The Church Visitor Gift: How Bribery Can Bring People Back

The Church Visitor Gift: How Bribery Can Bring People Back

November 12, 2014 by

UnwelcomeWe’ve been talking a lot about how to welcome church visitors lately. Let’s face it: visitors can feel unwelcome in church (we wrote a whole book about it).

One solid way to make visitors feel better? Bribery.

The church visitor gift is a tried and true way to make a solid first impression. 

OK, it’s not really bribery. Unwelcome author Jonathan Malm says, “If you’re doing it as a bribe, that’s bad.”

Watch for more thoughts on church visitor gifts from Malm, and then scroll down for even more tips and ideas.

“Anything you can do that genuinely shows love with no strings attached is a great gift.”

Want more from Jonathan Malm? Watch the entire Unwelcome Hangout.

Lessons from 33 Churches

Rich Birch over at Unseminary pulled together 33 church visitor gifts and shares his lessons.

Why Gift?

First of all, why give church visitors a gift in the first place? It’s all part of making them feel welcome. It’s a kind gesture and it goes above and beyond what they experience anywhere else. It’s a lot of work to visit a church (and scary too!). Reward them.

And yes, marketing rationale:

“When you give people a gift to take home it has the potential to help them recall the positive time they had at your church and implicitly invites them to return.”

What Works as a Church Visitor Gift?

So what’s a good freebie?

  • Worship or sermon CDs
  • Coffee gift cards
  • Chocolate
  • Freshly baked bread, cookies, etc.
  • Branded swag (T-shirts, pens, mugs, water bottles)

Birch notes that T-shirts (well-designed T-shirts, he stresses) seem to be popular. His church switched from chocolate bars to T-shirts and went from 800 gifts per year to 3,500.

Other people aren’t so sure. Malm notes that T-shirts aren’t ideal and can often be self-promotional. He prefers the coffee gift card for its universal appeal (though I don’t drink coffee, so I question the universal appeal).

“Anything you can do that genuinely shows love with no strings attached is a great gift.” -Jonathan Malm

Be Sincere

Malm also notes that gimmicks aren’t a good way to go:

“If you draw people with gimmicks, you need to keep them with gimmicks. So don’t do a gimmick for a church visitor gift.”

Still others have found that the gift itself doesn’t matter so much:

“While people seem to appreciate the gifts, I get more comments on my handwritten note.” -Scott Gamel

Spend Some Cash

Whatever you decide to give, be prepared to put some budget into it:

“The average spent across all these churches for their gifts was $4.88,” Birch notes. “The lowest was $0.75 and the highest was $15.00. Figure out what you would be comfortable spending on these items… then budget 20% more. Your guests deserve it.”

If budget is going to be a problem for your church, consider something that can be volunteer-powered, like freshly baked bread or cookies.

Follow Up

Perhaps the most important part of the church visitor gift is the follow up. You want visitors to come back, so make it easy.

First off, make sure your gift includes contact info:

“We have seen more repeat visitors since we give them all our contact information and not just a random gift.” -Nichole Brown

Secondly, give visitors an idea of what to do next:

“Across the board the churches that seem to be leveraging first time guest gifts the best are giving them a clear next step to take.” -Rich Birch

So figure out what your next step is for visitors. Do you have a new members class? Do you have a list of ministries you can share with them? Do you want them to get involved in a small group? Figure out what that next step is and make it simple.

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Kevin D. Hendricks


When Kevin isn't busy as the editor of Church Marketing Sucks, he runs his own writing and editing company, Monkey Outta Nowhere. Kevin has been blogging since 1998 and has published several books, including 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love With Reading, The Stephanies and all of our church communication books.
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