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5 Ways Your Church Can Stay Connected to Guests After They Visit

Last week, we revealed data on the research we’ve been doing over the past year concerning how churches are following-up with their visitors.  Here’s what we found:

“More than 75% of the time churches aren’t following up
with visitors that leave their contact information.”

Churches are missing out on following up with first-time (or second, or third-time) guests in a big way and the message being sent is that people who want to get plugged into a church aren’t important. In business (yes, I know churches aren’t businesses, but hear me out) they understand that if a customer expresses interest in something and doesn’t get a response, they likely aren’t going to do business with that company. The same is true for our churches. If a guest hears your call from the pulpit encouraging them to leave their contact information and then you don’t contact them, they take that to mean you aren’t interested, and they likely won’t come back again.

We are approaching one of the highest attended services of the year (Christmas) and this year, Christmas day happens to fall on a Sunday. Many churches will be holding services on those days and seeing a lot of first-time guests. Now is the right time to prepare for that so you aren’t wasting your opportunity. Things you need to remember:

  1. Don’t Wait. Remember that if someone leaves you their information that means they WANT to hear from you. Follow up quickly (within 24-36 hours).
  1. Make contact in a unique and personal way. People are desensitized to emails and form letters. They are impersonal and don’t leave a lasting impression. Consider a brief front-porch visit with a small gift in tow, such as fresh baked bread. If a visit isn’t something you want to do, consider a hand-written note. Either of those set you apart from the barrage of communication they receive each week.
  1. Don’t quit. Invite them back the following Sunday. Another contact on Thursday or Friday is a great way to remind them about the church and that you are hoping to see them again. Too often, churches send out a one-time letter thanking a guest for coming and then the outreach ends. While we certainly don’t want to bombard people with communications, we also don’t want to stop after one try. You never know when that one touch is going to be what drives a person to consider coming back to the church.
  1. Stay connected. Add guests to your monthly e-note or newsletter, invite them to upcoming events, seeker-friendly message series, and special services such as Easter and Christmas. You never know which time could make the difference in getting them to return.
  1. Do it. Make guest follow-up part of your weekly tasks. The only bad follow-up is not following up at all.

Remember the part in the book of Matthew where Jesus tells His disciples to go and make disciples of all nations? That’s exactly what this is. Following up with guests is a ministry outreach arm of the church. You’ve succeeded in getting them to come and to leave their contact information. Here is where ministry can start to happen, but it won’t happen if you aren’t intentional about doing it.

About Faith Perceptions
Faith Perceptions is a market research firm that provides churches and faith-based organizations with research about their target market. We send mystery guests into churches across the country each week to report back to us on what their experiences are like. We use this information to help churches improve the way they welcome and connect with guests. Faith Perceptions has been evaluating the first-time guest experience since 2008.

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Guest Follow-Up: Why It Matters and Why It’s Not Happening

I went for a job interview. I remembered to smile, sit up straight, and not give canned answers. After the interview they said I’d definitely hear from them soon. They never contacted me.

I had a nice evening out with a friend of a friend. I gave my phone number, but never received a call.

My family attended a new church and loved it! The church asked us to fill out a connect card so that we could stay in touch with what was happening at the church and hopefully get connected. It’s been months…and still no contact.

What do these three scenarios have in common? Rejection.

Over the years, we’ve noticed in our research that churches weren’t being diligent in following up with guests. This past year, we decided to see if our anecdotal fears of the church not following up with people were factually based. In our study of the first-time guest experience, we concentrated specifically on guests that left their contact information with the church and tracked whether they received follow up.

About the Research
This research was conducted by Faith Perceptions using an online survey with a sample size of 1,341 adults who attended worship services at churches throughout the United States. The surveys were completed from October 2015 to September 2016.  First-time guests visited different churches of different sizes and denominations and, after being asked by the church to leave their contact information, 504 voluntarily chose to do so. After a period of 30 days following their visit to the church, Faith Perceptions followed up with each respondent to learn if the church had contacted them in any way. We found that only 119 (24%) of 504 respondents received follow up from the church.  Of the 504 adults that took part in this research, 359 were unchurched or dechurched.

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What’s the takeaway?
A meager 24% follow-up rate tells us that churches are neglecting the opportunity they have in connecting with guests. The message it sends to a guest is that the church doesn’t care and that they don’t matter.

Why aren’t churches following up?
In many of our conversations with church leaders, we learned that most do want to follow up, but don’t have a well-thought out process for doing so. There is often confusion on who should follow up and when. For those that have established a process, there is little to no accountability to ensure follow up is happening. Many pastors would like to do the follow up themselves, but lack the time and instead hope those appointed to do so are doing it.

Why it matters.
First things first, if someone gives you their contact information that means they WANT to hear from you. A set plan needs to be in place for following up quickly and consistently. Guest follow-up is a ministry, and just like any other ministry in your church, it needs attention. If you don’t have relevant programming and volunteers to staff your children’s ministry, do you think it will grow? Probably not. If you don’t put forth that same effort in reaching out to guests, your church probably isn’t going to grow, either.

What you can do.
Don’t wait. This is something your church can start doing today and it costs very little, if anything at all. Whether it’s making a phone call, sending an email, or dropping a postcard in the mail – contact should be made. Contacting a guest after they visit shows them they are a priority…that they matter. Regardless of how you do it…do it. The worst kind of church follow-up is no follow-up at all.

For some practical ways to start effectively following up with guests at your church, check out part two of this blog here.

About Faith Perceptions
Faith Perceptions is a market research firm that provides churches and faith-based organizations with research about their target market. We send mystery guests into churches across the country each week to report back to us what their experiences are like. We use this information to help churches improve the way they welcome and connect with guests. Faith Perceptions has been evaluating the first-time guest experience since 2008.