There are four important seven minute periods that often determine whether or not a guest visits your church, or returns after the initial visit. Do you know what they are?
The first of those 7-minute periods involves the first seven minutes a guest is on your church’s website. The website must provide information a guest is looking for, such as the start time of the worship service (or services), directions to the church campus, and Sunday School class options. A “Guest” button on the home page is a great feature so that guests can be taken to a page where all of this basic information resides. As someone who recently looked for a new church home, I was surprised how many church websites are cumbersome to navigate, and how hard some information is to find. Don’t worry about putting facility maps and room numbers in the guest information area…we don’t remember that stuff anyway! It’s a waste of space on the website. We’ll get what we need at the guest information desk, anyway. Think basic info and you’ll do your guests a favor. And by the way, make sure all information on the website is up-to-date. No one enjoys reading information about an event that has already taken place.
The second important 7-minute period starts when a guest drives onto the campus. The clock is ticking! As I visited churches, I often could not identify guest parking easily. I sometimes had no idea which door to enter if there were multiple options. One church I visited had two guest stations inside the main building…both with no one there to provide needed information. Tick tock. If I had preschoolers or children in tow, would I know where to take them? Would you have a security policy in place so that I feel comfortable leaving my children in your care? Guests like me are making decisions about return visits before we hear a sermon or experience a Bible study. These first two “7s” are important to us.
The third of the four “7s” is the first seven minutes of the worship service. Was I able to find a seat? Was there an usher to help me? Did anyone speak to me besides during the welcome time (when they are supposed to), or did people carry on conversations with one another, making me feel invisible? Tick tock. Little things like starting on time, the type of music, and the presence or lack of video projection may all play a factor in whether or not I come back, too…and I haven’t even heard the pastor’s message yet!
The fourth and final “7” is the first seven minutes a guest is in a Sunday School class. Classes would do well to have a person in charge of greeting and welcoming. If guests arrive and are not included in conversations, there’s a good chance they won’t return. My wife and I recently visited two churches and participated in Sunday School, and on both occasions no one spoke to us the entire class period. Only one of the teachers acknowledged us after class…amazing. Do you intentionally capture guest information during the first moments of class? Do you have extra Learner Guides to hand out to me so I will be able to participate in the lesson more fully? And name tags…don’t forget the name tags…that everyone can put on during the opening moments of class so you won’t feel awkward speaking to me, and vice-versa. The first seven minutes really counts!
To wrap up with a real-world example, a pastor-friend of mine, Ron, pastored a smaller church just outside Dallas, TX., a few yers ago. I remember him telling me about a family that visited his church one Sunday. The family did something completely unexpected…they visited the Sunday School before coming to the worship service that day. After worship, Ron spoke to the father and expressed thanks to him for attending. Ron asked him if he planned to return the following week, and the man said no. His reason? A poor experience in the adult class he and his wife visited. Pastor Ron learned the importance of one of the four “7s”.