This is a recap post from Casey Arnold’s session at the 2020 Engage One Day Conference. Casey serves as a ministry assistant at Colonial Hill Baptist Church in Snyder, Texas.
Casey inherited a follow-up system upon his move to Colonial Hill. After some observation, he concluded that the current system did not allow the church to gauge whether or not those first-time guests came back. The guest would fill out a connection card, drop it off at a patio and receive a gift. Later that week, someone at the church would follow-up with the guest via phone. About 95% of those phone calls ended with a voicemail being left for the guest because the call came from a number with which the guest was unfamiliar. Afterwards, a letter was sent to the guest and the follow-up process ended there. At the end of the process, the only record of the first-time guest was a connection card that would be put into a database.
While primarily searching for a digital connection card, Casey came across a Text in Church webinar. Initially excited about the digital connection card component, Casey also discovered Text In Church’s pre-built 6-week guest follow-up workflow. Colonial Hill decided to utilize Text In Church’s offer of a free trial in conjunction with their largest attended gathering of the year, Easter. Colonial Hill implemented Text In Church on Palm Sunday, which allowed them to work out the system in preparation for Easter.
Text In Church allows guests to text in a keyword that you set-up to a local number. The system then sends your digital connection card directly to the guest’s phone and captures their cell phone number. Once the digital connection card is completed, you are able to set-up an automatic message to send back to the guest. For example, Colonial Hill asks guests to text the word “welcome” to a local number. Upon completing the digital connection card, the guest receives an automatic message asking them to go to the information table to pick up their first-time guest gift. This creates a touchpoint between the guest and the team and an opportunity to create a personal connection. Many of the guests who completed the card admitted that they had actually visited before, but had never filled out a connection card. Remember, walking into a church for the first time alone can be very intimidating. Giving guests the opportunity to text in their information takes a lot of the pressure off and helps them to remain discreet.
Once the guest texted in, they were placed in the follow-up system. Casey scheduled the system to send a follow-up email the same day the guest filled out the card. The email invited the guest to check out the church’s website and invited them to follow the church on social media. Later in the week, the guest received an automated, personalized text message from Casey inviting them back to church that weekend. This step created space for more communication to happen. Even though Casey sometimes forgot that the system sent the text message, he would often receive replies from the guest which prompted further conversation. This translated to ministry opportunities beyond Sunday morning.
The day after the text message was sent, Casey scheduled another email that invited the guest to the church’s next steps class. A lot of information is thrown at a guest when they first visit a church. A personalized reminder of the next step you would like them to take is helpful and keeps it at the forefront of their mind.
The next day, Casey scheduled another text message inviting the guest to church and asking for any prayer requests they might have. Even though much of the process is automated, guests appreciate the personal touch. While in the lobby of the church, Casey would regularly be approached by guests when they heard his name because they remembered the texts they received from him.
Creating a personal connection
As much as you may want to meet every first-time guest, some contexts make this impossible. You may be pulled in too many directions on a Sunday to meet many guests. Having a team that is able to make these connections is critical. Colonial Hill invites first-time guests to come to their patio area to receive a gift and make a personal connection with a team member. That team member then sends a hand-written card to the guest the same week. Team members are instructed to write down any prayer requests or common interests they share with the guest. These details are then included in the hand-written card.
Casey also practices saying the guest’s name several times upon meeting them. This helps him remember their name so that he can call them by their name the next time he bumps into them. Guests are regularly surprised that someone at the church took time to remember their name. This extra step demonstrates that they aren’t just another person walking through the doors, but that they’re thought of and cared about.
Ministry beyond Sunday
As great as it is for first-time guest follow-up, Text In Church is also a resource that allows the church to be there in moments of need. Once, Casey received a text message from a woman who had not visited the church in several months asking for the church to pray for a family member who was not doing well. While she had not attended the church in a while, in a moment of need she was able to easily reach out to the church and have someone praying for her and her family.
Text In Church also works as a follow-up system for online viewers. Colonial Hill posts the link to their digital connection card on their live stream. Several weeks ago, Casey received a reply from one of the automated text messages in the follow-up system from a woman who shared that her husband was regularly out of town on weekends which made it difficult for her to worship in-person. She connected digitally and, several weeks later, sent a text to Casey sharing that she had accepted Christ.
Text In Church allows you to customize your follow-up process for your specific needs. Automating many of the steps saves hours of work while maintaining a personal touch with guests. Text In Church allows you to receive accurate information from guests in a discreet manner and create personal touch points in conjunction with the digital communication points. These additional touchpoints create ministry opportunities throughout the week and, in some cases, much further down the road for both in-person and online attendees.