I bet your Bible study group occasionally has guests present. After the group Bible study is over, how do you go about following up with them? There are a few simple things you can do to help those guests get connected to your Bible study group.
- Follow up quickly. When my family and I were guests searching for a new church home, one church amazed us by dropping by to see us right after Sunday morning worship. By the time we had lunch and returned home, a group leader had already been by our home and dropped off a gift bag. That was an impressive attempt to say thank you to our family. Surveys have demonstrated that the quicker a visit is made, the more likely a person is to return to a church for a second visit. The longer the time between the first visit and the first follow-up, the less likely the person is to come back.
- Follow up before a pastor does. If you want to make an impression on a guest, be sure to reach out before a representative from your church staff does. Guests know that a call or email from a member of the staff is most likely part of the church’s weekly outreach efforts. Staff are paid to do these kinds of things, but when a lay person takes the time to say “Thanks for visiting our group,” it means something different. The effectiveness of your outreach efforts goes up when class members do it. “Peer to peer” is a better way to say “thanks” and “we want you to come back to our group” than relying on church staff to convince a guest to return a second time.
- Follow up consistently over the long haul. According to research reported in the book Membership Matters, people are taking up to 18 months to join a church today. It is very important that group leaders be consistent in the way they lead their group members to follow up with guests. An initial call or email is great, but because people are taking so long to join, a group must approach follow-up more like a marathon than a sprint. Regular contact and invitations to return to the group are needed to keep people connected to your group.
- Follow up carefully because of the “blind date” factor. If a guest shows up at your group’s Bible study, you’ve got a balancing act to perform. On the one hand you want to follow up quickly after the Bible study. On the other hand, you don’t want to push the guest to join the group too fast. If you were on a blind date and were presented with a ring and a wedding invitation at the end of the first date, chances are you’d run for the hills. If you do something similar to guests, they may bolt and run; don’t ask them to “marry” your group too quickly. Let them get to know your group before you “pop the question.” It’s perfectly fine to ask them for permission to place them on your group’s ministry role so they get updates from the group and invitations to fellowships and special events. But you may want to hold off asking them to sign on the dotted line and become official members until after a date or two.