I could charge you $19.95 to give you a secret to church growth, or I could just tell you now for free. It’s not a complicated secret. I never heard about it in seminary. In all my courses of study, in all the conferences I attended, in all the books I read, no one ever touted this secret. But it works. I’ve experienced it time and time again. The reason no one touts it is because it’s simple and obvious. The reason it’s a secret is because people rarely do it. The not-so-complicated secret to getting guests to plug into your church is to learn their names (boom, drop the mic and walk off the stage).
I know it sounds obvious, but we usually approach it from the wrong way. If guests keep coming and decide to plug in, we’ll learn their names. I’ve experienced the opposite: if I learn someone’s name from the beginning, they have a much better chance at plugging in. That means doing the hard work of learning names and faces. And that means learning names as early as possible, after the first time they show up on your radar screen or fill out a visitor card (being an unashamed Facebook stalker helps tremendously with learning names). If you can call a guest by their name the second or third time they show up, you just showed them that you care enough about them to learn their name and you give them an incredible motivation to get plugged into your church.
- When I came to Mt Vernon three years ago, I started getting to know as many names as possible. It included a couple that sat on the back row during our early service. Nice couple, came almost every week. I started calling them by name and greeting them every time I saw them. They soon joined the church and are now serving. Why is this important? Because they had sat on the back row faithfully for ten years without joining. They joined after I learned their names and got to know them.
- A median age couple came one time and filled out a guest card. I learned their names and greeted them the next time they came. They commented on how surprised they were that I would know their names. They’re signed up for our next membership class and are planning on joining the church.
- A new couple came to town from out of state, attended a few times but didn’t show an indication of wanting to plug in. Because I knew their names and because our kids had some sports together, I would see them in town and greet them. Last month, the husband pulled me aside and told me, “I need to bend your ear about something. My wife and I want to join a LifeGroup. We’re not doing a good job planting roots here and we know we need to branch out and join a small group.” He wouldn’t have felt comfortable talking to me if I didn’t know his name.
- I remember one guest in particular that came a few times and then left. I saw on Facebook that she was trying out another church as well. Since I’d already learned her name, I saw her in town a few times and always greeted her by name. Just recently she’s come back, bringing her husband and son, and deciding that Mt Vernon was going to be her church home. I’m not sure all of the reasons why, but I know that knowing her name definitely helped.
Learn names and faces of your guests. Early. It’s a huge opportunity to help them plug into your church.
QUESTION: Have you ever had a positive experience visiting a church where a pastor or leader knew your name? Comment and share your story!