Every person has a unique journey to your doorstep. A story that led them to your church.
Maybe they just moved into town after years of being highly involved in a church that’s now miles away—and you’re conveniently located near their new apartment. Maybe a friend has been inviting them for months and they finally gave in. Maybe your latest community service project impacted them personally, and they decided to come check you out. Maybe your last sermon directly addressed something they’re going through—and your church shared it on social media.
Whatever their story is, they discovered you and decided to show up.
You can’t control how people find your church, and you can’t force them to come back. But every time a new person discovers your church, you have the opportunity to become part of their story—and you give them the opportunity to become part of a much bigger story.
The gospel is the greatest story ever told. That’s why church growth matters. And it’s why attracting visitors isn’t about numbers—it’s about impact. Are you maximizing your church’s impact on your local community?
Before you invest time and energy into attracting new church visitors, take a look at five of the main ways visitors find your church (listed in no particular order):
1. Church websites
When people decide it’s time to start “going to church,” they’re going to ask Google about the churches near them. Assuming they don’t already have friends or family attending a particular church, the internet should provide them with enough information to decide what’s right for them. That’s why you should always design your church website with visitors in mind. If you don’t, you’re making it easier for people to say, “No thanks,” before they even make it to your door.
At the very least, a church website needs to provide the basic information about how to find and contact your church. But a good church website should also show potential visitors how your church looks and feels, using church branding and sermon podcasts or recordings. You could also add staff testimonies to help people get to know you.
People look at church websites to decide where (if anywhere) to show up on Sunday. If you have a bare-bones website, you’re not maximizing your impact on your local community. Your church website isn’t about competing for church shoppers. For many people, it’s a stepping stone towards finding their church home.
2. Community events
Community events and service projects give your staff, volunteers, and members an opportunity to grow personally, but they also provide a great way for people to discover your church.
Some people aren’t comfortable or interested in attending church, even if their friends or family regularly invite them. Community service gives your members a new opportunity to invite those people into a more comfortable encounter with your church. If you’re serving a local school, they could invite school staff, or other people they know who care about the kids in your community. If you’re serving the homeless, they can invite friends and family who are concerned about poverty. Compassion for others can be a healthy, safe way for people to find common ground with your church and get to know you.
The people you serve get to know you too. They meet a group of strangers who care about them enough to sacrifice time and energy to serve them. You don’t always have to come prepared with a pamphlet or a rehearsed invitation to church. When you feed and clothe people and take care of their needs, invitations to church come naturally. They’ll ask who you are and why you’re there—and then you can tell them.
A personal invitation from a friend or family member is one of the best ways for a new person to discover your church. Relationships are one of the major reasons why people stay at a church, so if that’s what gets a visitor to your door, they have a meaningful connection to your church before you ever say a word to them.
Special events and guest speakers are a great way to encourage your congregation to invite their friends. It’s easier to ask people to come if there’s a special circumstance or when you know the service is appropriate for newcomers. But it never hurts to drop an occasional reminder in your regular announcements.
4. Social media
If your church isn’t using social media, you’re missing out on a major opportunity to reach new people. It takes work to grow your online community and keep it active, but with a few hours per week, you can keep your congregation more engaged and give them a frictionless way to share what’s happening in your church.
Social media is a great outlet to share your sermon podcasts and recordings to show new people what your church talks about each weekend. You could also share sermon slides, quotes, and passages you’re preaching on. A single sermon can easily provide more than a week’s worth of social media content to share with your online community.
A church in the middle of nowhere can still grow. There are enough other factors—including prayer and the Holy Spirit—that for churches, location isn’t everything. In the center of town, however, there are a lot more opportunities for people to stumble into your church, ask questions about it, and get familiar with it.
A good location lets you display the name of your church, service times, and a friendly welcome message for your community to see. A bad location, on the other hand—such as a neighborhood—can be disruptive and annoying. Especially if your church requires a lot of parking.
When someone is looking for a new church, convenience is an important factor. When it comes to attracting new members, an easily accessible, highly visible church has a major advantage.
Prepare your church for visitors
You can’t change people’s hearts or control how they respond to an encounter with Jesus at your church. But there are very real steps you can take to encourage visitors to give that encounter another shot next week. I’m Never Coming Back to This Church: A Church Staff’s Guide to Visitors is a free ebook packed with tips to help you turn more church visitors into members.
Sign up to get your free copy.