quotes – beyond the first visit

“Whenever company is coming over to our house, my family goes through a regular ritual called ‘getting ready for company.’ For us it involves such things as cleaning bathrooms, emptying the trash cans, vacuuming the floors, dusting the counters, and, most important, changing the cat litter boxes. All our effort is expended in preparation for our guests. We want our house to look the best, and we spare no amount of effort to see that it is ready. No doubt you can identify with this experience. … Growing churches also spend a significant amount of time getting ready for their company – visitors.” [p.7]

“There is a difference between being a visitor … and being a guest … Visitors are often unwanted; guests are expected. Visitors just show up; guests are invited. Visitors are expected to leave; guests are expected to stay. Visitors come one time; guests return again. I suggest you begin to change your vocabulary. It will make a difference.” [p.14]

“Here are seven ways to be a great host: (1) invite your guests with a personal invitation, (2) arrive early to make sure everything is ready for the guests’ arrival, (3) greet the guests warmly at the entrance and escort them to their seats, (4) assist guests in understanding what is taking place, (5) anticipate and answer as many questions as possible in advance, so guests do not have to ask, (6) do something extra to make your guests’ visit special and (7) walk guests to the door and invite them back.” [p.17]

“Welcoming people is a never ending process. … a church must keep about 16 percent of its first-time guests to experience a minimal growth rate of 5 percent a year. … Declining churches keep only about 5 to 8 percent  of their first-time guests.” [p.24]

“Research has demonstrated that newcomers who remain in a church more than six months have an average of seven friends in their church, while people who drop out of a church average only two friends.” [p.25]

“… newcomers … ask questions that differ from those of long-term members. The following are four questions guests ask when visiting a church: (1) Is there room for me? … (2) Is there room for me personally? … (3) Is there room for me relationally? … Is it worth it?” [pp.38-39]

“The basic principle to remember is that your message is not the sermon; your message is the service. Your entire worship service from beginning to end is sending out a message.” [p.54]

“Good doctrine, good fellowship, good prayer, and good ministry. Do they guarantee a church will welcome newcomers well? Not necessarily.” [p.58]

“The rule of thirty-three is always at work. For every three people willing to tell a positive story about an experience with your church, there are thirty-three others who will tell a horror story. For some reason, negative talk reaches a wider audience than positive talk.” [p.58]

“The harvest is ready. … But what ministry should you start? Here are eight questions to answer: (1) Who is your audience? … (2) Where do we sense the burden of God in our church at this time? … (3) What specific people is God giving us a burden to serve? … (4) What needs do these people have that we could meet? … (5) What specific ministry are we qualified to start that fits with God’s burden and the people we wish to serve? … (6) What similar ministries are other churches or individuals already doing? … (7) What will be our strategy and plan? … (8) What process do we need to follow to get approval from our church?” [pp.92-101]

“If you want to be a church that sees guests returning, I suggest you reserve the first five minutes following every worship service for interacting with them. … do not do any church business or talk with [your] friends until five minutes have elapsed.” [p.112]

“When we think about service to guests, we make a mistake if we consider them all the same. Minimally guests may be divided into two types: suspects and prospects. Suspects are people who visit our church, and we suspect that they might be interested in the things of the Lord, but they are actually just looking. Prospects are people who attend our church, and we know for certain that they are interested in spiritual things. They are people who are sincerely seeking a relationship with Christ and the church.” [p.120]

“… competition for people’s time and energy has never been as intense as it is today. Work schedules, youth activities, and leisure activities compete head-to-head for people’s time. So how can churches get people involved in ministry? One way is to be sensitive to the expectations of those who want to serve. (1) People expect a personal invitation to participate in ministry. … (2) People expect to be prepared and equipped for ministry. … (3) People expect follow-up, encouragement, and recognition. … (4) People expect service opportunities that fit their schedules. … (5) People expect that their unique skills and personality will contribute in a meaningful way. … (6) People expect to make a difference in their church, community, and world. … (7) People expect to build relationships. … (8) People expect to grow spiritually and personally. … (9) People expect to have personal needs met.” [pp.142-144]

“… there are three kinds of leaders in the church: risk takers, caretakers, and undertakers. Leaders who are undertakers serve in churches that show great fear of serving others. Leaders who are caretakers take enough risk to serve each other but stop short of going beyond the people of their own church. It is the risk takers who courageously lead their people to serve people in the community as well as each other. The most challenging risk that leaders often have to take is that of investing the ministry in their people. … Unless everyone in the church assumes responsibility for serving each other, a culture of service dies. Leaders must be risk takers, encouraging every member to bring their actions and behaviors into agreement with what God has made them – ministers of Christ.” [pp.148-149]

“Adult new members who do not become part of a group [within a church], accept a leadership role, or become involved in a task during their first year tend to become inactive.” [pp.163-164]

“There are ten characteristic views of the Emergent Church. … (1) They see Jesus and the Sermon on the Mount as central to faith. Thus social and ethical concerns are just as important to them as spiritual concerns. (2) They see God’s fingerprints everywhere. Thus there is no secular realm as such, but many, perhaps most, things in the secular realm are considered spiritual. (3) They see community as more important than church. Thus community happens first, then church; rather than church happening first, leading to community. (4) They see dialogue as more important than debate. Thus they focus on building relationships first by stressing similarities, and work on differences after the relationship has been forged. (5) They see hospitality as central to discipleship. Thus welcoming others takes place in the secular realm as well as in the church. (6) They see worship as an authentic encounter with the living God. Thus prefab worship services are replaced with individual creative expressions. (7) The see shared leadership as the ideal model. Thus gifted people are free to lead without constraint in a highly collaborative atmosphere. (8) They see culture as organic – fluid, shifting, and dynamic. Thus spirituality, community, and faith must be elastic, creating an uncharted journey with unexpected detours, but always progressing. (9) They see spiritual life as holistic. Thus spiritual growth and expression happen not just in traditional acts of devotion but in all realms and activities of life. (10) They see church as missional. Thus they see themselves on a mission from God to transform their world.” [pp.168-169]

“… newcomers must be welcomed, connected, and involved in the life of the church if it is to grow into a healthy community of faith. … newcomers [must not be] left on their own to find their way into the numerous relationships and ministries of a church …”

Beyond the First Visit: The Complete Guide to Connecting Guests to Your Church by Gary McIntosh (BakerBooks, 2006)

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