8 Effective Ways to Follow Up With Guests at Your Church
Podcast: Play in new window | Download | Embed
Subscribe: Apple Podcasts | Spotify | RSS | More
You spend a lot of energy attempting to get people to attend your church. You craft great experiences with fantastic music and engaging teaching. You advertise your church through a number of ways so people in your community know you exist. You’ve trained your volunteer teams to do a great job to serve guests as they arrive. But what do you do when guests actually arrive to follow up with them after they visit? Here are some simple ways to start following with your guests … I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments!
- Acknowledge Their Presence // Make sure to take time during the service to publicly acknowledge that there are guests in the service! Pointing out to your guests that you know that they are with you in the start of effective follow up.
- Invite to Action // Beyond just acknowledging that guests are with you make sure you have a clear “call to action” during the service for people new to your church. Have something specific that you ask them to do … that doesn’t embarrass them! For us we ask them to fill out a “New Here” card that’s in our program and drop it off at the “New Here Kiosk” in the foyer where they can get a free t-shirt. Do this call to action during every service … don’t miss it.
- Free Gift // Give your guests a free gift as a thank you for coming to visit your church. Choose your gift wisely … pick something that your guests would actually like. For us we switched from a “chocolate bar and some flyers” to a t-shirt and saw a 400% increase in the number of guests willing to self identify themselves.
- Postcards Ready to Go! // Have some postcards with stamps already to send to new people. If a new kid checks into your program … have a small group leader write out a quick note on that postcard, get the address off the “new here” information card and then drop it in the mail on the way home. Have your guest services people working the “New Here” area write notes to the people they talked with … and then drop them in the mail right away!
- Delayed Emails // After you enter the data from the “New Here” information card into your database set up an email (or two) to send out to your guests to invite them to come back. You can do this with systems like Boomerang for Gmail, Constant Contact or Mail Chimp. The goal of these emails is to welcome them to your church, invite them to come back the next weekend and get to know your church a little more.
- Engage Your Regulars // Make sure that you design your follow up system so there are flags for your regular people to engage in the process. One of the ways we do that is that we package the t-shirts we give away in white bags … so they stick out in the crowd after we give them to guests. We then train our “insiders” to be on the look out for those white bags … and ask them to get to know these first time guests!
- Regular “New Here” Reception // Host a regular (monthly … bi-weekly?) reception for your guests. This gives you something to be talking to them about in all of your other communications and provides a great next step for guests. The Harvest Bible Church Planting movement encourages their plants to host regular “Party with the Pastor” events to help connect with new comers … Northpoint’s NEXT environment would be another choice to look at if you are looking for examples of what to do at these events.
- Snail Mail Them // We’ve been experimenting with a quarterly “recall” mailing to all of our first time guests. This piece arrives at the beginning of a season and tells our guests about what the expect in a bunch of different areas of our church. The big idea is that helps to remind our guests that we’re still here and that we’d love to have them join us.
Creating clear and deliberate next steps for your guests is important. When people are first checking out your church for the first time it needs to be obvious what they are suppose to do next. Make sure to design whatever you do with your guests in mind … what do they need when they first arrive with your church?
Bonus Idea: We stopped using the language of “First Time Guest” at our church and switched to “New Here”. This was a simple switch but it helped us reach more of who wanted to reach. People are unlikely to identify on their first time time with you … but when they come back a second or third time we want to them to be able to “opt-in” to our follow up process.
[…] Rich Birch: 8 Effective Ways to Follow Up With Guests at Your Church […]
Great thoughts thanks! I like the “New Here” terminology.
Loved this post it really got us thinking here!!!
I wondered if I could see a pic of the shirt you give out to guests?? Also do you give one to each guest or one per couple/family?
Thanks for all your help!!!
Glad that it got you guys thinking! I’d love to hear what changes you make because of it.
Here is a picture of our most recent shirt: http://db.tt/xI0SZV0z You can see that the shirts come pre-paint splattered!
We give out one per guest … we package them up in a bag with a few other brochures about the church.
Let me know if I can help in any other way.
Rich, great post. What do the T-shirts say?
Looks like I missed the exchange above. Sorry! So are these “new here” cards in every bulletin or do they pick them up somewhere else? Is the picture you posted the front of the New Here? card?
Glad you saw the picture! 🙂
The “New Here” cards are in every program. They are printed on card stock so they feel heavier than everything else. We just ask people to pull them out of their program and fill them out. We have them in every bulletin because we want as low friction as possible for our first time guests to give us information on them. We know that most people don’t fill them out … but it’s that important to connect with our guests.
Great ideas…. going to share this link with several small ministries we work with! I love the t-shirt gift…. gives them a connection and something tangible. Thanks for the inspiration! Have a great week!!
[…] Check This Out // 8 Effective Ways to Follow Up With Guests at Your Church […]
Really like all your helpful insights! I see some folks are using the card in the bulletin to gather info. We do not have a weekly handout and being Canadian, struggle to find a polite way to obtain personal info. That’s the challenge we face. What do you think? What innovative ways can we engage our guests in a small church. I know, small, what’s the issue? It seems to be even more difficult to make a natural request for personal info in a smaller gathering.
Thanks for reaching out … do you do a “new here” gift? I would start there … give away something that people would like in exchange for the card. Does’t need to be overbearing … people will gladly give it to you.
