Ron Edmondson offers a helpful description of the different types of guests you'll find at your church on any given Sunday.
One thing pastors love is church visitors. Really, what we like even more is church visitors who become regular church attendees, but that process begins with visitors. It’s always a mystery why some visit a church and never come back. Those reasons may be the subject of another post, but one thing I’ve learned, much of the chance for return depends on why the person chooses to visit in the first place.
I have discovered there are basically five types of visitors to a church:
These visitors are just looking around…perhaps for a new church…perhaps because they are dissatisfied where they currently attend church. They may feel they are not growing at their current church, or they aren’t completely satisfied with the leadership, the programs, or the opportunities for service available. If testers find what they are looking for, they’ll be back, but most likely there is a specific fit they are seeking. I wouldn’t suggest altering things to keep them, but make sure their questions are answered.
These visitors are usually coming to appease someone who asked them. They have less interest in attending church than they have in satisfying the request of a spouse or friend. This is not a bad way to get them at first, and I’m always happy to have them, but it is harder to get them to stick unless God moves in their heart for attending church to become their personal desire. For these visitors, the person inviting them is just as important as the visitor in keeping them, but help the pleaser feel welcome, don’t make them feel uncomfortable, and you’ve got a good chance of seeing them return.
These are people who know they are missing something in life but aren’t sure what it is. Church may simply be another option, or it may be the only option, but these are the true unchurched. These visitors are a mission field. If we introduce them to Christ, they become forever loyal to the church where they found Him.
These visitors seldom stay long at one church. They get upset at something the church does, the church enters a building program that scares them away, or they simply grow bored. Likely they’ll only stick for a while at the new church, too, so don’t be take it personally if they disappear, as it may not be anything you did or didn’t do. Enjoy them while they are with you.
Most likely, these people moved to your community or some major issue caused them to leave their current church. These visitors are active church attendees looking for a new long-term home. They are ready to quickly commit and serve. It’s important to plug these people in as soon as possible.
Again, churches love visitors. In fact, we like any of these five types. Knowing why someone is visiting your church, however, often helps the way you respond to them and gives you a better chance of keeping them. I wouldn’t recommend you ask them which of these they are, but it’s good to have these in the back of your mind as you get to know them.