There are several aspects of a proper guest strategy that has nothing to do with digital tools. Your process is number #1.
Your process also varies based on your church culture, your church resources, and your church mission.
What is central to all churches is the commission to make disciples of men. When most churches think about their most challenging area, they think about their ability to attract and connect with first-time guests.
The end goal is to get new guests from “new believer” status towards discipleship so they can repeat the cycle. The biggest challenge, after finding creative ways to attract people to your church, is how do you get them to be engaged in and coming back to your church!
There are a couple of things you need to think about as you develop your guest follow-up process.
- Technology is only a tool. Your process is king.
- Your process varies from church to church and from year to year as the world changes.
- Your process should be fairly fluid to allow for input and agile enough to adapt as you grow.
- Train your guest follow-up team and make your process people-focused, yet still independent of any particular person. In other words, your system should work, regardless of who is available to run it.
- Start with your process and focus on your target audience. Then, recruit and train the people. Look for the technology that can help scale your workflow.
As you think about that, you might also be wondering exactly how do I go about working on this process? Here is a very brief overview.
- Open an Evernote, Google doc (my fav) or Word doc. A whiteboard at your church along with sticky notes can also work well (if your team's schedule will allow for it).
- Create avatars (Chapter 3) of the people who are likely to walk through your church. Some examples of groups of people in your target market might be:
* Retirees in the local area
* Young couples with no children
* Homeless and mentally ill people in the local area
* College students and recent grads.
Look at your list and find patterns. You might come up with 4 profiles. Here’s Alyght’s helpful template for churches --> Download
- List everything that you are currently doing to follow-up with guests. Rank them.
- List the things you would like to add to the process.
- Ensure that what you are doing and what you want to do has an impact and can match your avatars’ lifestyles. Remove all the things you might be doing that don’t help with your end goal—yes, even the cool ones.
For #5, consider a chart—something like Stephen Covey’s quadrants. You can consider replacing Urgent with Working and Dates with Ideas.
Pro tip: Planning your guest follow-up process starts with and includes your online and offline outreach plan. It’s more of a Step 2 in your outreach process. Check out the process discussed in this book, Rethink Ministry, or on this blog series, Online-to-Offline Church.
Discovery: You actually might discover that you require more than one follow-up process. Most churches would cringe at the work that is required, but effective churches recognize that you are already spending time, talent, and treasure in getting people to your door. Like in business, it’s easier to keep and 'upsell' someone who walks through your church than it is to convince someone who hasn’t even heard about you. And yes, we do have something amazing to 'sell'. It isn’t just the weekend service.
Rookie mistakes: The usual situation for many churches is a constant flow of new guests entering the church and then 'hoping and praying’ that the new guests become disciples. These churches ignore the power of having a flexible and person-centered follow-up plan by doing the same process for all. One size may not fit all. If you spend more time with your guest follow-up and new member assimilation process, empowered by the Holy Spirit, you will see healthy church growth, increased donations, and a higher number of engaged disciples for Christ.
Solution: But here’s one of the kickers that can immediately improve any guest follow-up process. Based on working with hundreds of churches over the last 5 years, we can conclude what you might already suspect. Adding text messaging to any guest follow-up process will instantly increase engagement. Here’s what we have seen about church member engagement: other mediums engage members 10% of the time at most while text engages members upwards of 90%. If you average out this engagement over all your mediums, you get an impressive 35-50% for your entire church. That’s huge! See why (Text vs. Email vs. Push).
The ONE thing: So, even if you don’t have the time to revamp your entire guest follow-up process, just adding text as part of your process is going to be a win.
And based on our experience, adding text as the 1st follow-up step (to be sent on Monday after your weekend service—not calling or sending an email) is the most effective action you can take.
SO finally, what guest follow-up process would I recommend for your church? The one you create based on my notes above but here’s one that can be a good ‘one size fits all’ option.
Step 0: Don’t wait until your guests leave to consider sending them a gift card or another carrot. Give them your best gifts and treatment while they are at church for the first time. There are dozens of books and experts on these aspects, so you can explore other ideas, but the key is to ensure they don’t leave without getting something from you, in addition to a welcoming, genuine experience.
Step 1: Text and a Handwritten Note
Step 1a: Send a text message on Monday after your weekend service. This is the text that works best for our churches: Hi, (guest name), this is (your name) one of the (your role) at (your church name). Thanks for joining us this past wknd. Have a great day & know we are praying for you. Here it is ‘in action’ using PastorsLine.
Just stopping at this point and re-engaging when the guest replies work really well.
If you could not get them to engage after this step, chances are, they are not interested at that moment.
Step 1b: Initiate a handwritten note from one of your pastors (and/or include a gift card) to be mailed out if you have their address. Packed and ready to go by Tuesday. Ideally, they should get this note before the next weekend. If local, it should arrive within 2-3 business days (Thursday or Friday).
Step 2: Call / Voicemail and Email
Step 2a: Wait 2 days then call the guest, and ensure you leave a short clear voicemail, similar to #1. Even if they don't pick up, many are able to see the voicemail transcribed into a text.
Step 2b: Follow up immediately with an email, referencing the call made or voicemail left. #NinjaTrick for full engagement.
Step 3: Evaluate and Next Steps
Step 3: Stop—Don’t overdo it.
By this point, if you weren’t able to engage with your guests via text, either you probably had their landline or they are not interested. Mark this guest as requiring longer nurturing. This long-term nurturing is a different process. It might be done by the 'follow-up team' or a different one. It might include a mix of occasional personalized emails and texts.
DO: Group this visitor with clear tags/notes so you can follow up based on what they are likely to be interested in. Say, for example, they attended an Easter weekend. You might be able to follow up with them next Easter. But be cautious about overdoing.
DON’T: Add them to any general, follow-up programs. For example, they didn’t sign up to be added to your church events list, so don’t ‘help’ them by including their name. Keep any long-term follow-up very specific to what their interest is most likely.
So, to recap:
- Text + hand-written note.
- Call, leave a voicemail if they did not pick up, and send an email, immediately.
- Add to long-term nurturing sequence.
Many solutions might offer you an easy way to automate several follow-up texts. In our experience, though you might get a higher engagement, you might actually turn off many others—too many automated, follow-up texts may appear as disingenuous or awkward. Think the '1 sheep biblical concept'.
The power of using a personalized local number and sending at least one text is to promote conversation. Just automating disregards the guest as a person and makes them, instead, a cog in your discipleship-making factory.
Looking at the above list, we have found that most churches are just doing #1 and using a very similar template to engage. Just adding this step, with text, is very effective. The new guests are likely to reply and you can build a relationship. Remember, our role, a lot of times, is just to plant the seed. You are not likely to convert all first-time guests as many of them may not be a fit for your style of worship, might just visiting that weekend, or on a delayed spiritual journey.
Your guest follow-up process can’t work faster than or better than the Holy Spirit. Let the seed flourish.
Unlike businesses, it’s not just about the numbers, but once you follow some of the tips in this blog, you are likely to engage and see a larger pool of guest transition through the cycle of evangelism.
NEW: Digital Connect Texts
Your weekend services are too important to let any new guests fall through the cracks.
Let us help you reach more guests by adding our Digital Connect Texts to your service this weekend.