Do you ever wish you could go back and tell your past self the lessons you’ve learned? Maybe avoid some bumps and bruises along the way? Well, Tabitha Steinbock does that for you in her ENGAGE One Day session: 5 Pitfalls to Avoid When Designing a Guest Follow-Up Plan. In her session, she generously shares her experiences since she started using Text In Church in 2016.
Tabitha Steinbock serves as the Director of Connections Ministry at Crossroads Community Church in Sheboygan, WI. The 14-year-old church plant saw pre-COVID attendance averaging at 800 to 850 adults and kids at their services. Plus, they have a young church plant not far away, with average attendance at about 140 people.
When Tabitha started in 2016, she put into place many of the best practices you’ve heard about from guest follow-up experts. Signage, volunteer training, and setting up Text In Church. At that point, she thought she could let things run automatically. However, guest follow-up is too important to let it go without the necessary fine-tuning as you adapt to guests’ needs. When you can remember your “why,” you’ll be able to avoid these and other pitfalls.
PITFALL 1 – MANAGE GUESTS WITH A “ONE SUNDAY” MENTALITY
While you and your team may spend every Sunday – and other days too, I'm sure – thinking about church, your guests likely do not. That’s why it’s important to interact and engage with people with the long game in mind.
Tabitha shared a statistic we all should remember: average church member attendance is 1-2 times a month. Pew Research digs a bit deeper at church attendance frequency in their study here .
For guests, she reminds us that “it’s going to take most people anywhere from 6 to 12 months to feel like your church is THEIR church.” Some guests may not even have a relationship with Jesus. Getting them to come back will take time. When you do the math, that’s anywhere from 26 to 52 weeks for them to feel like they are a part of your church family. Keep engaging, and don’t give up!
PITFALL 2 – LET YOUR GUEST FOLLOW-UP SOFTWARE DO ALL THE WORK
Most of the time, people have no issue with automated emails. However, guest follow-up has a deeper purpose than a retailer’s latest sale. Your personalized interaction is incredibly powerful and needed. Tabitha reminds us that each person is a soul that’s precious to God. They aren’t just a name in their database. God knows every hair on their head!
She sets up milestone reminders using Text In Church workflow steps that prompt personal communication. When she receives these reminders, she prayerfully considers the personal message she sends to that person. She also checks their ChMS to see if they have participated in church activities. As it says in Proverbs 27:23, knowing the condition of your flocks allows you to serve them well. Here, serving well means writing the right message and potential next steps.
She advises delegating activities to other leaders to check-in and invite them to take the next step. Not only does it take tasks off your plate, but it also enables guest and member retention. Crossroads has “been able to obtain about 70% of active members serving in a once a month ministry, and 74% of our active adults plugged into a life group.” Those numbers speak for themselves!
Take Tabitha up on her challenge, whether you currently use Text In Church or not. What’s one thing in your current process that you can change to have a meaningful, personal interaction with someone?
PITFALL 3 – NOT KNOWING WHEN A NEW GUEST JOINS A CAMPAIGN
Brand new guests present an opportunity to engage quickly and personally as soon as someone submits their name and number! Tabitha gets those names and passes them along to other pastors and staff to help them start to place names with faces and create relationships with them, too.
If you use the “Plan A Visit” feature, you can share the names of guests arriving that morning with the parking team or a host team leader, or they can receive their own alerts. She also personally welcomes guests via text and lets them know she’s available should they have questions that morning. With the Text In Church app on your phone, you can get those notifications on the go.
PITFALL 4 – KEEPING YOUR CAMPAIGN ON AUTOPILOT
Automation works great most weeks and frees up a ton of time. One thing it doesn’t do – adjusts messages and timing for guests who first sign-up around the holidays or other special events that may occur outside of Sundays at 11am.
People receive messages based on when they join, which works for most Sundays. Except when it doesn’t because of changes around Christmas and Easter. Or weather. Or even a global pandemic.
Being aware of how guests receive your messages due to such changes keeps your church from looking impersonal, or even sloppy. Pay special attention to days, times, or other details that may be affected.
ProTip: for holidays, be sure to set up recurring reminders in your calendar or Text In Church workflow. These will alert you to make adjustments or turn campaigns and workflows off.
PITFALL 5 – KEEPING YOUR FOLLOW-UP SOFTWARE ALL TO YOURSELF
Text In Church can have a significant impact on ministries outside of “guest follow-up.” Having other ministry leaders reach out to them gets real, authentic conversation going and leads them to the right next steps after the guest follow-up campaign ends. At Firm Foundations Marketing , we’ve seen our partner churches successfully use this strategy as well – it definitely works to engage and retain people!
Some examples of how you can share with other ministries at your church:
- Youth Group uses texting to communicate with students and parents.
- Invite people to join church-wide prayer campaigns and receive text prompts to pray.
- Recruit for your community outreach using keywords to send out a form link.
- Leverage your church’s recognized number to facilitate face-to-face meetings or phone calls with guests.
Guest follow-up matters – and that’s why it’s so helpful to learn from other church leaders like Tabitha at Engage Conference! Not only can you avoid the five pitfalls she’s experienced, you can put into place what she did to make the most of the system without losing time to fix problems and figure out solutions. You can be better prepared as your church deploys Text In Church because you’ll understand that’s not a “set-it-and-forget-it” church growth tool, but a means of fostering relationships and discipling Christ followers.