First-time guest follow-up is something every church has to think about. Anytime a new person visits your church, you have the opportunity to connect with them. Moreover, though, you can then continue to check in with them, inviting them back to church, to an outreach event, or simply for coffee.
Church Guest Follow-up
The how of first-time guest follow-up has been talked about for years and most churches have settled on some level of engagement with their church visitors via phone call, text message, email, or stopping by for a visit.
Actually, if you’re still working on how you should be following up with your first-time church guests, we have a proven Ultimate Guest Follow-up Plan to keep church guests coming back. You can watch our free masterclass where Text In Church CEO, Tyler Smith, walks you through a 3-step framework you can easily implement by your next church service. You can register and watch it here.
Now, what hasn’t been as widely agreed upon by churches is how long you should follow up with church visitors. Connection CAN and SHOULD happen at your church – before, during, and after service.
We can’t exclusively rely on connecting with people during our weekend services.
You need to have a proactive approach so your guests don’t slip through the cracks. You need to be in contact with guests throughout the week to help them break their habit of NOT attending. Plus, you’ll find opportunities to minister to people and build relationships you may not have otherwise.
Working at Text In Church, I’ve had the privilege of hearing from a lot of different churches and what we’ve learned from over 20,000 church leaders is that at least six weeks’ worth of follow-up with church visitors is what it takes to truly make an impact.
In order to have a church visitor follow-up that is consistent, sufficient, and, ultimately effective, you need at least six weeks. Continue reading to make sure you aren’t letting guests fall through the cracks by missing these three critical components.
Why Consistency is Needed with Church Guest Follow-Up
One of the biggest mistakes churches make when it comes to guest follow-up is inconsistency. But in order for guest follow-up to be effective, it has to be consistent, even when you are busy.
Why is this so important?
Because people decide to visit a church for one of five reasons:
People are looking for community and connection; they are looking for a friend. It’s no longer good enough to be a friendly church. We must live into a new radical hospitality that seeks to build true relationships. When we’re inconsistent with our follow-up… we let them down.
Even when we are busy, we must commit to consistently reaching out to each and every first-time guest. Consistent communication is key to showing a guest they’re important. We know you care, but THEY need to know you care. And the best way for them to know it is for you to show it.
Start the conversation with guests with our done-for-you text message and email templates you can copy and paste. Download this free resource to start using today!
Why Insufficient Church Guest Follow-Up Simply Won’t Work
Far too often guest follow-up is just plain insufficient. We can’t expect one email or phone call to break a person’s lifelong habit of not coming to church. We are competing with weekend plans, kids who are throwing temper tantrums and don’t want to go, and people who just don’t have a routine of getting up and out on Sunday mornings.
Habits are formed over time.
And… habits are broken over time. Also, insufficient follow-up is simply noise. One quick email blast that looks like a newsletter is something new guests just don’t read. It feels automated and generic and people see right through it.
So, your follow-up must be sustained for at least six weeks. This means that each weekend for six weeks you must reach out to ensure your church is front of mind and help your guests understand that they are known, noticed, and loved.
Are you still thinking six weeks sounds like a lot? We get it, but six weeks of follow-up doesn’t mean that you are texting or emailing them every day for those six weeks! The time gives you an opportunity to connect with your guests regularly, maybe twice a week, to invite them into a conversation, connection, and community. It allows you to explore the natural rhythms of relationship-building.
Check out what Text In Church member, Holly Howard, has to say about her experience using six weeks of first-time guest follow-up:
Before we go any further, I want to make sure that you have a reliable way to gather your first-time church guests’ contact information. This is crucial because it is what allows you to start building a relationship with them. And relationships can’t begin if we don’t first have a way to get in touch with them.
And with this shift towards online church being a part of our weekend services even after the pandemic, you may never have the chance to meet some people in person.
But if you have someone’s email address and phone number, you can still connect with them in between your weekend services. You can pray with them, point them toward local ministries if they are interested, or be there if and when they are ready to attend church in person.
