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

We are continuing on in our series to craft the most intentional, efficient, and effective follow-up system for first time guests.  We started out talking about how we have to get a little (a LOT) obsessed over our first time guests. If you haven’t read it yet, you want to. Trust me.

Once we feel fully prepared for first time guests, we can start planning out a process for collecting their contact information.

This may seem really obvious. “Of course we need contact information; how would we reach out to them without it?”  I’m glad you are in agreement.  However, knowing it’s essential and ensuring that you have a plan in place to collect it are two completely different things.

We like to refer to this process as “Gather.”  It’s the first part in our 3 step process and it’s absolutely foundational to the rest of the steps working!

We tend to get a little push back with some of these concepts. I think people have felt that this gets too calculated, too strategic. It feels pushy or salesy. That’s the last thing we want you, or your guests, to perceive. 

Our heart is to equip churches to communicate better and to use every tool at their fingertips to connect with their community. We know that not every strategy we present will work for every church. What we have developed are proven strategies, and lots of them, so that church leaders have a pot full of resources to try. 

Alright, so gathering strategies; there are four key gathering points we see churches utilizing successfully...

1.
 Connection Cards
2.  Welcome Speech
3.  Welcome Center
4.  Special Events

For both the Connection Cards and the Welcome Speech, I linked to other articles we’ve published on those two topics. I encourage you to take a read, because there is a lot of strategy in how you can be using both of those things. However, I’ll go over both of them briefly in this article as well.

Connection Cards

This is probably the most commonly used tool for gathering first time guests’ contact information, and it’s been used since the beginning of time! I can still quote the pastor from my childhood church…”if you would please take a moment and fill out the card in the seatback in front of you and place in the offertory tray, we will be in touch.” Connection cards are nothing new.  

However... (cue long, dramatic pause)

I don’t think there would be much response if the pitch to fill out a connection card was the same as the one used when I was a kid.  That’s why I think that the connection cards are so closely intertwined with the Welcome Speech.  We will talk through that in a minute, I was just itching to get there :)

The other key with connection cards is to consider using different forms of it. The paper version, the digital version, and the text to connect version. This serves to provide a comfortable means for all preferences.  For example, my grandfather will fill out a paper connection card every time. He’s comfortable with it, he knows what to expect, no questions asked. I, however, would never fill out a paper connection card. If I had the chance to meet someone at the Welcome Center and then they asked me to leave some info on their little tablet so they can follow up, I’m all in. So, the idea is... have options to fit different people’s preferences!

Welcome Speech

I’m going to say it again, make sure you go check out this article on crafting the Perfect Welcome Speech. Our friend, Adam McLaughlin has a whole video training series you can access through it as well that is super practical and applicable! There are even scripts you can easily download and tweak to fit your needs :)

Welcome Center

This is a natural gathering section for guests. You don’t have to call it the “welcome center” but name it something obviously intended for guests. Having a designated space for newbies without totally spotlighting them is super helpful and appreciated by guests.  The Welcome Center is a great spot to send people after service with some sort of action (remember what we talked about in the Welcome Speech?) Here are a few ideas…

1.  “Stop by the Welcome Center so we can meet you and give you a small gift to thank you for being here!"
2.  "If you’re new here and interested in meeting some great people, they’re waiting at the Welcome Center and would love to have you join them for lunch!”
3.  “Please feel free to stop by the Welcome Center after service for some coffee and donuts; we’d love the chance to connect with you!”

Give them a reason to go the Welcome Center. That way they don’t have to just saunter over there and hope someone notices them. That doesn’t feel good to anybody. Have people there excited to make new friends and who are really comfortable starting a conversation.  The Welcome Center is a great place to have information about ways people can get plugged in to your church (ministries, outreach, small groups, etc.). You can have sign ups for Sunday School and events that are happening. 

This is also an awesome spot to have your digital connection card. You can have the person running the table have your digital connection card up on a tablet or smartphone. Then, when a first time guest comes over, after connecting with them, the volunteer or staff person can ask if they’d be willing to share some information so that he or she can follow up. They either will say they already left information if you have other methods (paper connection card or text to connect), they will say no thanks, or they will say yes and be so glad you want to stay in touch with them! 

Sometimes, I think this step feels hard for some churches. But there’s really no risk and the opportunity for reward is HUGE! If you don’t ask… the answer is always “NO”.

Connection “Activities”

For these connection activities, I’m not talking about outreach events. These are things you can do semi-regularly, don’t cost you a lot of money, and are focused on engaging guests. Here are some ideas...

1.  Coffee With the Pastor(s) - Weekly or monthly coffee break with the pastor or staff; a casual environment where guests can get to know leadership
2.  Pizza Party for Visitors - A lunch immediately following service for new people to meet staff or members, however many people you want to try and feed :)
3.  Quarterly Connection - A quarterly event hosted for any new people within that quarter; can be a potluck, game night, or just coffee and desserts
4.  Introduction To City Church - A lunch hosted at church to allow guests to take the next step; more of a formal step to move from “guest” to “attendee”
5.  House Party - Have a staff person or a connected member host a gathering at their home for new families; super comfortable way to get people connected to each other

Conclusion

If there’s one thing I hope you take away it’s that you don’t need to feel guilt or shame in trying to collect information from people.

Remember, just like we shared our heart in developing these strategies, your heart is to connect with these people so that they will have a place to call home, people to call family, and a space to worship God. Thinking critically through these steps with your first time guests in mind is a gift to them.  

So, remember, “Gather” their information first. And if you don’t already have a good plan in place to do that, start with...

1.  Connection Cards - have a few options to fit different people’s preferences
2.  Welcome Speech - a strategic way to encourage your people to take action
3.  Welcome Center - a place to make a face-to-face connections with guests and members
4.  Connection Activities - offer one or two semi-regular events focused on engaging guests and building relationships


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