In a recent post, I talked about the importance of following up with first-time guests (FTGs). On either side of that process, there are often assumptions: the assumption from the guest is that if they give a church their contact information, someone will actually follow up. The assumption from the church (or church staff member) is often that follow up is a hassle, either on them or for the guest.
Hopefully you are convinced that follow up is important, but how exactly should your first-time follow up be structured? If you want to effectively follow up with guests, you have to have an effective process. It can’t just happen…you have to plan for it!
Here are seven steps to structuring your follow up:
- Determine the “right” number of touch points.
I say “right” because it’s not one size fits all. There are going to be different churches that have different levels of comfort with the number of times you reach out to a guest. I define a touch point as any method that you use to connect with a guest. Your first-time guest process on their first weekend is one (or a series of) touch points. Each letter or email you send, each phone call you make, each weeks-later follow up is a touch point. If you spend some time mapping your guest’s journey, it’ll help make your follow up process clear to your team.
- Implement a place and a process for capturing information.
You can’t follow up with guests if you have no information to follow up on. That’s why you need a visible place for guests to make themselves known (I highly recommend a First-Time Guest Tent), and a simple way to capture information. We currently use an info card at some of our campuses, but are transitioning to iPads and digital data entry. We’ve also experimented with texting in information, QR code scanning, and more. The point is not necessarily what you do, it’s that you do. And that your FTGs understand that the process is for their benefit, not your own.
- Dump all newcomer info into the same pot.
Maybe you have some FTGs who stop by your tent, some who make themselves known when they check their kids in, and a precious few who may self-identify when they arrive in a smaller discipleship environment. Whatever the intake process, make sure everything is going into the same database or spreadsheet for a standard follow up. Getting one contact from a church you just visited is appreciated. Getting four contacts from four different ministry leaders who live in a silo? Well that can be annoying.
- Have a failsafe and foolproof follow up method.
We’re getting to the personal touch in a moment, but let’s acknowledge that personal touches sometimes crash and burn if the person forgets to deliver the personal touch. That’s why sometime after the weekend service (and no later than Monday afternoon), you need a standard boilerplate “thanks for coming” touch point that goes out to every first-time guest. This can be a text, an email, or a snail mail letter, but adding this one standardized step will make sure no one gets left behind.
- Have a personal touch.
At some point in the process, your guest needs to feel like they’re not just a face in the crowd. A personal phone call from a staff member, a hand-written card, or even a quick text using their name will mean a lot to them. Me? I opt for a phone call every single time (see this post for details). And if you get a voicemail on that first try (which you will, 80% of the time), leave a message and let them know you’ll call back the next day at the same time. In my experience, I find that on round two, I get an 80% answer rate. Not a bad return on investment!
- Give them a clear next step.
Maybe it’s a newcomers class, or pizza with the pastor, or a small group connection event, or whatever you offer in your context. Don’t assume that they know what they should do next…tell them. Encourage them to step into the process you’ve created for them. And by the way, if you haven’t created a next step, now is the time!
- Follow up after your follow up.
Don’t assume that everyone is going to get involved at the time you’ve prescribed. Life happens, people get busy, and their good intentions get forgotten about. So figure out the best time to check back in…two weeks later, two months later…whatever works best in your context. And go through the effort of making sure they haven’t taken a step. Nothing screams “impersonal” than asking a newcomer to attend a newcomers class that they already attended a year earlier…shortly before becoming a member and starting to lead a small group. (Yikes.)
What are your tried-and-true methods of following up with first-timers?
Posted on September 23, 2022
Danny Franks is the Pastor of Guest Services at The Summit Church in Durham, North Carolina, and the author of People Are the Mission: How Churches Can Welcome Guests Without Compromising the Gospel. Read more from Danny at www.dfranks.com
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