Attending a church as a first-time guest can feel like walking into someone else's family reunion. There's so much that feels unfamiliar!
It's simple: guests who encounter barriers during their first visit may not return. In order to help your visitors connect with God and your church community, it's important to identify those barriers and remove them.
One potential barrier is the offering time. Your communications ministry can help create a positive guest experience by providing clear messaging for newcomers through materials and language used in service. It's also important to train any frontline volunteers, so they can communicate positively and clearly as well.
Here are 5 tips for creating a positive guest experience when it comes time to give:
1. Help guests understand the offering time without feeling obligated.
It's great when churches keep the message about giving simple and down to earth. Some churches let guests know that although they are welcome to participate, the offering time is a special part of worship for those who call the church home.
If there is awkward pressure around giving or a "business meeting" during the services, it can prove to be challenging for a guest. Explain the offering process clearly. In some churches, everyone walks down front to give their tithe/offering—this can be awkward for that guest deciding whether or not to remain in their seat. Similarly, putting tithing envelopes or capital campaign forms in a newcomer guest packet is a definite no.
2. Celebrate giving through stories!
It's always great to see celebration during the offering time along with specific stories (videos, photos, articles, blogs, etc.) of how God uses those funds to impact in church, community, and world. Share stories of people who have been helped spiritually, physically, and/or emotionally through your church family’s generosity. Real people and genuine emotion are memorable and moving.
3. Educate guests and your church family.
The practice of giving to churches is simply foreign to some of your guests. If they aren't really familiar with God and/or Scripture, this part of the service can be confusing or even feel a little offensive. They might be okay with giving to social causes and charitable organizations because they understand the intention behind the ask. In the same way, giving in church should include elements of education as well as celebration.
Share Scripture on-screen or verbally during offering time on the biblical basis for giving, and offer comprehensive financial classes to help people understand how and why to manage their money in a biblical way.
4. Offer a healthy balance of "the what" and "the why" of giving.
Think about the people who will want to know the facts behind giving (“the what”) as well as the people who will want to hear the heart behind it (“the why”). Be sure to address both! For example: "We're trying to raise $35,000 to build a well for people in Haiti who are sick/dying because they have no access to clean water. We believe one of the best ways to show them God’s love is to meet their immediate physical need."
5. Be clear on the methods for giving and make sure to include an electronic option.
Again, keep the messaging simple and offer easy, low-barrier ways to participate. Most guests will check out churches online prior to visiting, so that's a great place to set the stage for how funds are used. Through blogs or social media posts, you can share compelling stories of how your church uses regular giving or funds for special projects to make a difference.
Be sure to clearly explain how you can give to the church, whether by text, online, cash, check, or another method.
Churches invest a good deal of time and resources into connecting with first-time guests. By being "guest ready," your church can create a positive guest experience for those considering calling your church home!
Want to go undercover and see what it’s like as a first-time guest at your church? Download Fishhook's Do-It-Yourself Secret Worship Worksheet to assess your experience before, during and after worship.