By Will Mancini
The importance of understanding church guests has grown every year as I consult with churches.
In fact, every month for over a decade, the Auxano team conducts multiple ministry observations during weekend services. We call it the Guest Perspective Evaluation. You might think of it as a “secret worshipper” instead of a “secret shopper.”
The ten mind blowing facts below have been developed over time as we encourage church leaders to invest resources and training into their welcoming system and hospitality ministry. These reasons also constitute why I keep this strategic component in Auxano’s toolbox. While each fact itself may not be that outrageously new, when you put them all together the case for ministry to church guests is clear.
#1 – You will have more guests in one year than you think. Our “information gathering” in churches doesn’t even capture the majority of guests. Auxano research shows that five to eight percent of your worshipping community will self-identify as guests. Therefore the number of guests in one year is:
[ (Ave. weekly worship attendance) x (.05) x (52)]
#2 – Many of your guests are going through situations that make them more responsive to God. These are the folks that are the most likely to be moving, changing jobs, getting divorced, having kids, etc. They may be drawn to the church by the prior work of the Holy Spirit in their hearts (John 15). They are not an average cross-section of the population!
#3 – Your guests are assessing very quickly whether or not they are coming back. This happens much faster than we think. For example, read The 11-Minute Difference.
#4 – Your guests represent step one of accomplishing the Great Commission- these are the people coming to you! How much does your church spend on foreign missions? Compare that amount to how much we invest into the fish that swim to the boat before we cast a net.
#5 – A guest who is attending may represent years of prayer, service and invitation by a church member. My mom and I attended church without my father for 12 years. The first time my Dad came to church with us, imagine how I felt about the church and the hospitality of the people. All I could think inside my head is “I hope the pastor and the people don’t screw up!”
#6 – Studies show that guests will talk about their initial experiences 8-15 times with other people. Serve guests well and multiply your message. What will guests be repeatedly saying about your church next week in your community?
#7 – A welcoming ministry is a great “shallow end of the pool” to get people involved in service for the first time. Yes, you have plenty of intimidating places to serve like worship, small groups and children’s ministry. So why not leverage an easy place to start?
#8 – Building a great ministry to guests nourishes a culture of hospitality because of the concrete reminders to the entire congregation that guests matter. Think of your hospitality ministry as “missional training wheels” in your church. Focusing on welcoming reminds people the church exists for those who are not yet a part of it.
#9 Investment in a welcoming ministry is an investment into every other ministry your church offers. I ask churches to dream about what ministry they might start. I then tell them to get it done by first having great guest services. Do you want an amazing prison ministry? Maybe the next Chuck Colson is visiting next week.
#10 We are commanded in Scripture to be hospitable. The Greek word philoxenia literally means to “love strangers” and is used in Romans 12:13 and Hebrews 13:2.