We all know how important our greeters are on Sunday mornings. That’s our front door. But following up with those same guests in a meaningful way is just as important. Not every church has a great follow-up strategy in place, and even the best can always get better.
Our main mission as the church is to “make disciples” of Jesus Christ everywhere with everyone there is. This is both evangelism and spiritual growth; they cannot be separated. This is why followers of Christ are commanded to “make the most of every opportunity” when engaging with those outside the church.”
So here are some things you can do to follow up well with all of your guests.
Make it easy to know who your guests are, and invite them to connect with you. Call it a “Guest Information” slip or whatever else you like, just get one into every guest’s hands. If you have a first time guest packet, it needs to be in there. This isn’t a new idea for anyone, but sometimes old ideas don’t get the same energy they used to. Usually these cards/slips are mentioned in announcement time, and churches notoriously bore people and overload them with information during the announcements. Make this card the center of your guest welcome. It is one of the only ways you’ll know who your guests are. Find a way to do more than tell them there is some piece of paper out there they can put all their personal information on. Make it important to them.
Follow up with every guest on Monday. Tuesday at the latest. If someone takes the time to fill out your guest card and give out their personal contact info, you have to contact them. Have your key people making personal phone calls. Don’t just email a hollow message or mail a piece of paper. Only do that if you’re unable to get a callback early in the week. The goal of follow-up is to make a legit, personal connection from the key people in the building. The smaller the church, the less guests there are to follow up with. Nobody is too busy to make a few phone calls to guests. They can’t be. Don’t allow this. This is everything your church exists for. We’re talking about 10-15 minutes tops for each key leader. The ministry staff (the Pastors, not their admins) at a large church in Texas I served with will contact each guest personally on the phone to thank them for coming, answer questions, and invite them back. Yes, the phone. This is a big church heavily involved in their community, and everyone on that staff is crazy busy all the time. When I was hit with a big batch of guests (over 20 for me specifically to contact) I would ask my key leaders to each take a few names to make sure no person who walked in our doors was forgotten.
If you have a pastor on staff that has a disdain for contacting guests, what does that tell you? Don’t let your team be so busy with stuff that happens inside the building that they become useless at reaching out to people.
The fact that phone calls are made show there is a major commitment to a relational culture. Connecting personally is a part of what you must choose to keep busy with. I’ve been a guest at churches, and I spend a lot of time around young couples. Form letters that arrive from a church they visited a week ago generally don’t get read. Email is hit or miss for guests. A phone call the Monday after church from a key staff member that you assumed was too busy to notice or contact you… is not just pretty awesome, but says a lot about what that organization values: They value you.
Have a goal when following up. Plan ahead for what you specifically want to communicate before making the call. Don’t just meander through the conversation. Did you ever get a voicemail from someone who doesn’t seem to be able to explain why they’re calling? That voicemail was long, wordy, and you may never admit it but you probably stopped listening before the person got to their name, contact number and reason they called. Have a goal. If the goal is to welcome someone to your church, then welcome them. When I call people, here is generally how the conversation goes:
“Hi Sean and Sarah, this is Daniel, one of the pastors on staff at (whatever great church you’re at). Thanks for being our guest yesterday with your family. How was your Sunday? Were our greeters able to help you find your way? Was our check in process for your kids easy for you? I’m looking forward to meeting you personally next week. Will you be here? We also have (special event, recurring outreach, or ministry) coming up on (exact date, time, and location) and we’d love to have you. Any questions about our church? We’d love to connect with your family. Thanks again for being our guest.”
If everything went well and your guest had time to talk, we’re looking at a 5 minute phone call. And if something weird happened and they had an odd experience (it can happen) here is your chance to find out and get it addressed. This phone call indicates that your church values guests as much as you tell yourselves you do.
Sometimes I get voicemail; here is how that works for me:
“Hi Rusty and Ali, this is Daniel Burke, one of the pastors on staff at (whatever great church you’re at). My number at church is (office number) Thanks for being our guest yesterday at church! I’m calling to introduce myself, to hear how your Sunday went, and I’d love to meet you both personally next Sunday for a couple minutes. Please call me back at (office number) and thanks again for being our guest.”
There isn’t much else to it. I suggest an email follow-up be used only if you’re getting a voicemail and can’t connect personally. Remember, this person volunteered their contact info. You aren’t an intrusive telemarketer; you’re a key leader at the church this person just visited. They’re glad you called. I really don’t send an old fashioned printed letter through the mail. That is an unnecessary cost and takes too long to arrive. In the case where you have a guest’s name but an incorrect phone number and email, I suggest a custom guest postcard or something be sent.