Developing an Intentional Follow-up Strategy
Reason for Return
The key to a church’s effectiveness in kingdom-building is getting guests to return to our ministries a second and third time. It is important to develop and consistently execute a follow-up strategy for all events and ministries of your church that attract guests. An event/ministry which attracts guests is not the end of the church’s work. It is the beginning.
Here are suggestions to help you make your follow-up ministry more intentional.
1. Develop a Prospect List
Every event/ministry of your church that attracts guests should include a way to garner names, addresses, email and phone numbers for your prospect list. A useful tool to help you begin or organize your prospect list is Prospect Keeper, a free application available for Windows XP, Windows 2000 and Macintosh OS X 10.2.8 or later. You can download this free application from Intelligent Church Resources Online. Prospect Keeper also allows you to record your prospect’s church home, previous visits, and the publicity that attracted them. You can include them in your mailing lists, record follow-up details and generate reports.
2. Prioritize Your Prospect List
While all guests who participate in our ministries are important, we recognize that some will be easier to reach with our unique God-given ministry than others. Since our time and resources are limited, we need to invest them well. Frequent guests of our ministry will most likely receive a higher priority. Guests who are new to our neighborhood and are visiting us for the first time will initially be given a higher priority than a guest from across town.
Each year you should set a goal to move x number of prospects into regular worship in your congregation. The size of your congregation will dictate the number of prospects in your goal. Trust God, and be both bold and realistic in setting this goal. Communicate your goal to the congregation, monitor your progress and celebrate your victories.
3. Develop a Relational Follow-up Strategy
As you host Friendship Ablaze! Sundays and other guest-friendly events and ministries during the year, it is important that you decide in advance how you will follow up with the guests who participate in your ministry. The follow-up should be highly relational and focused on the guest. In reality, the follow-up begins the moment the guest enters our midst. What first impression do you want your guests to have of your church? The goal is to be a friendly church and present yourself that way.
Plan your follow-up:
- Determine the type of follow-up visits your follow-up team will make.
- Identify follow-up teams in advance.
- Train your follow-up teams.
- Use your follow-up teams as part of the greeters on your special Sundays.
Begin your follow-up well:
In the Sundays leading up to your special event, prepare members to be guest friendly on that day.
- Have greeters in the parking lot to create a positive, friendly atmosphere.
- Place greeters at the entrance of the church.
- Greeters and ushers should wear name tags.
- Include friendly ushers who smile, welcome and help guests find seats.
- Include a pastoral greeting at the beginning of the service for all in attendance.
- Design a community-oriented event. If the event includes worship, select high-energy songs that are easy to sing. Keep the service and sermon brief and to the point.
- Greeters should reconnect with guests at the end of the service. This connection is vital if your event includes a fellowship following the service.
- Greeters should introduce guests to members of the congregation. A guest should never be left alone at our fellowship.
Dr. Kennon Callahan, in his book Visiting In The Age Of Mission: A Handbook For Person-To-Person Ministry, teaches us that visits take many forms. Initial follow-up visits should be carried out by members of the church, not the pastor or other paid staff.
The initial follow-up visit should take place within 36 hours of the event; ideally, the same afternoon. If the follow-up team served as greeters, it would be helpful if they follow-up with people with whom they interacted during the event.
The initial follow-up visit may be:
- A brief front-porch visit
- A personal, relational phone call
- A personal, relational handwritten card
If your initial follow-up is a brief front-porch visit or phone call, follow-up with a second visit via a handwritten note/card sent later in the same week.
If your initial follow-up is a handwritten note/card sent either via the mail or left at the home, follow-up with a second visit either using a brief front porch visit or personal phone call.
Guests who visit with our ministry a second time within the following weeks of our special event should receive a second follow-up visit, preferably from the same person who performed the initial follow-up. This visit should be either a personal front porch visit or personal phone call. In this second visit, the person visiting with the guest should ask if it would be okay to have the pastor or other key paid staff person make a follow-up call or visit with the guest. If the guest responds positively to having the contact from the pastor or staff, it is essential that the follow-up take place within the same week.
Our follow-up strategy should continue with guests until they become regular in attendance in our worship. Guests will teach us when they no longer consider themselves to be guests.
