New Year's Visitors

October 24th, 2012
This article is featured in the Outreach 2013 (Nov/Dec/Jan 2012-13) issue of Circuit Rider

New Year’s resolutions are a celebration of good intentions. Some we stick with, some we don’t, but the goal is always to make changes that we know are good for us, even if they don’t come easily. Lose weight. Quit smoking. Get out of debt.

For some folks, church attendance is one of those “I know it’s good for me” sorts of things that requirethe willpower and momentum a New Year’s resolution can provide. People who have gotten out of the habit of Sunday worship might commit themselves to more regular attendance. People who grew up in church might feel compelled to find a church through which their children can be exposed to religion.

You can make the most of people’s good intentions with a few practices to draw potential January visitors to your church, and to keep them involved when their “resolve” wears off.

Make January Big

Preach a sermon series that will grab the attention of newcomers and tap into the momentum we all feel in the new year for making changes and making this year great. A series on “running the race” or living the good life by God’s standards will give people a spiritual jumpstart for the year. A series on the basics of the Christian faith, the grand story of the Bible, or an exploration of Jesus’ life and mission can lay the groundwork new people may need to go deeper in faith.

Start Something New

People like to get in on the ground floor of new groups and initiatives; it’s less intimidating than joining something already in progress. So use January to kick off a new format for Wednesday night programming or start a new Sunday school class. Form a new group to visit the homeless shelter or nursing home each week. Help new people make connections with one another, and encourage long-time members to break out of their usual circles so new people don’t feel like they are on the outskirts of a clique.

Help People Succeed

Offer tools to help people with common resolutions they may have made by launching a recovery support group, an exercise group, or a money management workshop. Some people resolve to spend more time helping others, so extend lots of invitations to serve in both one-time and ongoing ministries. Committed Christians may want to deepen their spiritual discipline in the new year with a Bible-reading plan or daily prayer guide.

Focus on Fellowship

One of the most common New Year’s resolutions is to prioritize relationships with family and friends. Help people deepen relationships and make new friends by planning events tailor-made for inviting others. A Super Bowl party or scrapbooking retreat provides a perfect opportunity for church members to invite friends and neighbors with similar interests to join in the fun and meet others in the congregation.

Many churches use weekend services to reach new people and then invite them to get involved in small groups as they become more committed. Why not reverse things and use small group gatherings as opportunities for people to invite friends and neighbors? People who like the groups may choose to come to worship or get involved in larger-group ministries.

Start with Christmas

Whatever you plan to do, make sure your Christmas visitors are aware of what’s to come in the new year. Television networks relentlessly promote their other shows during big television events like the Super Bowl or the Oscars because they know they have a "captive" audience that might be interested in their other programming. Christmas Eve visitors are people who are already marginally connected to your church, whether through a relative or friend, or through simple proximity to your building. Use a video or well-planned announcement to build excitement and give them a specific reason to return in the new year.


For more ideas and insights, see Ministry Matters' Keeping Christmas Visitors bin.

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