Growing Smaller While Growing Larger: A Recap Post from ENGAGE Conference 2020

In his session from ENGAGE 2020, Kevin Ranfeld shares how the strategies taught by Tyler Smith and the Text In Church team helped him increase guest retention while saving time and money!  This allowed him to focus more of his time on ministering to people rather than managing technology.  Kevin serves at Family Church in Lebanon, MO. 

Kevin does a great job of sharing the story of his church and the issues they were facing at the “back door” (people leaving or not “sticking”). After watching a webinar by Tyler Smith on how Text In Church could help connect people to church ministries faster, Kevin saw there was something to what he was saying. Although he didn’t purchase the Text In Church service at the time, he did put the strategies Tyler shared into action on his own. 

Focus on the Front or Back Door?

The first question Kevin began to ponder was, “am I focused on the right door?” When we see the trend of guests coming in through the front door but no growth happening in our church, we know that people aren’t “sticking,” guests aren’t returning.  This is where the saying comes in that people are leaving through the back door. It is natural to try and close the back door by reaching out to the people who are headed in that direction. 

This reminded me of a question our lead pastor asked our team leaders to answer a few months ago, “If people can go online and get the best messages from the best pastors in the country and engage in the best worship experience by global artists – what can they get at the local church that they can’t get online?”

In his session, Kevin hits on an answer to this question. People want connection, they want a place to belong.  They want a family. Even when they are not aware that that is what they are looking for, when they find it, they stick around. So, instead of focusing on catching people who are headed towards the back door,  he started to focus on getting people connected as quickly as possible so they could experience connection, belonging and family.

Using the strategies he learned from Tyler, his goal was to get people connected to a team to serve alongside or into a group so they could connect with people and find a place to belong.

Increased Retention

As he implemented the strategies he learned, he saw both short-term and long-term results of increased guest retention. The strategies and templates provided by Text In Church were helping people find a place in their church. Here are some of the numbers he shared:

    -  2017 average short-term engagement of 41% (compared to the national average at 16%).

    -  2016 long-term guest retention was 30% (compared to the national average of 16%).  This is 5% higher than in 2015 when they weren't using Text In Church.


Focus on Ministry vs. Administration

The problem Kevin faced after he started implementing the strategies on his own was that he was spending anywhere from 4 – 16 hours a week on the administrative tasks. I am sure many of us have attempted this in the past - trying to find a way to do something on our own to save money – but what Kevin discovered was that in order to save the money, he was spending time instead

At this point, he put his money where his mouth was and purchased Text In Church out of his own pocket, believing it would be worth it. What he found was that the time to implement the strategies went down to about an hour a week. This increased his capacity to focus on ministering to people and elevating the church’s connection strategies.

Taking Connections to the Next Level

Text in Church became an integral part of Kevin’s overarching strategy to connect with guests. He and his team at Family Church used the Text In Church guest follow-up templates to engage them into key connection environments like their “Coffee Connect” and “Essentials Class.” They have gone on to create a 40-week follow-up plan to track guest engagement and connections using the Text In Church automated workflows.

I was personally intrigued by the idea of having a separate team on Sundays for connections, different from the greeting/welcome team. In our current team setup, the welcome team is tasked to do both – welcome and identify new guests. The problem is that the skills, talents, and passions needed to warmly welcome guests on Sunday does not automatically transfer to intentionally identifying and engaging new or returning guests. This often leaves us with frustrated welcome team members who feel pushed out of their comfort zone. I am excited to think through how I can make this change in our team dynamics.

Discipleship

To make disciples is our commission. And when we make disciples, people stick around and our churches grow. Helping new guests connect quickly to groups of people whether on a team or in a discipleship group is a critical piece of the puzzle. Kevin’s story of how Family Church used the Text In Church communication strategies and services to increase both short-term and long-term engagement demonstrates its potential and effectiveness.

The story of how Family Church grew smaller while growing larger is something we can each learn from. Kevin found both the service and the strategies of Text In Church to be a vital part of his connection plan. I plan to use his story to ask my own questions about our church: 

Which doors are we focusing on? 

How can we connect people to other people quicker? 

How are we doing at creating a place for people to belong – to find a family?

In answering these questions, we will most likely rely on technology as a piece of the puzzle and we will definitely look at Text in Church as a possible piece of the puzzle.