4. Update Your Prospect List
When following up, members of your follow-up team should complete detailed reports of their visits. The reports should include the name of the guest, the date and type of the follow-up, notes and, if applicable, the intended date and type of the next follow-up.Prospect Keeper includes fields for tracking this data and will print a report including all follow-up details related to a specific guest.
As you update your prospect list, you may also re-prioritize your prospects, change mailing preferences and update notes.
5. Include Your Prospects on Your Mailing Lists
It is helpful to send prospects information about your ministry. Mailings may include newsletters, devotional material, general announcements of ministry events and special occasions, personal invitations, etc.
In addition to personal invitations, those prospects who are given an urgent or high priority should receive a personal phone call inviting them to be your guests at special events/occasions.
6. Be Intentional and Consistent
- Monitor your goal for moving prospects into regular worship with you.
- Every event should have a strategy for follow-up.
- Plan only as many special events/occasions for which you have resources to follow-up. The goal is to be focused and intentional as we use our resources wisely. Remember the Pareto Principle: 20% of what we do gets 80% of our results. 80% of what we do gets 20% of our results. We want to increase our effectiveness by focusing on the 20% that gets 80% of our results.
- Evaluate the effectiveness of your events and your follow-up strategy.
- Strive for excellence in your events and your follow-up.
- Celebrate and thank those who help execute your events and follow-up strategies.
- Focus on developing relationships within your congregation, your community and with your guests.
- Learn more about the emerging culture and what reaches people today.
- Trust the power of the Word and the Holy Spirit to draw people into God’s grace.
Resources for Intentional Follow-up
Callahan, Kennon L. Visiting In An Age Of Mission: A Handbook For Person-To-Person Ministry. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, Inc., 1994.
Callahan, Kennon L. The Future That Has Come: New Possibilities For Reaching And Growing The Grass Roots. San Francisco: Jossey Bass, Inc., 2002.
Kimball, Dan. The Emerging Church: Vintage Christianity For New Generations. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2003.
McNeal, Reggie. The Present Future: Six Tough Questions For The Church. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, Inc., 2003.
Rainer, Thom S. High Expectations: The Remarkable Secret For Keeping People In Your Church. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1999.
Rainer, Thom S. Surprising Insights From The Unchurched And Proven Ways to Reach Them. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2001.
Rainer, Thom S. The Unchurched Next Door: Understanding Faith Stages As Keys To Sharing Your Faith. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2003.
Easum, Bill. Leadership On The Otherside: No Rules, Just Clues. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2000.
(A survey can be useful, as it reveals what the guest has noticed about your church. Before using it however, discuss and decide the best way to use it. Do not hand it out the day of the event, or mail it immediately to visitors—that can detract from personalized, relational follow-up, giving the guest the impression that they are little more than a statistic. Instead, use it in a second follow-up visit, or have a follow-up phone caller ask these questions informally in a phone call, or reserve the survey for guests who don’t continue to worship with you.)
[Church Name] welcomes you to our special celebration. We’re very glad you’re here!
Please take a moment to help us by answering the following:
1. Did you find the church easily? ___ Yes ___No
2. Did our wall signage assist you in finding your way around the building? ___ Yes ___ No
3. Were you greeted upon entering the building? ___ Yes ___ No
4. Were you ushered to a seat in the church? ___ Yes ___ No
5. Did you find the people of the church friendly? ___ Yes ___ No
6. Did you have difficulty finding a parking space? ___ Yes ___ No
7. Did your children or youth attend “Sunday School?” ___ Yes ___ No ___NA
If not, why not? _______________________________________________________
If so, were you able to find their classrooms easily? ___ Yes___ No
8. Were you able to follow the order of service easily? ___ Yes ___ No
9. Were you invited to return again? ___ Yes___ No
10. Would you consider returning again? ___ Yes___ No
If yes, which types of opportunities would you be interested in? Check all that apply.
____ Family events
____ Youth events
____ Children’s events
____ Support groups
____ Musical events
____ Community Service
In order to best meet your needs, could you please provide us with contact information?
Phone Number: Home ( ) ________________Cell ( ) _______________
Email address _______________________________________________________
What is the best time to reach you? ______________________________________