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 its 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 and feeling harassed.
The Key To Effective Church Visitor Follow-Up
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 around 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
I’m not suggesting for a second you do all of these…
My main purpose here is to offer some suggestions 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
Nothing beats the personal touch, especially from the pastor himself. This gives a great personal touch and helps make the visitor feel valued.
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 presents.
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 up was that they didn’t like unexpected or ‘cold’ visits. It feels like an invasion.
Rather, agree on a time and let them know 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 a social event.
5. Thursday: Follow Up All Visitors In The 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 or 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 needs 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 following every step and might only want to have a pastor’s follow-up letter sent out with a phone call on 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 comes 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 with 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.
The different church growth statistics I’ve looked at all 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 with 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.
Over To You
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.