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Visitation & Church Growth

The most influential component of your church growth mix is the friendship factor. The effectiveness of visitation is cut in half when a paid staff member does it, because the perception is the staff is being paid to make visits. Pastors should still make visits, but when ordinary members of the church make those visits, it is an act of wanting to be friends. When we look at the growth mix of your church, we use church growth ratios to determine the strengths and weaknesses you have. We can determine how your assimilation strategy is working by looking at the visitor retention ratios. Ratios from first time visitors are as follows:

If your strategy for growth includes only visitation, then you have no church growth strategy. Effective assimilation will require a detailed follow-up strategy, and until you are retaining at least one out of four first time visitors, it is not working. We can help you with assimilating your guest, but this lesson is going to help you get your visitation started or organized first. You will see how it all comes together.

Mark 7:6

Calling the Twelve to him, he sent them out two by two …

Let’s begin here with the visitation team itself. Visiting alone can limit your opportunity for ministry and invite a potential uncomfortable situation under certain circumstances. Having a second person on the team has advantages. Each will have different gifts and perspectives that will make a successful team. This will also increase the safety of the visit. A husband and wife team is not essential, but I do not believe a man and woman should visit alone on the team when they are married, but not to each other. Even with Godly intentions this can lead to compromising situations or send the wrong message to others (unless there is a third person). The next logical choice would be adding a third person on the team. As with the two-person ministry team, there will be more opportunity for witness and ministry with the variety of gifts, testimonies, and perspectives. There is not a right or wrong number of people to use on the team for basic visitation purposes. There is a common sense number, don’t storm the house with a bus load of people.

Luke 10:2

He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.

When we do our Thoughts & Perceptions surveys in a church, it always reveals there are people who are willing to be trained in outreach. Most churches already have people that are ready and willing to work in outreach ministry. Pray for God to guide you as you begin this ministry in your church. I would encourage you to start by building a leadership base that you personally recruit, one on one. These are the people you can trust, that love the church, and love you. Make sure outreach is kept in the forefront of the church. Utilize the free help that is available to you in our ilibrary at as a guideline. As your ministry grows, God will continue to supply the workers you need because He wants this accomplished even more than we do.

And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they kept right on teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.

Acts 5:42





It is not likely that a church will grow or decline for one reason alone. It takes a combination of factors (what we call the growth mix) to cause church growth. The simplest concept in church growth is this; No visitors–no growth! The most influential thing in your growth mix is the friendship factor. If a person does not perceive they have made seven friends in the first year, it is unlikely they will be there at the end of the second year. Healthy churches will grow through evangelism and effective small groups. This is where the discipleship and friendships will take place.

The healthy ratio for evangelism is fifty percent of new members should join by conversion. How are you doing with your ratio? The most important thing we can do to grow our churches is to develop an evangelistic strategy, which will include training, and an action plan such as organized weekly visitation. Statistics show church guests that are contacted within thirty-six hours after their visit have a sixty percent chance of returning to your church, while those that are contacted at the end of the week have just a fifteen percent chance of returning. No contact at all, is not a very effective strategy. Jesus made our call very clear when it comes to evangelism. No matter what one thinks the purpose of the church is, the most important thing a church can do is intentional evangelism.

Among growing churches, fifty-eight percent have a regular evangelism training program and seventy-five percent have weekly visitation. It is true that some plateaued and declining churches also have these ministries, but the key is effectiveness. Just because you have a certain ministry in your church, it is not automatic that it will be the most effective tool you have. At Church Growth Associates, we help churches to discover their church growth mix and to develop a strategy and training for church growth. Many free resources are available here at, but if you need additional help, please contact us at:

John 4:35

Do you not say, Four months more and then the harvest? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.

Unless you got this message out of a bottle that floated up on the deserted island you live on, you have plenty of prospects. Let’s take a look at where we can go visiting. Any evangelism or outreach ministry will be more effective with understanding the fields to be harvested. We must develop meaningful relationships through meeting needs both in the community and the church. Here are some basic thoughts on who you can go visit. Allow God to stretch your comfort zone to the next level, but start right where you are anyway.

The Church Guest

Matthew 22:9-10

Go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find. So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, both good and bad, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.

The church guest is one of the best prospective members we have. Remember the contact should be made within thirty-six hours after their visit if possible. This is because 60% of first time visitors will return if the contact is made within thirty-six hours, while only 15% will return if you wait until the end of the week.

Inactive Members

James 5:19-20

My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins.

Inactive small group and church members are another resource for visitation. Don’t get discouraged when dealing with inactive members. You should be aware that it is likely to require six to ten hours of visitation to move into ministry with the inactive. You can get help with ministry to inactive church members in our library by reading “Who Left The Door Open?”. Everything in the ilibrary is free.


Mark 5:19-20

… “Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed.

Friends, Relatives, Associates, and Neighbors are rich mission fields for ministry. I have gone to many churches that thought they had no prospects, and asked them to make a list of people they can think of that do not attend church. A small church with a handful of people can easily come up with hundreds of prospects. Try it! Make your list, start praying for the people, and ask God to present opportunity. God does not procrastinate like we do. He is more than willing to set up divine appointments for us.

Hospitals and Nursing Homes

Luke 8:41-42

Then a man named Jairus, a ruler of the synagogue, came and fell at Jesus feet, pleading with him to come to his house because his only daughter, a girl of about twelve, was dying.

