Preaching Articles

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:

1. Testers

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.

2. Pleasers

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.

3. Seekers

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.

4. Jumpers

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.

5. Investors 

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.

Ron Edmondson is a pastor and church leader passionate about planting churches, helping established churches thrive, and assisting pastors and those in ministry think through leadership, strategy and life. Ron has over 20 years of business experience, mostly as a self-employed business owner, and he's been in full-time ministry for over eight years.  

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David Buffaloe

commented on Jun 4, 2012

good article

James Walker

commented on Jun 4, 2012

Excellent "short" article! As a pastor, I have experienced them all. I believe that there is one pitfall to beware of in Visitor 5. Ron writes, "They are ready to quickly commit and serve. It is important to plug these people in as soon as possible." Do not "plug them in " to positions of authority until you know they can "play well with others". Unlike the medical field where a medical record travels with the patient-- we have no idea of the person's contribution to the problems they may have left at their previous church. Christians, without God's divine healing often bring with them the same causalities of conflict that might have plagued them before. This is true especially in smaller towns and not so much in larger metropolitan areas. Larger churches can more easily absorb a few conflictual souls in key positions; but the same is devastating to smaller churches. I believe this is an essential postscript to Ron's #5 Visitor.

Michael Hasselbring

commented on Jun 4, 2012

Great article, it's sad though that only 1 out of 5 are looking for the message of Jesus. The other 4 are just "recycling Christians instead of restoring sinners." David Kinnaman from You Lost me.

Gerald Graham

commented on Jun 4, 2012

Unfortunately I think you missed one. The disruptor. I have had the sad occasion to have people who intentionally visited and began attending a church I was at for a specific agenda or task. In my experience it has often not turned out well. Dealing with these visitors can be a good lesson in discernment and wisdom.

Scott Armstrong

commented on Jun 4, 2012

When I read this article I am saddened over each of these labels. Each of these labels refer to people and families as being consumers. They are consumers because that's the way the church has been treating them, as customers to our institutions. Many books have been written showing our institutions are no different than other secular institutions in morality. I believe the un-intended consequences of our structures and actions has produced each of these types of consumers. This is why righteousness is absent from our culture, because we are raising up consumer Christians, not followers. I pray that we start "being" the church and I pray for a time when people walk through the doors the church, wherever we gather, and the type of person that walks through the door is Devoted.

Anne Davis

commented on Jun 4, 2012

I'm on the evangelism committee of an Anglican Catholic Church and we've had difficulty retaining people who are accustomed to videos and rock music during their worship service. (We do have them for some of our ministries and fellowship.) We were told by several visitors that we pray too much! It's saddens me that some people attend church to be entertained.

Frank Jones

commented on Jun 5, 2012

I agree with James Walker " plugged in to quick" is a mistake or a problem waiting to happen. Find out where they are coming from and call the former Pastor or church ,know who you are putting in a high leadership position.

Saul Dela Cruz

commented on Jun 6, 2012

This is true brother Ron actually, there are some visitors in the church are shoppers Christians, they go from one church to another. Excellent article.

John E Miller

commented on Jun 6, 2012

Scott Armstrong, I appreciate your comments. Far too many confuse the place of worship with the people who gather. It is a covert return to Judaism. The local church of God in a place comprises every blood-bought child of God, irrespective of where they worship. The universal church of God similarly comprises every born-again child of God, redeemed by the blood of Christ, whether they are still alive or have gone to be with Christ. Every born-again member of the family of God is a priest. Jesus is our High Priest and we need no other person through whom we approach God. A pastor or leader has no superior position in worship. His service is only to point to Jesus and that service must be in the power of the Spirit of God. I get the feeling as I read many of these articles that there are pastors and church leaders who see themselves as being in some position of superiority to the "ordinary folks" of the church, the general congregation. The sole supremacy of Christ and the priesthood of every believer is a core principle in every church fellowship. If those outside the family of God visit such a gathering of the people of God they will indeed exclaim, "God is among you of a truth." (1 Cor.14:25)

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