Is that Canadian enough? 🙂
Ya, t-shirts are ok. I was wondering about some back bacon and possibly branded tuques? Lol
Thanks Rich for the great idea on the “new here” language! On a different note, do you have any ideas for identifying how many first-time guests show up on a weekend? While I understand that many first-time guests need their anonymity and it is healthy to respect that, what I am really trying to ask is if there is a way of determining how many first-time guests we have, without asking them to reveal who they are until they are ready? I can only think of having them fill out some kind of card, but that by necessity breaks the anonymity. Over the course of four services how do go about getting a proper gauge on just how many first-time guests you actually have? Any ideas would be much appreciated!
Thanks for dropping by.
The best thing to do is to offer some sort of gift that people will actually want in exchange for their contact information… For us it’s a free tshirt. We use the data from those people who take a shirt in exchange for their “new here” card to contact them again in the future.
Thanks for this post we’ve thought about this a lot but always seems to come unstuck with the actual doing. I was interested in the Canadian nuance, we’re Australian and there’s a bit of a difference for us too, but I think we can work with what you’ve given here. Thanks again
Thanks for the feedback … I’d love to hear how you’d nuance this for an Australian community!
hi… can i have a picture of how the t shirts for the first timers look like?
Hi Rich, love the shirt idea as it’s my job (Guest Services) to reach out to new guests. As you know, a “new guests” can be one that has sat in our pews for a year but they have finally felt able to take this card to what we call “Starting Point”. I’d like your opinion on our information area we call “Starting Point”, is that too churchy and might it actually scare guests who don’t want to “start anyhting”, they just want a shirt and info? We do monthly “journals” here so do you think having the cards in the back of the chairs would be effective enough if we acklowledge them, fill one out, and take to lobby? Seems to me “Welcome Center” or “Guests Services” would be less intimidating than “Starting Point” to new guests? Thanks for your insights, God bless as we reach the lost! Dave
Hmm… I can see your point. You want to have your guests start a journey but they are probably too early in the conversation to commit to that.
We can it New Here for that reason… It makes it super obvious… People go to that area who are New Here. We don’t want people to think too much about it and we want a really low barrier at the start.
In regards to your experimenting with “quarterly recall” mailings. How did that go? I am trying to come up with a way I can reconnect with folks I haven’t seen in a while. I had thought about writing a hand written note card, but here in the Northwest I don’t think the, “Haven’t seen you in a while..”, letter from the pastor would be effective. I’m trying to think of other verbiage that reminds them of the church and that we’ve been thinking about them without the guilt that the “Haven’t seen you..” letter would generate. Any suggestions?
Some church’s write a letter and offer a gift. For example we have a gift for you at our Welcome/New Here table. Just make sure you have a gift waiting for them when they show up. One suggestion was to have the pastor or someone write a short personal note and put it on the gift. The example I saw was a coffee mug with a sticky note personalized for the person.
I’ve actually seen the t-shirt used at another church very successfully also!
Another phrase like “new here kiosk” is “guest central”. This would be a place where they can find church greeters, get their T-shirt, and self log their vital info into an iPad instantly if preferred to card response. Works well while standing at a bar height round table for good eye contact. 🙂
Great ideas! Thanks for dropping by.
I can also attest to how well the party with the pastors works at Harvest Bible Chapel as it is what hooked me in 15 years ago! I have since moved out of Illinois and into California, but still use some of their welcome techniques at our church.
This is a cool list for figuring out Christmas follow ups!
[…] 8 Effective Ways to Follow Up With Guests at Your Church This is an old post, but a timely one with Christmas follow ups coming soon. […]
[…] Birch offers some solid tips on following up with guests who visit your church in this UNSEMINARY post. You will want to check it […]
Thanks for the article. I love the idea of T-shirt..
Pls can you mail me the format of the “new here” card.
Rich, This is a very helpful piece.
I was just made the Head of follow-up department in my church.
I will start implementing it for my church follow-up.
Thanks very much.
Thanks so much for the kind words!
GREAT POINT made in the first paragraph — reaching vs effort keeping!!!!!!
love the t-shirt idea!
[…] You’re going to work hard to ask people to invite their friends … be ready for it and ensure a multiplicity of ways to follow up with the guests. Time the “Wow! Weekend” so it leads into the next season of ministry for your church. Point to […]
This is really inspiring and helpful, by Gods Grace , i am in follow up department in my church. i like the idea of T. shirts and the name “New Here” wow! thats great.
Thank you for this very thought provoking.
Hey there Rich,
One of our most effective follow up steategies involved warm, freash baked cookies. Following worship, a small team of volunteers would bake a dozen cookies from pre-measured frozen dough from GFS -1 doz per visiting family. We put them in small baker boxes with a personalized hand written note. Volunteer couples/families delivered them to the visitors homes within hours of their visit to our church. Just delivered – no evangelism, no sales pitch… just “thanks for joining us today – we hope this is a sweet reminder of your visit.” Lots of returned visits!
Just stumbled into this now and found it quite insightful and helpful. Thanks a bunch!
Everything about the piece is on point.
Could you please advice on how we can best keep in touch with the “New Here” guys when they are gone after their first visit?
My husband has been out of church for 2 months because of reconstructive ankle / foot surgery and he has not gotten a call from anyone at church in over a month. The man that got in touch with him a month ago is our neighbor across the street. I’ve missed too because I’ve been helping him. So I’ve missed Womens bible study a lot but the head of the study has not called or checked on me. It’s ok because we will go back when we can but it seems strange. We are regulars. Should I volunteer to be a follow up person? I don’t think they have a department for that.
Thanks for reaching … sorry about your husband’s ankle! Thanks for serving him so well during this tough season.
I think it’s a great idea to reach out to a leader you know at the church and ask if you could help in this area.
Hello. fantastic job. I did not imagine this. This is a great story. Thanks!
[…] 8 Effective Ways to Follow Up With Guests at Your Church […]