There are a plethora of events and activities, as well as skillfully coordinated planning, that takes place in a church’s life during the Christmas season. Calendars are synched and schedules are meticulously crafted to accommodate every group within a church body. Planning is important, no doubt. However, if we’re not careful, we can spend our planning efforts focusing inward, causing us to miss out on divine opportunities to impact a select group of people. Who are these people?

Holiday guests.

These are the people who, for whatever the reason, see it as important to attend a church service at least once during the holiday season. Recognizing this truth is a great start, but asking ourselves, “Are we prepared as a church to receive and to minister to these precious souls?” is a whole other matter. Here are some areas in which to evaluate and to purposefully plan to make sure we are prepared for these newcomers.

  1. The “First Glance.” Whether we like it or not, people make evaluations almost immediately based on what they see. We need to use a fresh set of eyes as we consider what guests will see. Are the parking lots clean? Are the flower beds weeded and presentable? Have the sidewalks, windows, doors, and walkways received the appropriate attention? When they enter the parking lot and/or the building, is there signage posted or people designated to easily direct them to a specified location to receive further direction? Are the bathrooms, children’s areas, and classrooms clean, tidy, and welcoming. Purposeful preparation in this area can remove several potential negative impressions for the first-time guest.
  2. The “Welcome.” Everyone has a desire to feel valued and welcomed. An effective welcome plan can put even the most stand-offish person at ease and begin to till the soil of their heart for the Word of God to do its work. When visitors come onto your church property, how long is it before they are greeted? Is there a clearly detailed process for how to bring a guest from the front door to a Sunday school class or the main auditorium? Are there people specifically assigned (whether at the small group level or in the worship service) to make sure guests are spoken to, sat with, and given some methos of obtaining their contact information? Purposeful preparation in this area can soften the heart of a first-time guest.
  3. The “Follow Up.” Studies have proven that the most effective timeframe in which to connect with a person or family that have visited a new church is within 72 hours from their visit. During the holiday season, the urgency of follow up can get pushed aside by all the other activities of church life. It is vital that we are intentional in our stewardship of the guests who visit our services. Without a thought-out follow up plan, an opportunity to reach a sensitive heart might be missed. Ask yourself questions like, what’s the process for capturing our guest’s information? Is there a plan for contacting these visitors on multiple levels (text, phone call, letter, personal visit)? Who will be responsible for compiling this information in a way that follow up can happen in a timely fashion? When contact is made with a holiday guest, what’s the most important information I need to share with them? Purposeful preparation in this area can greatly enhance the transition from first-time guest to recipient of continued ministry.

Strategic planning in these three areas is wise management of our ministry resources and can make the difference in connecting these people to future ministry.