their lives and their eternity.