Gathering contact information is a crucial step in building genuine, long-term relationships with the people in your community. And investing in people is definitely an investment worth making.
The best way to gather people’s contact information is through the use of connect cards. We have a lot of resources on this topic. Connect cards have been used in church since the beginning of the modern church, but not all are created equal.
Here are two important things to remember: You need to have different connect card OPTIONS and you need to keep them SIMPLE.
By options, I mean don’t just use the paper connect card in the seatback. Here are other connect card options you can incorporate:
- A text-in option using a keyword
- QR code they can scan
- Digital connect card on an iPad at your welcome center
- Digital connect card viewers can fill out online if they’re joining you via live stream
It’s not that one is better than the other, you just want to utilize as many as you can so people can choose the one that’s most comfortable for them. Again, it’s about getting as many people as you can to provide their contact information.
Secondly, you want to keep your connect cards simple.
Don’t ask for more information than you need. I would argue all you need from a guest’s first experience with you would be their name, cell number, and email address. The less you ask them to fill out, the more likely they are to complete it.
You can always ask for more information from people later. But to get started, you only need enough information to keep a conversation going with your guests.
But how do you get new guests to fill out a connect card? We recommend implementing the Welcome Talk. This is a point in your service, usually at the beginning, where you welcome new guests and invite them to fill out the connect card so you can stay in touch with them.
You can learn how to give the perfect church welcome speech in this video!
Why Six Weeks Worth of First-Time Guest Follow-Up is Effective
When we talk about an effective follow-up process, we are talking about at least six weeks’ worth of follow-up using text messages, emails, connecting on social media, a phone call, a handwritten letter, a gift, etc. because we are in it to build relationships.
Relationships aren’t built with one phone call and no further communication. They’re also not built by bugging the person incessantly.
Simple invites, check-ins, encouragement, and reminders once or twice a week is a happy medium. Effective guest follow-up is investing in that person and building a relationship with them. And again, many of your first-time guests have a lifetime pattern of not being at church. Only one or two follow-up messages total isn’t going to make an impact because they need to be continually reminded in order to create this new habit of coming to church.
Now, if you’re thinking that six weeks worth of first-time guest follow-up feels massively time-consuming, I get that. I was recently talking to a friend about her experience working at a church. She explained how their first-time guest follow-up strategy went something like this: the pastor would walk up and down the pews on Monday mornings looking for connection cards. (They never seemed to be in the connect card box.) If he could find some, he would put them on the desk in the front office.
From there, information would be recorded, the card would be passed on to the connections pastor, and then he would make a call during the week. Well, most weeks. That is if the card made it to him and didn’t get lost, misfiled, or thrown away and if he could read the phone number on the card.
Does this sound familiar? We hear similar stories all the time when talking to church leaders. Pastors are overworked and have responsibilities pulling them in many different directions. Coming up with an effective guest follow-up plan is often just another task added to their to-do list and it tends to get pushed to the bottom.
We get it, but it no longer has to be this way.
Guest follow-up doesn’t have to be a never-ending task that takes hours a week. With Text In Church, effective guest follow-up can be completed in less than 45 seconds per guest. You read that right… under one minute per guest! Churches all across the country are leveraging technology to do it every week. And it’s saving them time AND keeping all of those first-time guests from falling through the cracks.
Six weeks worth of new church guest follow-up is sufficient, consistent, and effective in getting more guests to return each week. If you want to follow-up with guests in a manual way, it can be done. It’s very time-consuming but I don’t want that to discourage you because of how effective it is in getting your guests to come back.
Or you can utilize a tool like Text In Church and access the incredible automated workflows that will give you confidence knowing the right messages will be sent to the right person at the right time.
Technology can be a good gift for church leaders to utilize to stay more connected and engaged with their community than ever before. Take advantage of the tools at your fingertips to build relationships and make your first-time guests feel known, noticed, and loved!