The front door of the church is changing. Today, more people will visit your church online rather than on-site.
Tony Morgan of The Unstuck Group has observed that over the last 10 years, the method for how people first connect with church has shifted from physical to digital. It’s very likely that more people have attended a service or other event at your church through digital methods rather than physically walking through the front door.
So, if people first visit your church online, how can you leverage that platform to prepare them for their first on-site visit?
John Barolo, director of communications at Hyde Park United Methodist Church in Tampa, Florida, has created a program that bridges the transition from web to welcome.
“Design My Visit” gives web visitors the opportunity to customize the first time they’ll attend the physical campus. “It takes some of the pressure out of that first-time experience.” John shared. “It helps them connect more quickly and helps us meet their needs.”
For a visitor wanting to attend church, the process is simple. Just provide some basic information about yourself, your family, and your preferences or needs on the website link. Once this information has been collected, a team member from Hyde Park UMC creates an itinerary for the service of the guests’ first visit. The next step involves a team member contacting the guests by phone to welcome them and arrange a time and place to meet when they arrive on campus.
When first-time guests arrive, they’re greeted by their personal guide. The guide answers any questions, shows them around campus, and introduces the guests to others. The last stop of the tour is to Hyde Park’s bookstore for a complimentary coffee or latte.
Sound extreme or like it’s too much work? Mark Waltz, in his book, First Impressions: Creating Wow Experiences in Your Church, says, “If our guests can’t say, “Wow! I’m impressed!” within their first 10 minutes on campus, then we’ve failed.”
A system that helps guests design their first trip to church is a “wow” in my book!
Having a guest connection strategy begins by first identifying what you’re doing and how you’re doing it. If you can’t outline a process, chances are you don’t have one in place. As you begin to examine the steps for how you welcome people to your church, don’t assume they’ll be attending your physical location. That may not be the first place they’ll visit.
The church front door now includes your church website. An effective guest services strategy will connect people from the web to a personal on-site welcome! And you can make that happen.
Refresh YOUR Church: Pull your leadership team together and discuss how your church website welcomes people and connects them to your ministry. How does your church welcome people when they’re on-site? Is there a “wow” factor that keeps them coming back for more? What might you need to consider doing, or stop doing, to create a welcoming culture?