The article is a part of the Easter Aftermath series.
Imagine going to a church for the very first time. You had a good experience and want to get connected. The only problem is this church does not see the need for following up with guests; instead, they leave it up to them to figure out how they should get plugged in. You may go back, but if you’re not connected within 90 days, statistics reveal that you will most likely be looking for another church.1
So how do we help people get connected within the first 90 days so they can become a part of the church?
The question every church should be able to answer is, “do we have a process in place for receiving guests and creating an environment that makes them want to return?” Especially with big attendance events like Easter Sunday, most churches pray for more people than usual to walk through the doors. But without a plan in place to help them take the next step, many of them will just say, “Thanks! See you at Christmas!”
This is the plan for helping first-time guests get connected at Long Hollow.
When a first-time guest pulls onto campus, they follow the first-time guest signs and park in a designated area of the parking lot close to the building. Here, they encounter the First-Time Guest team who walks with them from their cars to one of our First-time Guest areas to give them a gift and offer to show them around the church.
Once this team shows them around, helps get their children checked in to our kid’s ministry (should they decide to do so), and gives them their free gift, they hand the guest off to an usher who helps them find a seat.
This is the first step in the process, in which we do our very best to remove obstacles and barriers to entry. We have no idea how God is working in someone’s life, so we take it upon ourselves to create an environment where their walls will be torn down, they feel comfortable and valued, and can hear and respond to a message from the Word of God.
Gary McIntosh has said that a first-time guest will return 16% of the time, however, if they return for a second time, there is an 85% likelihood they return for a third time or more.2 What are we doing to encourage people to not only come back a second time but to take their next step in their spiritual journey? Our mission at Long Hollow is for everyone to Know God, Find Community, Make Disciples, and Change the World, so how do we move people from coming one time to regularly attending to taking their next step on the Pathway?
Discipleship involves both inviting and investing. As people are invited and come to our churches, we can begin the initial process of investing in our guests through following up with them. We cannot afford to leave people on their own. Building a follow-up process and executing the process takes time, hard work, and intentionality, but it is vital for people to take their next step at your church. The follow-up process allows you to leave a lasting impression after you have already set the first impression over the weekend.Discipleship involves both inviting and investing. Click To Tweet
The second part of our process is the follow-up, and we have provided three different ways to gather information about our visitors:
- We have our first-time guests fill out a card when they receive our gift
- We provide Next Steps cards in the seat backs for anyone who wants to take the next step in their spiritual journey and at Long Hollow
- We collect information from anyone who goes to our Next Steps Area.
Once we gather the information, we have a team of staff members who begin personally following up with guests within 48 hours. We make a phone call in order to do five things:
- Thank them for coming
- Provide them with an opportunity to ask any questions they have about the church
- Provide them with their next step for getting plugged in at Long Hollow
- Invite them back as we continue our sermon series or begin a new sermon series. We also send an email so they can be connected with someone on our staff.
- Send them a card from our Pastor, once again thanking them for coming and inviting them back.
If you are thinking through your follow-up process, I highly encourage you to have staff personally follow up with people. We know more of what is going on, and this shows our guests that they are important and valued. I personally follow up with our guests, because I firmly believe in the words from Robby Gallaty that “you cannot expect what you are not emulating yourself.”
Our follow-up process is simple and effective: Engage with a first-time guest from the moment they step foot on campus and provide multiple ways of connecting with them. We are always thinking and working on ways to make our processes better, and I would encourage you to do the same. Having a process that works and work that process so you can properly connect with the people God is sending you. Your process will make sure nobody falls through the cracks so that we can be good stewards of the people God sends our way.
This process is constantly being refined because everyone is different, but we can do our very best to make sure our guests have been thanked for coming, give them an opportunity to share about their experience, invite them back, and provide them with their next step so we can move people from our parking lot onto our Pathway.
I’d love to hear from you on what you do and what has been effective. Feel free to leave a few comments below.