This blog post is a continuation in our series of crafting the most effective guest follow up process around! If you’ve missed any of the previous posts, can I encourage you to take 5 minutes and read through those? These posts all build on each other and are so jam packed with great information; I don’t want you to miss any of it! The series began with a call to Get Obsessed with your first-time guests. Then, we moved along to step one, Gathering guests’ contact information.
Now, we are going to move on to step two of an insanely effective follow-up process, which is connection. We have seen the importance of preparing for our guests, gathering their contact information, and now we get to look at the meat of this whole process. How do we take all of the hard work we’ve done, and apply it in a way that allows us to genuinely connect with our first-time guests?
We work with thousands of pastors at Text In Church. Doing so has taught us a LOT. We’ve been great listeners to what works, and what doesn’t. What we’ve found is there are 5 tangible things you can do to connect with first-time guests.
What are the 5 Most Effective Church Guest Follow-up Tools?
1. Call Them
2. Email Them
3. Text Them
4. Mug (or Gift) Them
5. Mail Them
The truth is, we all communicate in different ways, so what is convenient for one guest may not be convenient for a different guest. That is why you need to have all 5 tools in place so no one falls through the cracks.
It seems easy, right? But where do you start? Don’t worry, I’ll walk you through every step...
1. Call Them
Within the first week, give the guest a call thanking them for coming to your church. Let them know you are there if they have any questions. Ask them if there is anything that could have made their experience better, but don’t stay on the phone for a long time unless they are the one that continues the conversation.
"Hello! This is Jason from City Church and we just wanted to call and thank you for joining us on Sunday! We wanted to see if you had any questions and invite you to join us again this coming weekend."
Now, I know what you are thinking. “No one calls anymore, I can skip this one!” You’re right, most people in the younger generation don’t like to talk on the phone anymore. But I urge you, don’t skip this step! Most likely the person will not have your number so they won’t answer the phone, but that leaves you an opportunity to leave them a voicemail. That means a lot to people and validates to them that you thought of them.
2. Email Them
Within the first week, send them an email thanking them for taking time out of their weekend to worship with you. Give them links to your website, Facebook page, or podcast. Let them know you are just an email away if they have any questions! Want to know a great engagement trick? End your email with a question. That puts the ball in their court and gives them a reason to respond.
“Hey James! I’m so glad you were able to come visit City Church on Sunday! We have lots of ways we try and stay connected; you can find us on Facebook @CityChurch, check out our podcast called City Church Chats, or get information from our website citychurch.com. My personal favorite way to connect is over coffee :) Are you a coffee drinker?"
Now… your job isn’t done. You should also email them once a week for the next 6 weeks inviting them to church on Sunday or to an informal gathering where they can learn more about your church.
3. Text Them
We all text. Even my grandmother texts. 98% of texts are read, so if you skip out on this one, you are missing one of the biggest opportunities to engage with these guests. The content doesn’t need to be mind-blowing… just a simple “thanks for coming” goes a long way. We also recommend sending a text message on Friday or Saturday in the coming weeks to keep yourself front of mind as they make their weekend plans.
“Hi James- We hope to see you tomorrow @ City Church! ~ Pastor Jason”
4. Mug (or Gift) Them
Everyone likes free stuff! Whether it’s a coffee mug or a Starbucks gift card, make sure you make your guests feel important and valued by providing a small token of your appreciation for their presence at your church.
You can do this by asking them to head to the welcome center for a free gift, or by requesting their address on the physical or digital connect card. Then, simply drop it by their front door (don’t be a lurker and invite yourself in).
5. Mail Them
With the increasing amount of media that comes our way through technology, a handwritten note goes a long way. In the first week or two of them visiting, send them a quick message in the mail.
“Hey there James!Thanks for joining us on Sunday. We hope to see you this weekend, and want you to know we are here for you if you have any questions or things we can pray for you about.”
If you’re reading through this and worrying about how to get all of the information you need to complete all 5 of these, go back and take a look at our Connection Cards Post and our Gather post. All the strategy you need is there!
How long should I follow-up with first-time church guests?
Let me preface this by saying every church is different, depending on your congregation, but there are 3 things to keep in mind…
Duration, frequency and content. Let's take a closer look at each...
Duration is how long you will follow-up with your guests from the first time they visit. Do you think that sending out one quick letter or email will be enough? The answer is no. You will want to follow-up for about six weeks.
Imagine a family visiting your church for the first time. They enjoy the service, and the children’s program rocked; however, they do not come back the next week or ever. Why is that? Well, sadly this is an ever-increasing issue with churches across America. One of the main reasons is that they have not gotten into the habit of going to church, so it is easy to forget about it. In fact, they have the life habit of NOT going to church.
As a church, it is your job to help begin the new habit of attending church. One phone call will not help them get up early Sunday morning after a late-night movie on Saturday. Nor will one email help convince them to get their children awake, fed, cleaned and dressed to attend a worship service. It takes time and patience to develop new habits and to break old ones.
We recommend visitor follow-up to be six weeks long to help break that habit and get them fully invested in your church and ministry. That is not to say that you contact them every day… which brings us to the next section; frequency.
Frequency must be gauged and based on your environment, congregation, and an overall feel in the community. What might be too much in one setting might be too little in another.
We find that, in general, once or twice a week is the sweet spot. We want to stay front of mind for your guests, especially on a Saturday when they are making their plans for Sunday. Having the right frequency at the right time makes all the difference.
We already laid out the content strategy for you above with the 5 proven ways to follow up. Now it’s time to intentionally craft the messaging that will accompany each of the 5 strategies. Text In Church is all about helping pastors use technology to facilitate human interaction.
With that goal in mind, we have found that the most important characteristic of your messaging needs to be that it’s personal. Include people’s first names, be casual - like you’re talking to a friend! Remember that your goal is to build a relationship with them, so your tone should reflect that. A formal, scripted message isn’t going to encourage interaction from the recipient.
In addition to being personal, be engaging. Ask them questions that make them want to respond to your message and keep the conversation going. Keep the messages short and sweet; no need for a novel simply to invite them back to church :)
Finally, give them the next step. Whether it’s coming back next week, attending a lunch or event, or signing up for a small group, give them a call to action.
We have actually spent a lot of time crafting these different messages for churches. We’ve learned a lot from the pastors we work with and have come up with 16 templates to cover your 6 weeks' worth of follow-up. Feel free to use as-is or tweak to fit your needs!
There are 5 proven ways to follow up with guests to ensure they feel valued and pursued…
Call Them: Even if you have to leave a voicemail, it can be just what a person needs to feel that you care.
Email Them: Still the most used communication method
Text Them: By far the most effective communication method (98% of texts are read!)
Mug (or Gift) Them: It's a nice gesture to build trust, especially if it's thoughtful and unique
Mail Them: Getting a hand-written note or card in the mailbox tells your people they are worth it
Executing these 5 steps over the appropriate timeline (we recommend 6 weeks) will keep your church at the front of peoples’ minds and, most importantly, create a sense of community for them where they feel known, noticed, and loved.