New visitors to your church have one question in mind – “Is this for me?”
That question will be partly answered in the first few minutes of their visit – the kind of people they see, the style of music, friendliness, etc.. But they also want to know things like: how the church started, what it believes, what it expects out of its members.
If you want to retain these visitors, you have to make the information they crave readily available. The more open you are about these kinds of topics, the more comfortable people feel in supporting you and beginning a relationship with your church.
But how do you make this information available? Not many visitors will feel comfortable enough to come up to your pastor and ask his stance on a certain issue. Not many visitors will even know enough about church culture to feel confident that they can ask informed questions about your church’s history. But, they still want to know. One way to solve this problem is through an orientation class designed to answer visitors’ questions. Over the years, I’ve seen several variations on how to arrange such class.
If your target is new visitors, one highly successful structure I’ve seen is to have your orientation class meet weekly. Divide the class into 3-4 units, and make each week independent of the others so people can attend them in any order. This way, a first time guest can jump straight into the class their first week. If they continue to attend your church, they simply stay in the orientation class until they have heard all the various units.
If your goal for the class is to incorporate repeat visitors into the body of your church and move them toward membership, then one good technique is by offering the orientation class periodically. To use my home church as an example, we offer our orientation class on the first Sunday of every month. We’ve found this to be helpful because it encourages people to:
- Commit to taking the class on a set day. Committing to the class in advance serves as a good step toward committing to the church.
- It encourages people to make friendships. Since the students spend so much time together, it’s easy for them to get to chatting over coffee or they might eat lunch together afterwards. Again, forming these friendships is helpful in getting people to think about connecting with the church at large.
Some possible topics for your orientation class include:
- The history and founding of your church
- The vision and values you feel God calls you to
- The expectations your church has of members
- Classes aimed at first time guests might also want to touch on basic issues of faith such as what the Bible says about sin and redemption, or what it says about the nature of Jesus and the purpose of his coming.
How ever you decide to structure your classes, Excellerate church management software can help you by tracking who has attended them, allowing you to email the participants afterwards to get their feedback, and much more.