As we've talked with ministry leaders from around the country, I've been surprised at the number of churches who do not have a plan for guest follow-up. There may be some structure or a first point of contact, but there's often no road map for the staff to follow.
And if the staff doesn't have a road map, how can we expect guests to know what's next for them?
So, here are seven ideas for you to use to construct your on-boarding process or assimilation plan for new visitors to your church:
1. Thank you email. This is the simplest form of follow-up. First-time guest emails can easily be a template for use time and again. It's always best, however, to personalize the email from week to week. Always address the guest by name, try to reference the sermon title from the service they attended, and mention any upcoming events they might be interested in. Your guest thank you email should go out no later than Monday afternoon following a Sunday visit.
2. Phone call from pastor or staff member. If your church collects more information than name and email address, then take your contact to the next level. A phone call from the pastor for first time guests is almost always welcomed. If you are in a larger church, these calls might have to be split up between staff members simply due to the volume and ministry level. For instance, your minister to children or preschool can call guests who had kids in the nursery, the student minister can call guests with kids in the student ministry, etc. It's always best to have someone with knowledge of specific ministries contact guests who may express interest in that ministry. These calls should take place before the next church gathering. Don't leave guests waiting for answers to questions they may have.
3. Church information. If you have an address for a guest, consider sending an informational packet and letter from the pastor. Again, personalize these as much as possible. The content really depends on your church and what you want to emphasize. If at all possible, tailor the content in the informational packet to the guest's interests. It wouldn't make sense to send a college-aged newlywed couple information about an upcoming senior adult trip.
4. Appreciation gift. In his book Fusion, Nelson Searcy advocates for a small gift card or a book for first time guests. I absolutely love that idea. It costs less than you think, and makes a greater impact than you can imagine. A $5 gift card to a local coffee shop is a great way to say thank you to a guest who visits your church.
5. Note to kids. Churches don't often send mail to kids, but it is simple to do and makes a big impact on both the kids and the parents. Purchase or write a quick thank you card to children who visit your church's student or kids ministry. This shows that you are investing in all generations of the church and want to help everyone grow in his/her faith regardless of their age.
6. Invite to a gospel conversation. This might be the most important follow-up of all. If we're failing to have gospel conversations with guests, we're failing at the Great Commission. We're called to make disciples, not church members. Make sure sharing the gospel is central to your church's guest follow-up plans.
7. Membership/discovery class invite. Once you've had that gospel conversation, it's time to discuss next steps. An invite to a church membership or discovery class is the natural progression. It allows you to express both information about your church and expectations your church has of members.
Does your church have an actual guest follow-up plan? Do you do some of these already? What might you add to this list?
Jonathan Howe serves as Director of Strategic Initiatives at LifeWay Christian Resources, the host and producer of Rainer on Leadership and SBC This Week, and the managing editor of LifeWayPastors.com. Jonathan writes weekly at ThomRainer.com on topics ranging from social media to websites and church communications. Connect with Jonathan on Twitter at @Jonathan_Howe.
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