Last Update 3rd October, 2016.
Many pastors and church leaders wonder why people visit their church but then don’t stay.
They spend a good deal of time and effort to organise an ‘Invite a Friend to Church Sunday’ only to be frustrated in the absence of a second visit.
A good follow up plan for church guests will help your church to be ‘stickier’.
There is a much higher likelihood of a one time visitor committing to your church than someone who has never even heard of your church.
A church looking to grow their congregation should have an effective follow up plan in place.
You may have members in your congregation who have invested a lot of time in personal evangelism and talking to their friends about Jesus.
You can honour that by making sure you have a great follow up system in place.
When it comes to church follow up, it’s important to get the balance right – on the one hand you don’t want to scare people aware by being too aggressive in your follow up, but you want to let people know that you’re interested in them also.
Sometimes there’s a fine line between someone feeling welcome or feeling harassed.
The Key to Effective Follow Up of Church Visitors
As obvious as this might sound – you need your guest’s contact details!
Some people may be hesitant in giving you their contact info until there’s a certain level of trust built and if this is the case then that’s fine, just give them space.
If you have at least a name and number however, this gives you the opportunity to take the initiative.
There are certain points within your church service where contact details can be given:
- The Welcome Team ask for details as guests walk through the door
- Have a guest book on the welcoming table
- Have newcomer cards that can be put into the offering plate
- Offering envelopes
- Children’s church/nursery registration
- Bookstore/table giveaway
However the contact information is obtained, a reliable system of follow up must be ready and in place.
At the very least the visitor should receive a letter from the pastor within a couple of days.
How to spot visitors in a large church?
In a small church it’s easy to sport the first-timers, in a bigger church though this could become an issue.
A genius way round this is by having church welcome packs ready.
During the service, ask visitors to raise their hands so ushers can hand them out.
This makes visitors really easy to spot and it hopefully encourages the leadership team to make an effort to speak to that person.
6 Ideas to Follow Up Church Visitors Effectively
Note: I’m not suggesting for a second you do all of these! My main purpose here is to offer some suggestion on how you can follow up in your church. Find what works best for you and tweak it to your local church setting.
1. Sunday Afternoon – Phone Call
Try having a children’s worker call the parents and introduce themselves, or a youth worker as appropriate.
Try to determine what kind of person the visitor is (their age, occupation, interests etc.) and have someone with a similar profile call them and invite them to a church event or activity.
2. Monday Morning – Pastor’s Follow Up Letter Sent
For sample church visitor follow up letters and other document templates check out our Docs and Forms church resource.
3. Monday Afternoon – Send the Welcome Squad
I’m not suggesting you ambush your poor unsuspecting one-time visitor in their own home, just a brief and informal visit offering some kind of baked goods or other welcoming present.
A few years ago Thom Rainer interviewed hundreds of unchurched people who had, at one point, visited a church.
One of the points that came was that they didn’t like unexpected or ‘cold’ visits. It feels like an invasion.
Rather, agree a time and let them now in advance and again, keep the visit short and sweet.
4. Wednesday – Contact by a Group Leader
This could be a friendly invitation from a home group leader, specific class leader or outreach staff member to a home group in their area, a relevant course or social event.
5. Thursday – Follow up All Visitors Within Last 12 Weeks
Contact and catch up with all the guests who have visited your church in the last 12 weeks and find out where they’re at.
Are they in church, joined another church? Do they have a prayer need?
(If someone has become a member of another church, wish them well and remove them from your list.)
6. Saturday – Contact Guests by Phone
The pastors and staff contact guests by phone asking if they have any prayer need and if you’ll be seeing them tomorrow in the church service.
When all the above has been done, place the people on your general church mailing list.
These are just ideas for your church to use – you might be uncomfortable in following every step and might only want to have a pastor’s follow up letter sent out with a phone call on the Saturday and that’s fine.
Instead of calling directly for example, you could try a Facebook message or some other social media which can be seen as less confrontational.
It always come down to what you think would work best in your local church setting.
I honestly believe that having an organised and effective system of following up your church visitors will have a powerful effect on the ‘visiting for a second time’ percentage rate.
Though not every person will come back a second time, you will definitely find a higher percentage rate will if you follow up as opposed to no follow up at all.
From the different church growth statistics I’ve looked at, all of them show just how important follow up is:
- Your church visitor retention rate is highest when you follow-up with visitors within 48 hours.
- Retention rates of a first time visitor is 34%, 2nd time visitors 51% and 3rd time is 78% in fast growing churches.
Herb Miller gives the following statistics for following up church visitors:
- 85% of guests return if visited in 36 hours
- 60% of guests return if visited in 72 hours
- 15% of guests return if visited in 7 days.
I hope these are helpful and maybe even trigger your own ideas.
The most important thing is being intentional about following up with guests and having a systematic approach to growing your church.
All of your follow up activities should be highly relational and focused on the guest.
What works well for you? Do you find that most people return to your church for a second time or is there room for improvement?
Leave your comments below.