Following Up on First-Time Guests, part 1

My family and I spent the better part of last year searching for a new church home after moving to the Nashville area.  I was dismayed by the lack of follow-up when we visited churches.  Only a scarce few churches even bothered to contact us.  We filled out visitor cards in every worship service and class we attended, but follow-up with our family was almost non-existent.  Here are the first of six principles for following up on first-time guests (I’ll share three with you today, and three more next week).

Principle #1 – You can be too aggressive in your follow-up

  • Attenders at your church are on a “blind date” with your church – they don’t know what to expect and are often very anxious (if you’ve ever been on a blind date, you know what I’m talking about).
  • Don’t ask them to “marry” your church too fast – that will ruin the “courtship”
  • According to the book Membership Matters, the average family takes almost 18 months to join a church, so give people some space, but not too much space!  Make sure they know you are thankful for their visit and that you’d like them to consider joining your church

Principle #2 – Contact by church members is better than contact by church staff

  • A survey indicates that the impact of a home visit is reduced by approximately 50% when made by a church staff member rather than people from a Sunday School class!
  • Guests will assume that contact from staff is a part of their job description, but they really appreciate a call, e-mail, or home visit by one of their peers who is excited about the church (5 Handles for Getting A Grip on Your Sunday School, p. 10)

Principle #3 – The faster you make a visit, the more likely it is for a guest to connect with your church

  • A survey in the book 5 Handles for Getting a Grip on your Sunday School  demonstrated that:
    • If visited in the home within 36 hours, first-time guests return 85% of the time
    • If visited in the home within 72 hours, first-time guests return 60% of the time
    • If visited in the home 7 days after the initial visit, only 15% of first-time guests return the next week
  • Making a home visit may seem like a lot of trouble, a time-waster, and something from a by-gone era, but it can still be an effective way to reach people for Sunday School and church membership.

Next week I’ll share the final three principles in following up on first-time guests.  If you have some tips you’d like to share, write back and post them for all to see.  Thanks for following my blog!

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