Hospitals and nursing homes are full of people waiting for someone to come by and spend some time talking and praying with them. If you do not have members in the hospital or nursing home, try going from room to room, asking if anyone would like prayer. I have also asked nurses on duty if there is a certain patient that may enjoy a visit from someone. You run the risk of being asked to leave. I don’t want to seem like a rebel here, but unless it is a small hospital, there’s more than one floor and more than one shift of nurses. Being sent away is rare, but it can happen, especially if you act like a bull in a china shop. Those people need help, so try it–you may be surprised with the results.

Door to Door

Acts 5:42

Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ.

Don’t worry, being a little frightened is only Satan trying to stop you. Before I was saved, I visited as a Mormon with no fear. Satan did not want to stop me. After I met Jesus Christ  and I began visiting with the true gospel message, I found out that the spirit of fear wanted to stop me. Remember that we must only be willing to do it, and God will bless our efforts.

When you consider going door to door, remember it will require approximately 5 visits to get someone to attend worship when the church is in their natural traffic pattern (they pass by the church on a regular basis). It will require about 9 visits for those who live outside that pattern. The most important question is, which field does God want you to work in, and what will the strategies be? You can learn more on this subject on the D2D page of our website.

Acts 19:17

Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”

Now we want to lay a foundation for knocking on the door and keeping a follow up strategy going. We will assume first, that the prospect you are visiting has previously attended your church. Other articles in our ilibrary will support other types of visitation. Secondly, we will assume the reader knows little or nothing about visitation.


Romans 10:1

Brothers, my hearts desire and prayer to God … is that they may be saved.

Prayer is the most important part of the visit. Pray together before leaving the church, not in front of the prospects home. If your prospect looks out the window to see people sitting in a car in front of their home, it can make for an uncomfortable situation. Praying inside the home silently as someone on your ministry team shares is always appropriate. I recall a visit I made a few years back with a new trainee. “All you have to do is pray as I share Christ with our prospect” I said. Well, as I began to share the gospel with our prospect, my trainee dropped to his knees, using the sofa as an altar, and began praying loudly, “Oh God, save this wretched sinner!” I couldn’t believe this was happening. I continued as though I hadn’t noticed what my ministry partner was doing. Although our prospect received Christ that night, I gently explained to my new trainee that this is not the best approach to take in the future.

The Approach

Colossians 4:5

Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.

Be sure not to park your vehicle on the grass or a flower bed, and try not to block in other vehicles. You don’t want to position your vehicle so it will have to be moved if someone in the home needs to leave. If there is a woman on your team, she should be the most visible person on the team at the door. This is much less intimidating for most people. Introduce yourself and the team members and state you are from the church immediately. If no one is home, be certain you leave a door hanger with church information, and a brief note to let them know you stopped by.

Inside the Home

Colossians 4:6

Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

Once inside the home, you can look for visible things to build a friendly conversation with. For example: musical instruments, trophies, pictures, etc. Begin building a relationship with the prospect by talking about the things they like. Remember to retrieve any information that may be used for follow up and ministry. Do not take notes in front of the prospects. Stay focused on ministry to the individual. Listen for feelings, attitudes, perceptions and values as well as for facts. Pay attention and avoid interrupting. Never tune people out because you don’t like them, you disagree with them, or you find them dull. This time should not be rushed although you should not overstay your welcome either. Be Spirit led and use good judgment.

Leaving the Home

Ephesians 5:15-16

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, …

Do not end your visit with a reason you must leave. (i.e. We have a meeting to go to, we have more visits to make, I’ve got to get home, etc..) The prospect should feel special enough that you have designated this time just for them. Praying with the prospect is a good way to conclude the visit, but always ask permission to pray for them and never call on them to pray, some people will be very uncomfortable with that.

These are the simple basics of a visitation ministry to get you started. When I watch the weekly attendance records for the churches we work with, I can tell when they are not doing outreach, because The growth starts to level off. Visitation still works today just as it did in the early church.

Keep Good Records For Assimilation

Colossians 4:9

… They will tell you everything that is happening here.

In establishing a visitation ministry, report back and record keeping are very important ingredients. A report back session gives opportunity to share about our ministry time for purposes of follow up ideas and prayer. You can serve refreshments and turn this into a special time during the outreach night. A report back time also brings the paper work or reports back to the church. How will you carry on the assimilation process without this information?

It is vital the information retrieved will be useful. The biggest problem I have seen when it comes to visitation reports, is a name of the members who made the visit and “Good visit” written on the form. You can’t plan an effective strategy to assimilate the prospect with the term “good visit” penciled in on a report, it’s not enough information. Strategic detailed information must be captured if we are to be effective in outreach ministry.

Churches grow best by homogeneous units (like groups). We have a game we play in groups when we do a church growth workshop called “Get It Together!”. The game is a fun way to teach this concept, because it is so easy to sort people by what they look like, without knowing them. We must be disciplined to capture information that will be useful to build unity and common ground with others in the church. Your congregation will see how much fun the whole assimilation process can be when they realize they have things in common with the strangers who visit. My wife Victoria and I love classic movies, Victoria loves cooking, and I enjoy vintage automobiles. We have life long friends that we bonded with because of our common interest. Get creative here and get members involved with the process. You can find training on leading “Creative Idea Teams” in your church on our website, to help you get people involved.

Mark 16:15

He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.




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…upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.

—  Matthew 16:18