Some want to fly under the radar and remain anonymous as long as possible. They want the freedom to check you out, to discover if you’re real, to find out if your church is a place where they want to put down roots.
That’s why it’s important to provide obvious on-ramps. That’s why it’s necessary that you’re ready when they’re ready. That’s why we must pay attention not only to when we talk to our guests, but when we don’t talk to them, as well.
So yes…some guests don’t expect to be known. At least not at first. And maybe not ever.
But some do.
Let’s be clear: we’re not fooling anyone with our on-ramps. A guest knows that when they stop at a tent or hand over information, they are initiating step one in a process. And when there is an exchange of information, there is an underlying assumption that a church is taking information so that we can give assistance.
A few weeks ago we received this feedback on a first-time guest’s survey card:
When you visited, what did you notice first?
I noticed the first time visitor canopy. Nice!
What did you like least about your overall experience?
Definitely more highlights than anything else, but the one thing I hoped for is that the regular attendees would notice the first time visitor bag and say hello. However, the welcome at the 1st time visitor canopy was filled with very friendly, smiling people.
Ouch. This first-time guest understood our process better than some of our long-term attendees.
We don’t pass out first-time guest bags because my budget line is flush with cash or because people really really want one of those sweet acrylic tumblers with our web address on it. We pass them out because they are the first part of an ongoing relationship. They’re an easy way to mark a guest and give a nudge to a staff member or attendee that this person needs some extra attention.
And intuitively, this first-time guest knew what they should have received, but didn’t.
You may not use a first-time guest bag. You may have a tent where people can give or get information. You might utilize a welcome center where folks can drop by after the service. You may even choose to engage a turn-and-greet time in the middle of your service (please do it the right way, and not the horrific way).
But if you’re going to implement a step, see the step all the way through. Train your regulars on what the step is, and how they can participate. Don’t let your first-time guest process be a top-secret operation where only the elite know what’s going on.
When your first-timers want to be known, they have ways of letting you know. So you should know how to help them be known. You know?