Mark Bofill had a problem. His church welcomed thousands of people through its doors every Sunday, but Bofill—executive pastor of Calvary Worship Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado—knew that dozens of first-time visitors were slipping through the cracks.
“With a bigger church, you have the problem of people coming, and they like the church,” Bofill says. “But they feel like they can’t really get connected, or they may be a bit lost; so they go out the back door.”
Bofill’s observation is commonly shared by pastors and researchers alike. While pastor and author Hal Seed estimates that only 6–10% of first-time church visitors will return, many experts and church leaders agree that those percentages rise exponentially when guests hear from a minister soon after they visit the church. So perhaps the future growth of the church relies less on finding ways to get people through the front door and more on reaching them before they slip out the back.
From First-Timer to True Fit
Mikie Ulrich first visited Calvary Worship Center for a Sunday service during the COVID-19 pandemic out of a desire for in-person gatherings and community. While Ulrich was familiar with the church from weekday ministries, she and her husband had regularly attended elsewhere for nearly 20 years. They were immediately impressed with how welcoming the community at Calvary was, and soon they became more and more involved.
The Ulriches’ quick connecting can be credited to the Core, Calvary’s comprehensive app and church management database powered by Pushpay. This system helps create tailored interactions between church leaders and visitors. Responses are catered to each individual, varying if someone is just beginning to explore their faith, for example, versus a long-time believer who has recently relocated cross-country. Ultimately, the Core provides pastors the data they need to reach out to visitors in timely, relevant ways.
Calvary introduces visitors to the Core through their Discover class—one of Calvary’s courses designed specifically for newcomers—where they share about the church's history, beliefs, and current events. Following that, the next two classes of what comprises the church's DNA Process are further facilitated by the Core, ensuring that guests like the Ulriches continue to explore all that Calvary has to offer.
“As soon as you provide that information [to the Core],” Ulrich says, “you’ve got the leader of a particular group reaching out to you [to see] where you want to be serving.”
Ulrich loves that this technology also allows leaders to reach whole groups. Now as a women’s Bible study leader, Ulrich is able to use the app to send a message with lesson notes or invite others to share their prayer requests within the private group.
Engage for Keeps
During his years as a children’s pastor, Bofill used several digital databases for processes like checking children into their classes or encouraging volunteer communication. And as an executive pastor, he saw the need for a database system that wasn’t exclusive to a single ministry but served the whole church. A comprehensive solution, Bofill believed, would strengthen relationships with existing congregants through consistent communication and enhance the church’s ability to connect with visitors. Ulrich’s experience is a testament to Bofill’s hope.
Very easily, the Ulriches could have slipped out the back door. Their information may not have been recorded, and if it was jotted down on a sign-in card, it may not have been utilized in a way that showed the care and investment Calvary was able to exhibit. But because of a church management system that works to integrate every person and every ministry, Mikie Ulrich moved from curious visitor to invested small group leader.
Pastors and church leaders are desperately seeking to replicate Ulrich’s experience within their own congregation. Pushpay’s “Turn First Time Guests into Lifelong Members” ebook features actionable tips to help ministers do just that. At the heart of the gospel is a front door flung wide to welcome all who enter. As Bofill sees it, this solution is helping them to gently close that back door, so that all who enter meet with genuine engagement. Check out Pushpay’s free ebook to learn how to better, more deeply engage your visitors before they slip away.