The ministries of our churches exist to make disciples of all people everywhere. Incredibly, so few churches have a comprehensive strategy to connect the very guests that walk into our buildings to the ministries that exist for them! This series breaks down the five essential elements every church much bring together to build a system that doesn’t just connect with people, but draws them into relationships with the church and ultimately Jesus Christ. / Part One / Part Two / Part Three / Part Four / Part Five
Guest Follow-Up Process. Church follow up begins during the church service. The reason for this is that you can only follow up with someone if you know they were there. So first, we need to find out who our guests are. Any family that checks their child into the preschool and children’s ministry will have provided contact information, including their name, address, cell phone, and email. You will know who guest families are based on this information. Aside from guest families that check in children, you still need to find out who else was at your church. Students, single adults, college age folks, and couples without kids in preschool or elementary school need a way to communicate they were there. This is where your guest packet is valuable again. There is a guest card in there with a pen for your guests to fill out. Some churches also have guest cards in the backs of their pews or seats. The focal point of your morning welcome should be to encourage guests to locate this card, fill it out, and place it in the offering. Be up front. Tell them you’re going to contact them, and that you’re glad they’re here.
Guest Assignment: This is the process you put in place to distribute your guest follow-up information to the right team and the right person. Once you learn who your guests are, you can get their contact info to the right people. There are a lot of ways to do this, but the most effective follow-up happens through the ministry departments with the most natural connection to your guests. A parent with preschoolers is wisely contacted by someone in the preschool department. A High School or Middle School student is contacted from a Student Ministry leader. Single Adults may connect well from someone who is in the Singles Ministry, or they may not want to be a part of a “singles” anything. But follow up is best done with some thought into who your guests may be most likely to connect with.
How to Follow Up: This is the easy part. Once you’ve found out who your guests are, and distributed their contact info to the right department, contacting the guest is easy. The first, best way to greet a guest is with a personal phone call. Your guests are just like you; they get meaningless spam email every day and pre-recorded phone calls from a private 800 number for scams and surveys. A personal call from your church the day after they visited will not only show you valued their presence, but it will be a bit of a surprise. Only resort to email if you can’t reach them by phone. And hold off using social media to follow up with guests; nobody wants random people sending them direct messages to their Facebook account. Avoid “snail mail” unless you do not have a phone number or email address. The postage costs are unnecessary in this day and age and an impersonal form letter from your church just doesn’t connect on a personal level. We just don’t communicate with printed and mailed letters anymore.
What Should We Say? Not much, really. The goal is to connect with your guests, thank them for coming, invite them back, and answer any questions. And of course, communicate the “next steps” for your church. You’ll want to communicate your church’s “next steps” as clearly as possible. So, just do that. Don’t try to tell a bunch of jokes or seem cool or solve all the world’s problems. Tell them who you are, that you’re calling to thank them for being your best, and that you would like to see them next week. Tell them about the next event that best matches their demographic (another reason follow-up is best done through the department specific to the guest’s life situation). That’s really all there is to it. We’re talking about a 60 second call. This isn’t a cold call; in 2013 we all know when we give out our contact info someone is going to use it.
If you need to leave a message or send an email, that is even easier. It only takes a few sentences to thank someone for coming and invite them back.
Next Steps. The key to a good follow up call is a set of clearly communicated “next steps” for every guest. That means that everyone in leadership needs to know precisely what the next steps are and how to communicate them. That also means they need to be fully fleshed out and a part of the assimilation process. An assimilation process is about more than following up with guests. It is about aiming the ministries of your church to engage with guests and minister to them. Assimilation is about more than just a strategy to connect with people; it is about building a culture in your church that embraces guests and connects them to the mission of your church. Here are some questions to prepare for:
What are the specific steps needed to join a small group and what information can your guest walk away with immediately? (Printed materials for core ministries can also be emailed).
- What are the core ministries of your church?
- What time does everything happen?
- How much are the events being promoted and how do we sign up?
- Where is everything in the church?
Connecting in Community. The follow-up process is an invitation for community. Connecting guests into communities of faith is our next topic.