Here is the latest addition to my membership resource page, a one page handout summarizing the four stage membership process outlined in my “From Visitor to Member” presentations. The text overview is also below. Enjoy!
DOWNLOAD: Visitor to Member Handout (PDF)
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From Visitor to Member Overview
THE CHALLENGECollectively we see more visitors per year than we have members in our congregations. People clearly are interested in what we have to offer. Our challenge is not marketing, but welcoming visitors into our lives.
PRE-QUALIFIED Before visiting many people will have talked to friends, explored your website and researched Unitarian Universalism. In a sense they are pre-qualified for membership.
SHORTER TIMELINE Coming pre-qualified means the membership process is much faster today than in years past.
KNOW THE STEPSTo welcome people successfully into our congregations, we need to understand their needs as they move from visitors to members. We can focus on four distinct steps – first visit, second visit, becoming a regular and ultimately, a member.
FIRST VISIT Visitors want to get to their seat without difficulty. Strive to eliminate the awkward moments. Classic points of difficulty include parking, entering the proper door, finding the restrooms, and dropping off children. An anxiety free pre-service experience (and worship service that meets expectations) leads to a second visit.
SECOND VISIT The next visit is different and more difficult. When visitors return they are ready to start connecting. Most need assistance finding opportunities that will lead to new friendships. Established members often don’t realize how challenging this is. You have a limited amount of time to help newcomers form relationships and build the sense of belonging that lead to becoming a regular attender.
REGULARS As people become regulars, help them find meaningful opportunities to contribute to the work and ministry of the congregation. Participation cultivates a sense of ownership and responsibility for the congregation and leads to an interest in membership.
There is no set timeline for developing this sense of ownership, though without some assistance it is possible it won’t happen. People can linger on the periphery of your congregation for years waiting for help taking the next step.
MEMBERSHIP PROCESSFor visitors to become members, not only must they come back a second time, connect with others and participate in congregational life in meaningful ways, you have to tell them how to join. Seriously…
STATING THE OBVIOUS It might seem obvious, but many congregations fail to make the process for becoming a member visible. Instead, they highlight it periodically when there is a sense there are potential members on the scene. Periodic promotion of membership builds a culture where membership doesn’t matter.
CLARITY IS KEY Whatever process you have, be it signing a book or completing a form, required classes or participating in membership oriented worship service, make sure these are communicated at all times. From the first visit the membership process should be clear.
A clearly articulated and promoted membership process will allow people to prepare for it, ask questions, and place associated events in their calendar.
Image (C) Istockphoto