When was the last time you looked at your youth service through the lens of a first time guest? Or have you wondered, “Why don’t our students bring their friends to church?”
It seems like God sends more new people to churches that are prepared for them. We can’t expect our students to bring their friends if we’re not doing our part to create a program that is inviting and welcoming. So the question is, “What are you doing to make their visit memorable?”
At some point, we’ve all wondered why new students aren’t coming back. And most often, it is because we aren’t doing anything intentional to help them get beyond the first visit. It’s not good enough to just say, “Hey, thanks for visiting us. See ya around!” And it’s not enough to simply pray that God will magically bring them back.
One of the great things about being a Christian is that we work WITH God. That means, we do our part and He does His.
So, here are a few things we’ve done to make that first time visit one to remember:
1. GIFTS GALORE — we have MULTIPLE touch points for the 1st timer. We give them a free energy drink and free bible (I found some inexpensive and SWEET bibles here.) We want new students to know that we were expecting them to show up. And nothing says that better than giving them a gift right on the spot! Secondly, we send them a handwritten postcard with a $5 Starbucks card 3 days after their visit. And by “WE”, I mean the students of our ministry write these and mail them out. Most of us youth pastors are too old to be cool so it’s much better to give our students some ownership of their ministry.
Some might say we’re shallow or that these are gimmicks and that’s okay. Wouldn’t you rather get made fun of than lead a youth ministry that is filled with a bunch of people that only care about themselves and don’t care about the mission of Jesus…to reach the lost?
2. COMM CARDS — communication cards, connection cards, info cards…it doesn’t matter what you call them. Here’s the million $$$ question: are you capturing the information of guests? Most youth pastors give-up on this idea because “it’s cheesy” or “I can’t read their writing” or “they won’t fill it out anyways”. And all of these are LAME excuses to not have a system to follow-up with your students.
We have a set time (45 seconds) where every single student grabs their COMM card and fills that bad boy out. We’ve learned that students won’t fill it out unless everyone else is doing it, too. So, the only way to get them all to do it was to set aside some specific time for this. It may sound like a lame part of our service, but there are ways to make it feel natural.
And guess what? It makes it a lot easier to send them a Starbucks card when we have their address. Crazy idea, huh?
3. MINGLERS — we have a student greeting team called “Minglers” that helps us create a program where “no one should be left out”. It’s virtually impossible for someone to walk in without getting a “hello, how’s it going” in our ministry. If you don’t have a team doing this yet, DO IT NOW! It’s very unlikely that your students will ever start welcoming new students if there isn’t an intentional team modeling this every week.
Phrase to remember: If everyone is responsible, NO ONE is responsible. So, get it going so that your youth ministry isn’t known as “the jerks that didn’t even say hi” in your city.
There are a couple ideas to put into action in your ministry. You might have something you already do and that is awesome! Just don’t be one of those youth pastors that has an excuse for everything you know you should be implementing. God wants your youth program to REACHand KEEP students beyond their first visit.
SO, what are YOU doing to intentionally make the 1st time visit one to remember?
Gary is one of the people behind http://moveministries.blogspot.com/ and serves as the Student Ministries Pastor at High Pointe Church in Puyallup, WA. Feel free to send him an e-mail for some FREE 1st time visitor resources, too.