If only an app existed that discreetly spotted first-time guests.
Until the app drops, here are three methods to help you spot first-time guests.
1. Stop looking for new guests and get to know the regular attenders.
Instead of spending hours learning how to spot a first-time guest, start working harder at knowing everyone else. That way, when a guest comes, you will know they are new because you will recognize everyone else in your church. This seems like a massive endeavor, but I think it is possible for one person or a team of people to recognize all of the regular attenders. Granted, if you have thousands of attenders this may be extremely difficult. Regardless, this is still a worthy goal. Additionally, working hard at recognizing everyone is beneficial for your church’s culture.
2. Make it easy for a guest to introduce themselves to you.
Is it possible we try so hard to spot first-time guests we miss the fact they are wondering how to introduce themselves to us? If your church does not have a clearly marked environment dedicated to new guests, make sure it does by next week. Better yet, announce this environment from the stage every Sunday and have someone ready to welcome newcomers and answer their questions. Welcoming guests in your literature and on-stage without letting them know where to go or who to talk to is not so welcoming.
3. Make it beneficial for a guest to introduce themselves to you.
If you want to sweeten the pot, throw in a free gift for guests in exchange for their contact information. T-shirts are like candy to adults (and a good promotion tool for you). We started doing this a little over a year ago at the church where I serve. The number of new people introducing themselves to us went from around 6 to 26 per week once we formed a new here area and offered free t-shirts. This has revolutionized our assimilation process. When the guest comes to redeem their gift, give them everything they need to learn about your church and how to take their next step. Now you have their contact information so you can follow up and they have a free gift and a clear path to start down.
Sometimes guests want to check out your church incognito. These three methods allow you to easily spot guests without scaring them away. Churches should never stop being hospitable and they should always engage with first-time guests when they are spotted. However, let guests move at their own pace in regard to them formally introducing themselves to you. When they are ready, make sure the process is easy, clear, and beneficial.