ENGAGE One Day 2020 Recap: What If You Ditched Your Welcome Letter and Branded Mug

This is a recap post from Blake Sabiston’s session at the 2020 ENGAGE One Day Conference. Blake serves at Crossings Community Church in Oklahoma.

A church’s hospitality must be remarkable during our worship services. But it is vital that this remarkable hospitality extends into the week as we follow-up with guests. In order to extend remarkable hospitality, we must do three things:

  1. We must harness the power of technology so each guest feels known and noticed.
  2. We must harness the power of creativity so each guest says, “Wow.”
  3. We must harness the power of teamwork so each guest is loved.

How Do We Harness the Power of Technology?

What technology do you have at your disposal? What can you implement or start using? Ultimately, the goal of harnessing technology is to make the guest want to come back. Make sure you have a process to help you remember your guest’s name and some basic information about them. Text In Church’s Smart Connect Card is a solid option, giving you the ability to connect with guests from your website, if they text-in, and on paper!

Blake’s church abandoned the traditional letter from the senior pastor and the accompanying cheap, branded gift. Even if the senior pastor actually took the time to write a personal letter (which is unlikely), most people simply don’t read snail mail. Which is why in a world of automation and dehumanization, the church needs to take hold of technological tools and resources and harness their power for the sake of the gospel and growing the kingdom one person at a time.

In place of the welcome letter, Blake’s church began to use Text in Church . They set up an automated workflow that immediately recognizes a guest that sends them a text and an email. The system uses their first name which makes them feel seen and known. The email has clickable links and contact information which allows the guest to do some research, call the church directly, or reply to the email. The system even allows the guest to reply to the text message that is sent to start a conversation.

Blake’s church also started using Calendly. Calendly syncs with the staff’s calendars and allows the guest to set up a time to speak with the pastor or a staff member for 20 minutes over the phone, Zoom, or Google Hangouts. Utilizing technology doesn’t mean that we’re able to press the easy button and be completely hands-off in our follow-up processes. Technology is a tool to be harnessed to make a personal difference for the kingdom of God one person at a time.

Harness the Power of Creativity

Many guest follow-up processes include a free gift: a branded mug, a t-shirt, a tote bag, etc. But unless a personal connection is made with a guest, it is likely that these gifts will end up in the trash, at Goodwill, or a million other places than in use by the guest. Instead of investing in gifts that do not leave a lasting impression, invest in the power of creativity so that each guest leaves and says, “Wow.”

Churches tend to borrow ideas from other churches, either one down the street or a great idea they saw on Instagram. The result is often an inauthentic process that guests recognize as such and to which they fail to respond as we hoped. To create an authentic process that is true to your church you must know and understand your church culture, DNA, and personality. Erwin McManus said, “You were created to be dangerously unique.” So was your local church. Your community is unique. Let your follow-up be an extension of your community. Crossings mails a dozen home-baked chocolate chip cookies in a branded cardboard box to each guest. Each box has a card that informs the guest that someone prayed for them by name before the box was sealed and put in the mail.

That isn’t to say that branded gifts have no place. Instead of using the branded gift as the entry point for guests, utilize branded gifts for someone who is going the extra mile. Give the coffee mug to the volunteer that prepares the coffee each week. Give the keychain to the volunteer that drives the shuttle bus. Fill the tote bag with school supplies and give it to a kid in your community who needs the supplies.

How can you surprise your guests during the week? What can you do that will set yourself apart, not just from other churches, but businesses, too? Jason Young, author of The Comeback Effect, wrote, “People are not comparing our church with another church or with other churches. They are actually comparing their experience at our church against their experiences with other brands, companies, and organizations they interact with on a regular basis.” Instead of driving brand loyalty through our follow-up gifts, let’s drive ourselves to help people become loyal to Jesus and His church.

Harness the Power of Teamwork

Ask yourself, “How do people feel about themselves after they spend time with us on a weekend?” Do they feel like your church can meet their needs? Do they feel like they could belong at your church? Do they feel like your church is a place where they want to invest their time? Questions this big can’t be answered the way we want if we work toward answering them alone.

Caring well and loving each guest is a form of hospitality. As leaders, we must recruit the right people that care deeply. Hebrews 13:2 reminds us, “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without even knowing it” (NIV). In The Wounded Healer, Henry Nowen pointed out, “It is a painful fact indeed to realize how poorly prepared most Christian leaders prove to be when they are invited to be spiritual leaders in the true sense.” Most leaders are used to thinking in terms of large-scale organizations, getting people together in churches, schools, and hospitals, and running the show as a circus director. Caring for and loving guests can be hard work. Teamwork helps us avoid the pitfall of becoming a circus director. Recruit volunteers to call people who haven’t visited your church in months to see if they have prayer requests. Recruit volunteers to be section leaders at your worship gathering and task them to welcome and care for people who sit in the same seat week after week. Encourage your staff to regularly make themselves available for walk-ins, phone calls, or virtual meetings. It’s in the little things that a team does over a long period of time that guests remember. Hospitality isn’t limited to a department, it defines each and every one of us.

Sometimes God has already assembled a team. Sometimes you have to build it.

People walk into your doors each and every week. You have the opportunity to harness technology, creativity, and teamwork to help ordinary people who are looking to take some next step with Jesus actually do it. Be ready to help them as they find and follow Him. Identify helpful technology (like Text in Church! ) to streamline follow-up. Determine a follow-up strategy that represents your church’s personality and culture well that will leave your guest saying, “Wow!” Build, equip, and deploy your team to demonstrate hospitality that shows people they belong in your community.

Extending hospitality to guests throughout the week after they attend your gathering is a great way to help your guests build loyalty to Jesus and His church.