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How to Lose First Time Guests in 10 Minutes

first time guests

It’s hard to believe, but according to people who study these things, first time guests to your church make up their minds whether they’re coming back or not in the first 10 minutes of their visit. Think about that. Before they hear the first note of music, before they hear the first word of a sermon or before anyone stands up and says “welcome” in the service, most first-time guests have already made a conscious or subconscious decision about whether they’re coming back.

What might be hanging in the balance is someone’s opportunity to embrace Jesus.

On Episode 132 of my Leadership Podcast I had a far-ranging conversation on a guest’s first 10 minutes at a church with Greg Atkinson, author of Secrets of a Secret Church Shopper. In the interview, Greg outlines the factors that determine whether or not a first-time guest is likely to return.

First Time Guests Decide if They’ll Return in the First 10 Minutes

What’s surprising to me about the factors Greg outlines is that they’re actually simple hospitality, people and facility-related things. Conclusion? Often the barrier to Christ isn’t spiritual—it’s us.

From the way you park cars, to how you greet people, to their cleanliness of the facility, the factors that determine whether a guest returns are all within our control. The problem is, too many church leaders either don’t know or don’t care about what drives people away or keeps them coming back.

Does that mean there are no spiritual barriers to first time guests return to church or to Christ? Of course not. And we could get into a long discussion about whether God draws people to himself and the futility of human effort, but we won’t.

Is God in control? He most certainly is. God is in control. But you have a role. So steward it well.

At Connexus, where I serve, we constantly remind ourselves that every Sunday is someone’s first Sunday. We’re thankful that God sends people (as you are)…and we want to make sure that we’re not the barrier to someone coming to Christ.

That said, it’s so easy for us to miss the things that become barriers.

How to lose first time guests in 10 minutes

1. Have a Bad Online Presence

When was the last time you bought a new product, went to a new restaurant or even took a vacation without checking things out online first?

Right: never.

Ditto with people who are thinking of visiting your church. There’s a high probability that they’ll check you out online long before they’ll ever check-in their kids on their first Sunday.

It’s not 1987 anymore, so why act like it in your church?

When was the last time you thought about your website from the perspective of a first-time guest? Same for your social media accounts or pages.

First time guests will check out a church online long before they check out a church in real life. It doesn’t matter whether you live-stream your services or not, a simple website with basic information for a first-time guest is helpful. (Here’s an example from our site at Connexus Church.)

Your site doesn’t have to be perfect, cost $10,000 or even be totally what you want it to be. You just need to let the guest know you’ve been thinking of them and give them the basic information they need.

Here’s a basic question. Did you build your site mostly for your attenders, or for your first time guests? If it’s only for your attenders, why?