Christmas visitors are not like normal visitors.
Every year a significant percentage of them will leave your Christmas services with good feelings, but without any thoughts of returning soon. They don’t expect to be back until Easter.
How can you change those expectations so they’ll return sooner?
Answer: You can’t.
Only God can change a human heart, but you can help that heart change.
Here are three ways you can turn Christmas visitors into regular attenders.
1. Make a good first impression.
Whether they know it or not, visitors want to be greeted, directed, seated, and treated.
First impressions are critical. Some years ago, I experienced a pastor’s greatest nightmare: I got to church without my notes! I jumped back in the car, dashed home for my sermon, and arrived back as the service was starting.
As I scrambled out of the car, Brooks came up to me with a warm smile and said, “Welcome to New Song!”
Brooks had been greeting guests for years, but I was always inside before he got started. As I ambled for the entrance door, I thought to myself, “I would want to be part of this church even if I weren’t on staff!”
New Song’s goal is to have every guest greeted five times on their way in and three on their way out. If your church is smaller, you can scale that accordingly.
Last week I asked a Wal-Mart clerk where I could find a particular item. She surprised me by walking me to the exact aisle. That left me with such a good impression that I’m now telling you about it.
Visitors want to know three locations:
- Where are the children’s rooms?
- Where are the bathrooms?
- And where is the auditorium?
Good signage can help with this, but nothing beats a smile, a handshake, and an offer to show me where I need to go. This is especially true of a Christmas guest, who may not have been in a church building in a long time.
Walking into a church auditorium can feel awkward. A sparsely populated room makes me feel self-conscious. A densely populated one makes it hard to find a seat.
Both problems are diminished by the help of a friendly usher who suggests a particular seat or section and walks me there.
We offer every first time guest a copy of The God Questions, Gift Edition as our way of saying, “Thank you for coming.”
It’s a small gift book. It reads quickly and provides simple answers to the four major questions people have about God.
Most weekends, we put the books by the entrance door or offer them at our Info Center.
On Christmas Eve, though, I stand at the front of the church and offer to sign the gift page and for all guests. This gives me a chance to say a personal word to everyone willing to come up after the service.
2. Invite them to receive Christ.
The one force that can change a person’s mind about church attendance is the Holy Spirit. I believe every church should present an invitation to Christ at least at every Christmas, Easter, and funeral service.
Many churches miss this opportunity.
Your Christmas visitors expect you to talk about Jesus. So explain how Jesus wants to have a relationship with them, and spell out the benefits they’ll receive from bowing down to him (salvation, forgiveness, peace, etc.).
This can be scary the first time you try it, but the rewards of seeing someone come to Christ will quickly convince you to be bold every chance you get!
3. Contact them afterward.
During every service, we ask everyone to fill out a Connection Card.
I email all guests within 48 hours. A member of our First Impressions Team calls them.
Two days later, I send a hand-written note. The note tells them what we’ll be covering the next weekend, and includes a second gift: a coupon for a coffee, a frozen yogurt, or a sub sandwich.
A young Marine named George received Christ in one of our Christmas Eve services a while back.
George responded to my follow-up email by saying that he wanted to sing in church soon. I’m hesitant to put an unknown artist on our stage. I thanked him and told him one of our Worship Pastors would be in touch.
To my surprise, George sang the next weekend, and he was good! George sang a song he had written on Christmas Eve, after receiving Christ.
His wife had miscarried a few weeks earlier. They came to church desperate, and God met them here. What a Christmas gift!
In your Christmas Eve preparations this year, plan how you will:
- Make a good first impression.
- Invite them to receive Christ.
- Contact them afterward.
Pastor, I’m praying you have many Georges in your church this Christmas!
- The God Questions Gift Edition
- 8 Strategies for Leading Chreasters to Christ
- How to Make this Christmas the Best Ever
Start Here to learn more about the resources available for you at PastorMentor.