and some tips for how to turn first time guests into second time guests.
Student Ministry doesn’t happen by accident. People don’t drift towards growth so why would we expect our ministries to do the same. When a first time guest student walks through the door we may only get one chance to leave an impression, connect them with people, and change their view of church.
The best statistic to see if the student ministry you lead is growing is not by looking at your first time guests, but by looking at your second time guests.
There can be a lot of reasons why students don’t come back a second time, but isn’t it worth it to be able to confidently say, “I did all that I could to make sure they knew this was a place they could belong and be known.”
Here are the mistakes I have made and some ideas that worked in my context. Feel free to steal, refine, or ignore these ideas and find out what works best in your context.
#1: Don’t memorize their name.
If you want to make sure a new student doesn’t come back then don’t memorize their name.
Memorizing a student’s name is the easiest way to acknowledge their presence. It is the foundation of a relationship. Student’s notice when an adult makes the effort to know their name and be curious about their life. They also notice when an adult doesn’t care. How amazing is it to open a door for a student to know someone cares by memorizing their name.
Tips for Memorizing Names:
- Name tags. Name tags. Name tags.
- Accountability. Make it cost something if you forget.
- Repeat it immediately in your head.
- Link it to something.
- Don’t do it all by yourself. Train your leaders to prioritize memorizing new student’s names.
- Study first time guests connection cards. More on this later!
#2: Don’t introduce them to intentional people.
If you want to make sure a new student doesn’t come back then don’t introduce them to intentional people.
Connections keep people. As people who pastor, we cannot wait for organic connection to happen. Sometimes friendship needs a push. Find ways to push first time guest students towards some friendly people.
Tips for Introducing Students to Intentional People:
- Create a list of friendly leaders and students.
- Assign a friendly leader or student to be the “First Friend” of a first time guest. A “First Friend” hangs around check-in in case there is a first time guest. What it means to be a “First Friend” is to be intentional to get to know the new student, sit with them in service, and connect them with others throughout the night.
- Encourage small group leaders to be on the lookout for first time guests. If you give out a gift for first time guests then train leaders to look out for the gift and be intentional with those students.
#3: Don’t make your services first time guest friendly.
If you want to make sure a new student doesn’t come back then don’t make your services first time guest friendly.
Don’t assume first time guests know the people on stage. Don’t assume they know the call and responses. Don’t assume they understand words like worship, fellowship, sermon, and small groups. Students should walk away from services with clarity, not confusion.
Tips for Making your Services First Time Guest Friendly:
- Encourage hosts to introduce themselves.
- Shortly walk through the flow of the night at the beginning of service. When you are in a new place for the first time it is comforting to know what to expect.
- Take a second to explain Christianese.
#4: Don’t follow up.
If you want to make sure a new student doesn’t come back then don’t follow up.
Follow up is ministry.
Students want to know that you noticed them. When we follow up, we validate the truth that their presence made a difference.
Tips for Following Up:
- Pray for first time guests. Send out first time guest names to their specific small group leader to encourage them to be praying for them by name.
- Require connection cards for new students. At Northstar Students filling out a connection card is a requirement for two purposes: safety in case you need to get in touch with their parent/guardian and for future follow up.
- Get contact info from the student AND parent/guardian. When following up with students they want to know that you noticed them. When following up with parents they want to know that you are accessible.
May more first time guests become second time guests in the name of Jesus. Amen.
Grace and peace,
Nick and Suz