The Right Guest Follow-Up
When I was in seminary, one of my professors brilliantly pointed out, “It doesn’t matter what discipleship system you use – just use one!” Guest follow-up goes right along with that same principle – it doesn’t matter what system you use for guest follow-up; just use one! There are plenty of options to pick from – our church uses a Frankenstein combination of the “Perfect Follow-up Plan” from Leaders.church and Text-in-Church’s recommendations.
Along with making sure you have a guest follow-up plan – it has to be systematized. Even when we have the best intentions, things do not just happen. We get sidetracked easily, things pop-up, and before long, our first-time guests from Sunday attended to weeks ago. For clarity—systematized means the plan is written down and can be duplicated by anyone who picks up the piece of paper it is on.
Saying “everyone knows how we do it” is not a system. When communicating the plan to your team and writing it down, pretend like you are Ikea…step by step with the proper tools to execute. Without walking through the specific details of how we do follow-up (because we’re still tweaking and figuring it out, and what works here might not be as effective there), I’d like to share a few things I have found helpful.
Design Your Guest Follow-Up Process
During the design of your guest follow-up process, do not forget the human touch. As I mentioned, we use Text-in-church to automate a lot of our follow-up. People get a text or email in specific intervals over a 45-day period. They get more communication at the beginning and then a trickle at the end. Texts and emails are great reminders – but if that is all you have involved in your procedures, people can easily tune you out like a telemarketer.
Automation is awesome – but it will never fully replace the personal touch. Make sure to include things like handwritten notes, phone calls, and opportunities for face-to-face connecting points. The need for a personal touch cannot be overstated! Not a lot of people get handwritten cards anymore – it’ll help your church to stand out.
Want to know how to keep your church’s guests coming back week after week after week? Then download this Turn-Key Follow Up Process for Today’s Church PDF.
First and foremost, you have to have an easy way for people to get into your guest follow-up system. This has become more complicated with Covid-19 – not everyone wants something handed to them. We have gone to a completely digital connection card in this season – people can join by scanning a QR code from a card placed on their pew each week before service begins, or they can text the word “welcome” to our Text-in-Church number.
Our card is arranged by order of importance for capturing info – really, in today’s day of technology, all we need on the initial contact is a cell phone and email. We ask for an address as well but stop there. The guest contact form is not a vital statistics record. Make it short and easy.
As with any system, consistency is the key to making it work. EVERY WEEK you have to communicate clearly how you want your first-time or returning guests to respond. I do not think simply having a connection card or whatever you call it is sufficient for getting people to tell you they came to church – you must give them a “why.”
Why should they fill out the connection card? What happens when they complete the card? The assumption many guests have based on experiences with churches and other businesses is that you want their contact info so you can spam them with emails and texts – for most folks, that’s not a good “why.”
Consistent Communication For Guest Follow-Up
Consistent communication is a huge part of the process—from the platform, make it part of your welcome and greeting. After a while, it may seem repetitive, but that’s because it is! Wash, rinse, repeat. Consistent communication isn’t just for your guests – it’s for your congregation and leaders as well. Communication doesn’t need to happen just from the pulpit.
Train your leaders and church to help as well—when they see a guest, introduce yourself and (casually) ask that guest if they’ve completed a connection card. Make sure your departmental leaders understand the process and the “why.” As a bonus, don’t forget to incorporate your Sunday kids’ ministry into the system. Parents may not fill out a connection card in the sanctuary, but their information is now in your system if they drop off the kids.
Just make sure your registration form has a place for them to opt-out of contact. Systems take time and training to implement, but the extra effort is worth it in the long run.
Ever wonder what to say when you contact guests after they’ve visited the church? Well, no longer! Download this Done-For-You Follow Up Scripts PDF and you’ll be well on your way to communicating with clarity through text, email, and phone.
Once your system is in place, your communication is clear, and your team is on board – then you need to make sure it is actually happening! “Trust but verify!” as the saying goes. In your weekly staff meetings, ask your team how they have done with follow-up calls and contacts. If you have a volunteer team heading up your system, make a reminder on your calendar each week to check-in on the process.
If you make it a regular part of the report and communication, it is much more likely to happen. I know it seems like you’ll constantly be giving your attention to the system because you will be. Remember this profound statement – 100% of growth comes from new people (ok, maybe not that profound).
Systems take time to create and implement – but they also take time to start working. A big mistake that is easy to make is making changes to the system too quickly and not giving it time to get rolling. If you change the system weekly or even monthly – you won’t have time to evaluate what works and doesn’t work.
It’s hard, but unless something is clearly broken, you should evaluate the system along the way, but avoid making knee-jerk adjustments when it doesn’t have an immediate impact. Our church evaluates things in six-month increments – that’s usually long enough to see what needs to be adjusted, eliminated, or added.
Final Thought on Guest Follow-Up
The last word I wanted to say is to make sure your follow-up methodology and process match your church’s and community’s personality. Avoid the temptation to just plug and play a system from another church straight into your process – if you’re in a high-touch relational area, then make your follow-up focused on that. If you’re in a techy/fast-paced area – then use that as the foundation of things. There is no perfect system (sorry Dick and Jonathan), but remember, the most important thing is to HAVE A SYSTEM!
Author: Rev. Dr. Spencer Click is the Lead Pastor of Calvary Lighthouse in Lakewood, NJ. Over the last 23 years, he has served in churches of 75 to 3000 in varying capacities. His passion is to see leaders and churches grow and thrive in their given communities and become who God has called them to be, and Star Wars.
Check out these blogs on connections, as well.
To Connect People in Your Church, the Path Must Be Clear
Blunder #1 in Assimilating New People
The Absolutes of the Post-Easter Guest Connection
How to Connect with Church Guests
Rethink Easter: From Big Event to Big Impact
The Perfect Follow-Up Plan for Church Guests
4 Action Steps for Guest Follow-Up Strategy from John 4
The Perfect Follow-Up Plan After Easter
6 Steps to Get Guests Back After Easter
Like this post? Sign up for our free blog updates to never miss a post. We’ll send you a FREE ebook to say “Thank You.”