They have common tells. They’re reading the bulletin feverishly. They’re actually reading the signage in the hallway. They’re on time. They’re sitting in the back. Their eyes are exploring the room. They’re filling out the guest registration card. There are more subtle signs, but as a minister you must hone your guest radar to see these.
Only when leaving my last church did I find out that many people had appreciated my noticing them as guests, and beginning those first conversations with them. While we all have many tasks going on prior to our various church services, I’d argue that spending ten minutes looking for and greeting first-timers should be the highest of our priorities.
As in most cases, it takes a little relational intelligence to figure out how much a guest wants to engage a staff minister. But I have found that most people are thankful for a personal conversation, particularly in large churches. Have I introduced myself to those I thought were first time guests, only to find out they were founding members? Yes. Have I sniffed out a pastor search committee? Yes. Have I connected guests to information they needed, such as restroom location or length of service-time, and have I sometimes connected them with someone to pray? You bet.
This sixth sense will allow you to minister to people, and it will likely get people to attend your church more than once.
What’s are your best techniques for identifying and encountering guests?