Most churches and ministries I come across have a desire to see new people get involved and engaged in their community. It starts with Jesus’ command to make disciples of all nations (Matt. 28:18), but often falls flat when it comes to execution. Many leadership teams hit a wall when it comes to even identifying the new people visiting their worship gathering.
Because of that, I wanted to give you some helpful thoughts about how to identify new folks visiting your gatherings and a few ways to respond to them
#1 - The "deer-in-the-headlights"
This is perhaps the most easily identifiable person because they wear their feelings on their sleeve. This is the person who looks around as if a child entering a massive library for the first time: reverent, awe-filled, and confused. They don’t know where to go or what to do, but they’re (usually) excited to be there. You can usually find these people in or near the entryway of your site. They might be under- or over-dressed, depending on your culture.
The easiest way to engage this person is to talk to them and to ask them questions. Most often, this type of person is excited to be with you, but they simply don’t know where to go or what to do. Ask them if they’re new and introduce yourself; see if they have any questions. Ask them if they’d like to sit with you, stick with them for the remainder of their time at your event, try to exchange contact info, and follow up immediately! They will be more likely to return in the future.
#2 - The "covert operative"
This person is usually quite shy, and is probably least likely to seek out information. They don’t talk to anyone as they come in, they seat themselves quickly, are polite so as not to raise suspicion, and leave as quickly as they came. They might be skeptical of your church or your faith, just checking out your church, or are really shy.
If the covert operative isn’t going to seek out information on their own to get plugged in, that means we have to give it to them! This is why each gathering should have a very simple next-steps invitation anyone can opt in for. Some other options are to include a brief greeting time during your worship service (we’ve found that asking a specific question is most effective and least awkward) to allow people to connect. Try to establish a one-on-one connection with this person, but don’t be offended if it takes them a few gathering to warm up.
#3 - The “checking things out”
This person is the one who is really just trying to check out who Jesus is and who you are in light of Him. They want to know if and how faith changes people, and maybe if your church has the answers to their questions. They may or may not have a history with faith, but want to know if yours is a safe place they can ask questions. They want to know if they can trust you.
Some of the checking things out people will come right out and say that they’re just effectively window shopping. But that’s uncommon because they don’t want to out themselves as not the in-group. You have to get to know them and their story before they trust you enough to share their questions. This is why we make it a practice of following up with every new person by sharing the Gospel with them, believer or not. That way, we don’t assume anyone about anyone and we get to communicate what we’re about!
#4 - The “ready to go”
This is the person who wants to get plugged into the life of your church or ministry as soon as possible. They’re often transplants from somewhere else and looking for a “solid” community to join. They want to know that you love Jesus and other people, preach the Gospel according to the Bible, and that they can fit in. They’re want to dive deep quickly.
The people who are ready to go are often the people we’re secretly hoping everyone who walks through our front doors. But we have to be careful not to simply throw them in the deep end. We want them to learn about who we are collectively in light of the Gospel. The goal for these folks is to get them plugged into a small group and service during corporate worship, then to shepherd them towards membership. Get to know them and let them get to know you. Don’t be afraid to share your church or ministry’s vision with them early on!
There are plenty more types of people we encounter each week, but here were a few of the more common types. What do you think?