What kind of impression do visitors get when they come into your church for the first time?
Every church thinks it’s friendly.
But I and many others have experienced the fear factor of walking into an unknown place and knowing immediately that we don’t fit and are not really welcome to remain.
I recently read Gary McIntosh’s Beyond the First Visit: The Complete Guide to Connecting Guests to Your Church. (Click image or link to order yours direct from Amazon).
The cover promises to offer the reader a complete guide to church hospitality, and is written by well know church growth scholar Gary McIntosh.
Get Visitors To Your Church
If you have NEVER picked up a book on welcoming visitors, this can be a helpful introduction.
This book does have some strengths in looking at the visitor flow of your church.
- Attracting Visitors — Getting them to come.
- Welcoming Visitors — The art of Hospitality, dealing with first impressions and service.
But there are better books on the market (see below on disappointments).
How do YOU welcome a visitor
McIntosth begins with reminder of how important it is for churches to welcome the visitors that come.
How do you react differently between a guest and a visitor?
A guest is
- expected, and
- thus you make sure the house is clean and in order.
- uninvited, and
- shows up unexpectedly,
- typically when you’re doing laundry or dressed in your painting clothes.
McIntosh encourages the church to think through how it welcomes guests, to review what it thinks about guests, and to encourage churches to see themselves through the eyes of a guest.
He cites research from the 80s that churches need to keep 25 to 30 percent of their first time visitors to grow rapidly, while churches that only keep 5 to 8 percent will decline.
Assuming those numbers are still current, let’s settle on a average of 16%. How many visitors does your church need to grow?
Though McIntosh offers some excellent advice, most of it is clearly dated.
Most of the supporting research is from the early 1990s.
Most all the footnotes cite citations before the year 1995, the majority of which stretch all the way back to the 70s.
I kept feeling like I was reading late 1980s church growth stuff all over again.
Our society may have changed, but this book doesn’t have any current research to make sure those conclusions are still valid.
I’ve read widely on assimilating visitors, and if you have as well, you’ll find this book disappointing.
It has a throw away chapter about the emergent church that feels like an attempt at being current and not really relevant to the book. A few times I had to persevere through rabbit trails that had very little to do with welcoming visitors (for example, a whole chapter on launching new ministries).
It did not live up to it’s billing as the complete guide to welcoming visitors.