How to Build a Sustainable Church Guest Follow-up System

We are wrapping up 2019 by wrapping up our 4 part blog series on how to really create a guest follow-up plan that will engage your first-time guests from before they walk through the door, while they’re at your church, after they leave, and hopefully until the next time they come back!

If you missed any of the earlier posts, you’re definitely going to want to go back and check them out!

Get Obsessed: 6 Crucial Pieces to Engaging First Time Church Guests

The First Step In An Epic Church Visitor Follow-up System

4 Connection Points Your Church Can’t Do Without

Today’s post is all about building a system that is both effective and sustainable. All of the concepts and strategies we have talked about are going to be game-changers for your church’s approach to first-time guests. I’m talking about increased retention, more engagement in your next steps, and an increased connectedness between your church and the community you exist to serve.

What I want to caution you away from, however, is taking in all these strategies like drinking from a fire hydrant and get overwhelmed. Or, being so excited and implementing all the new strategies, and then you can’t keep up with them.

So, here are 6 ways to build a system to support all of the incredible guest follow-up efforts your church will implement in 2020!

Assess Your Guest Follow-up Plan

I spent a good part of my professional life working for a non-profit organization. This is relevant because anytime we would seek to add or change the services we offered, we would conduct an assessment of the communities we served. This kept us in line with our mission and made sure we were growing and adapting based on the needs of our clients, not just our own whims or mindset. 

I think this can apply to church and first-time guest follow-up in the sense that you do have an existing guest follow-up plan. It may not be comprehensive, thought-out or efficient, but it is there and it exists for a reason. So I would encourage you to spend some time, before you jump into making a bunch of changes, and really assess what you’re doing now and why. Maybe there are some things you want to keep. Maybe there are things you know you don’t want to implement based on the needs of your community. There is the possibility that you will want to scrap everything and start from scratch. There’s no right or wrong approach after you’ve done the assessment. But the better you know your community, the better you can reach them.

To clarify: the assessment can be done both on your church’s guest follow-up system as a reflection of what’s been done and on your geographic community as a reaction to what needs to be done.

Here are some helpful assessment questions to guide you...

(For your church)

    1. What is our current number of first-time guests on a weekly basis?
    2. What percentage of those guests come back or take a next step?
    3. How do we follow-up with or seek to connect with first-time guests?
    4. Who’s in charge of this?
    5. What feedback have we gotten from first-time guests?

(For your community)

    1. What are the demographics (socioeconomic status, race, family structure, etc.) of the people who live within 10 square miles of my church?
    2. What are the greatest needs of those people?
    3. What is the commonly-held belief about the church, or my church specifically, among those people?
    4. What is valued the most? (i.e. family, sports, travel, etc.)

Work Through One Thing at a Time

Have you heard the saying, the jack of all trades is the master of none? Well, as you’re starting out with building your guest follow-up system, I think this is a good statement to hold on to. Eventually, you want to have all of the things mastered and I think that’s totally possible! But as you’re getting your feet wet and experimenting with how these different strategies work at your church, I think it’s important to go one at a time.

If you take on adding Plan A Visit to your website, introducing digital connect cards, updating the length and frequency of your guest follow-up messaging, and promoting a next step activity from the get-go... odds are a ball is going to be dropped. Unless you invest in a system to do this for you, it’s best to pace yourself and make sure you have one step down to a science before you move on to the next.

Delegate

If there is one leadership tool that is massively underutilized (especially in the church space) it is delegation. While some people like to make delegation synonymous with “pawing off” or “needing help”, the first word used to define delegate is entrust. It is a powerful thing to entrust someone with something. Specifically in terms of guest follow-up. I imagine there is someone at your church, either a staff person or volunteer, who would love getting to take the lead on a piece of this process. Delegating to them is allowing them to live into their gifts and passions, and I think that’s one of the best ways we get to live out being the body of Christ.

You see, delegating isn’t about micromanaging or getting rid of tasks you don’t want to do. It’s looking at the big picture and putting the right people in place to accomplish that. A great leader looks to equip other leaders so that growth is always an outcome. If you are in control of everything, eventually growth will bottleneck with you. You are gifted and passionate; that’s why you are in ministry. So how can you live into your area(s) and equip people on your team or in your church to do the same?

Technology Training

If embracing technology to connect with your first-time guests is a journey you are embarking on, first of all... FIST BUMP! Second of all, be patient with yourself and your team. Technology provides lots of wonderful tools, but they are also continuously developing, so it changes a lot. Commit to some training for yourself and/or your team to avoid the frustrations that new technology can bring. Additional training prepares you for updates, algorithm changes, and new tools come into play, as well.

ENGAGE Conference is one way to get a huge amount of FREE training on utilizing technology at your church. This is an all online conference that hosts over 35 speakers, all presenting on how to leverage technology to help your church guests and members, feel known, noticed, and loved. Grab a free ticket now; registration is open, but will close on February 12th!

Setting Boundaries

The one flaw I see in technology is also what makes it so great. It is almost always accessible. So, the temptation to be available all the time, to be responding to messages all the time, to be posting on social all the time, is greater than ever. I urge you: resist this temptation! 

I work for a tech company, okay, I LOVE this stuff. But the goal of all of it is to allow technology to do some of the leg work for you. Not to monopolize more of your time. So, set up some boundaries for yourself. Maybe this means you take notifications off your phone, or you block out time on your calendar to work on guest follow-up and then don’t look the rest of the workday. But let the tools work for YOU, not the other way around.

This is another reason why having a team working on this together is so helpful.  You aren’t the only one responsible for responding to messages and such.

Create Systems to Save Time

Text In Church is a comprehensive communication platform built for churches. It allows for scheduled and automated messaging, it organizes people into groups, comes with unlimited keywords, digital connect cards, and a Plan A Visit feature for your website. So, it can essentially do most of this for you :) Start a free trial of Text In Church today so you can see how easy it is to build a guest follow-up plan that leaves your guests feeling known, noticed, and loved.


Conclusion

To bring this all full circle, let’s go through each of the critical steps to having a holistic guest follow-up system at your church…

    1. Get obsessed with your first-time guests!
    2. Gather their contact information!
    3. Connect with them in meaningful, and plenty of, ways!
    4. Build a system to make it sustainable!

As you begin the process of building a sustainable follow-up system, remember these 6 must-have steps…

    1. Assess your current guest follow-up plan: what’s working, what’s not, what are the greatest needs, etc.
    2. Work through one thing at a time: don’t try to and do all the things right away!  Pick one step or process, master it, and then move on.
    3. Delegate: find talented and passionate people on your staff or in your congregation and equip them to lead in meaningful ways!
    4. Technology training: invest in some ongoing training for yourself and your staff/volunteers. ENGAGE Conference is a great, FREE, all online option!
    5. Set Boundaries: remember that you don’t have to do everything and you don’t have to do it all the time. Lean into the people who are helping you and create some boundaries to stay emotionally healthy!
    6. Create systems to save time: leverage the technology tools at your disposal to automate some of this for you. Text In Church is a great time saver that offers you a full package deal!