How to get guests again?

We’ve written previously about the importance of following up on worship guests withing 36 hours of their first visit to your church. There is no doubt that God has used this in many cases to bring people back to hearing his Word. (Maybe that article I wrote could be referenced?)

But that raises the question, “What if guests don’t come back the following Sunday, or the Sunday after, or it’s been four weeks?” I’ll be honest, this one is a struggle for me recently. Where I had previously served, it seemed like guests would come, we would follow up. They would come again and we would invite them to start BIC class and they would accept. Maybe I’m romanticizing the past, but I recall several situations like that. Where I am currently serving, we seem to have many more “church shoppers.” People are checking out area churches, or they see our church driving by and just stop to check it out. We rejoice when someone comes to worship for the first time. We really do have a friendly and open congregation, but as God blesses us with growth, it’s hard for anyone other than pastor to know exactly who’s new, particularly on a Sunday with a baptism or something like that. We have secret greeters who talk to people. We follow up, with a visit from pastor and a layperson. But it seems that many, even most people don’t return. We add them to our prospect list and continue to follow up, especially with invitations to major events, but….

I’ve tried to analyze the differences. Maybe people previously had a friend invite them, whereas our guests now often come with no personal connection. Maybe it’s personal connections. Some people have been put off by the Bible’s teachings, like close communion or a sin that was exposed in the sermon. Maybe that’s an issue in a more culturally liberal area. Maybe it’s something else. We take comfort in knowing that the wind blows where it pleases and the 3000 converted at Pentecost and 120,000 converted at the preaching of Jonah are not part of God’s timeless promises for every situation, but again, I’d appreciate some dialogue. I’d be open to discussion. How do we get guests again?

Rev. Nathan Strutz

Nathan Strutz serves as pastor of Resurrection Lutheran Church in Verona, WI. He serves the WELS as chairman of the Western Wisconsin District Mission Board.

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