Published: 3 years ago

First Time Guest Surveys: A Primer

Today’s question comes from Todd SingletaryPastor to Guests at Grace Church in South Carolina. He asks:

Do you use any surveys or tools to get feedback from someone after their first visit? 

Yep. Yep we do.

First Time Guest (FTG) surveys have been around the Summit longer than I have. And because they’re a proven formula, we only ask four things…four things that haven’t changed since the first survey went out. But before we get to those four things, here’s a little long-and-winding-road context:

Our FTG surveys are contingent on getting good, actionable information on our guests. (Read more about why you need a first time guest tent and the best kind of info to capture.) Once we have that info, it all dumps into the database on Monday morning and kicks off our FTG follow up plan.

Originally, the initial touch from that plan was a mass letter that went out through snail mail and included a postage-paid survey. For years, we received a decent rate of return on those surveys. We typically saw around 5% of them come back (not too shabby when you consider someone has to take the time to hand-write their answers, find a mailbox, and drop it in).

A few years back, we switched from snail mail to a Monday afternoon MailChimp generated email from campus pastors. The email is simple: it thanks the FTG for coming, invites them to Starting Point, and gives them a link to the survey. The bonus here is that if people fill out the survey, we send them a link to a free Summit Worship download.

What we thought would be a slam-dunk turned out to be anything but. The assumption was that an electronic survey would yield far more results than a mail-in. Nope. Our survey ROI came crashing down. Where we were getting 5% or more back per week, we dropped to well below 1%. So earlier this year we revamped the layout of the FTG email, made the survey link more prominent, and our numbers shot up again. We received as many completed surveys in two weeks as we had in the previous six months. (I’m no math scholar, but I think that’s a 1200% increase.)

These surveys give us five primary things:

1. A snapshot of the weekend. We’re able to really know what a guest experienced on their visit. Because we ask for campus and service time info, we can narrow down common themes or issues that might need addressing.

2. An overall gauge of guest culture. Reading 15-20 returned surveys per week helps our staff to keep our finger on the pulse of what our guests feel. In most cases, it gives us good insight into the worldview of our guests: what they’re looking for, hoping for, or fearful of.

3. A point of celebration. When we see great stories of guest service heroics, we pass those along to our volunteer teams and try to make a big deal out of them in VHQ.

4. A chance for our guests to review their own experience. Rather than a weekend visit being “one and done,” a survey will give guests an opportunity to think, “Oh yeah, that was a special moment for me.” Often times that reinforces a desire to come back.

5. Another moment for us to thank our guests for coming. Every completed survey receives that free download link I mentioned above. It’s a cheap / free and easy way to honor them and thank them for spending time with us.

So finally…the questions. Here’s what we ask on the surveys after campus, service time, and age range info:

  • This is what I noticed first…
  • This is what I liked best…
  • This is what I liked least…
  • This is what I’m most looking for in a church…

If those feel touchy-feely to you, that’s by design. Often, a guest has no framework by which to judge their church experience, other than how it made them feel. Many of our FTGs come from an unchurched background, so they’re not necessarily grading the theological content of the sermon or the bullet points of our statement of faith. No, they are deciding whether to come back based on whether they felt welcomed, loved, and wanted. These four questions give us that insight better than anything else.

Do you survey your guests after their visit? Are your questions different? Share ’em below!


Want to submit a question for a future blog post? You can do that here.


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  1. […] First Time Guest Surveys: A Primer […]

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