In my last article, I shared with you three growth secrets your church can use to reach adults. (Click here to read that article.) Now, I want to share with you another growth secret that will make a huge difference in your congregation.
Church Growth Secret No. 4: Someone has to make the calls; this is where the front-line battle for souls resides.
Remember, we found that if we could get folks to attend and finish our Next Steps process, they were connected in a very real and authentic way, and accountability and connectedness became a part of their DNA. So, it was a no-brainer to make the focus of our outreach and follow-up to get people to our Next Steps program.
Visitors: After the initial contact and church postcard, we would wait about one week and call just to see if they had been back and if there were any questions they needed answered.
Goal: Get Them to Return
Then we would call back one month later, month after month, to check on them and pray with them until we could get them signed up for Next Steps. Rarely are we asked to not call again, and they always thank us for praying with them.
Goal: Signed up for Next Steps
Altar Decision Cards:
This was the biggest shocker. We found that while we had hundreds of decisions for Christ or rededications in our altars, these numbers did not always translate to baptisms and Next Steps. Worst still was that after the initial contact following a decision, we weren't pursuing these folks in a personalized way after that at all. This became a major function of the call center team. We call once a month until we can get them signed up for Next Steps. Today, and for the last three years, approximately 80% of the people who attend Next Steps are a product of the efforts of the Call Center.
Goal: Get Them Signed Up for Next Steps
When we began to look at the thousands of people who had been here at any time over the last 10-15 years but were no longer here, and especially those who had made decisions, the number was staggering. Where did they go? Why did they leave? Did they leave? What were they doing now? Were they without a church home? Would they want to be reconnected? Would they be open to receiving information from us? Did we have their correct contact information? Did they have kids now that would love our kids and youth programs? Were they still walking with Jesus?
We decided to actually reach back to those thousands of people and ask these questions. If they have moved out of the area or have a new church home now, we simply wish them the best and leave them alone and pray for them. But we are finding that many are unchurched today, and many have so appreciated that we are reaching out and some of the results have been nothing short of divine appointments with testimonies that are astounding. However long it takes, we are determined to reach back to every visitor and altar decision over the last ten to fifteen years. And we are having amazing success. It is so worth it to seek after lost sheep or sheep without a shepherd who are thinking that no one cares. We care and we want them to know that.
Goal No. 1: Phone calls from our call center team if numbers still work or Survey Monkey that asks all of the questions above and gathers new information for those that don't. We find that phone numbers change more than email addresses.
Goal No. 2: Making contact and inviting back the unchurched
- Connection Teams: Connection Is the Banner
Growth Secret No. 5: Language matters and focus is everything. Change the language from greeting and seating and parking to connecting and letting people know they are in the right place, that we have been expecting them and that they picked the perfect day to visit.
Unite all of your teams who have contact with people on a Sunday under one banner called "Connection." Greeters, ushers, info desk, parking and altar workers can be refocused moving from greeting and helping to the idea of divine connection. The overriding idea is that there are no accidents, and each person the Lord brings across their path is a divine appointment.
Challenge your greeters to connect with people on the way in and to reconnect by being back in the lobbies as the service ends, to purposely reconnect with those they connected with earlier. Challenge them to remember three new names each week.
Goal: Give attenders, and especially visitors, a sense that they are in the right place and that God has something to say to them about their lives, and that we truly do care.
Altar Team: Pre-service: Challenge your altar teams to be sanctuary greeters before the service starts, looking for those in pre-service who are sitting alone or who do not appear to be connecting with others and to intentionally connect and remember names. Then pray for those folks during the service.
Goal: Add capacity to your altar team by also making them pre-service sanctuary relators and connectors.
This isn't rocket science, I assure you, but it is powerful and explosive. Our call center teams are passionate about their night and the calls they will make. We can make contact with over 150 people with just two or three call center volunteers who will give us just one hour between 5:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. We are having hundreds of conversations with people who have questions and always thank us for praying with them. At our main campus, we average 15-20 callers every Tuesday night and we make, on average, between 350-400 calls per week, have approximately 100-150 conversations and sign- p 25 people for Next Steps. Across our eight campuses, we average over 15,000 calls each year, with testimonies that would inspire you beyond anything you can imagine ... people going into surgery, people who have lost spouses that same day, people who were ready to give up---all astounded and beyond belief that we called at their greatest hour of need. We have seen hundreds who became unchurched for one reason or another return and even attend Next Steps or to be baptized and reconnect. These are miracles, and we experience them every week—-and so can you.
The secret to growth, I am convinced, is retaining the ones God sends to you, and that can only happen if you collectively and intentionally pastor them individually and continuously until they connect or reconnect. Period. It takes work, but it is within your reach.
The next article will focus on intentional outreach and retention in your children's programs—and it's powerful! Look for part 3 soon.
Dr. Rich Rogers is the director of strategic outreach at Free Chapel, with eight campuses in three different states pastored by senior pastor, Jentezen Franklin. He is also the author of Next Level Living and Next Level Parenting (Charisma).
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