Guests, groups, and growth

This past weekend I presented a keynote address and two breakout workshops at a training event at Dr. Fred Luter’s church, Franklin Avenue Baptist, in New Orleans. More on that this Wednesday as I share a blog post about the excellence I encountered there! For now, though, I’d like to welcome aboard dozens of new subscribers from that great church. It’s good to have you all with me on the blog today, and I’m really glad we get to keep our new friendship growing!

Mondays on the blog are dedicated to sharing a quote from a book that will help you in your group ministry. Today’s book is Beyond the First Visit by Gary McIntosh. It’s an excellent work that helps us think about our guests from their perspective. There is so much great content I could quote from, but I’m going to share a quote from early in the book. Here is what McIntosh said about the importance of guests and growth:

Welcoming people is a never-ending process. Research…has found that a church must keep about 16 percent of its first-time guests to experience a minimal growth rate of 5 percent a year. Rapidly growing churches keep between 25 and 30 percent of their first-time guests…As an example, a church that wants to add fifty new members this year will need to have a minimum of three hundred guests attend its worship services during the year. The same research revealed the crucial importance of getting guests to return for a second visit. A church keeps about 85% of its guests who return for a second visit. This points to the importance of being gracious hosts the first time, so that our guests will feel encouraged to return (p.24).

If you’re a Bible study leader, how might you encourage guests to come back? How could you lead your class to make guests feel welcomed?

  1. Provide them with study materials (personal study guides) your group members use each week.
  2. Make sure you have extra chairs in your room – if you don’t, it says “We weren’t expecting you.”
  3. Wear name tags. Yes, those inexpensive stick-on name tags help guests know the names of the people in your group, and you won’t forget the names of your guests, either.
  4. Ask your guests to sit with you during the worship service.
  5. Invite the guest to lunch after church.
  6. Follow up with the guest within 24 hours – call, drop by, get a letter in the mail…just do it quickly!
  7. Express your thanks to the guest in front of your group. “We are so honored that you joined our Bible study group today, and we hope you will be back with us next week.”


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