The high and holy season has come, and Easter is quickly approaching. While most of us have great things underway for Easter, I offer the reminder that this is the time of year when we see newcomers and the return of people we haven’t seen in quite some time. Many churches are also reopening their sanctuaries for the first time since 2020. This is an exciting time for both the church and community!
As we prepare to welcome these new and familiar faces, I encourage you to put a plan in place for visitor follow-up. A major goal in receiving visitors, both in-person and online, is not just to track their attendance, but to gather contact information, follow up, and stay in touch with them. People are far more likely to return if you thank them for their visit, and twice more likely to keep coming back if someone remembers their name the next time they visit.
A simple way of offering a note of thanks is a postcard or email. In the last church I served, we found great success in having those who serve in hospitality each week fill out the thank-you notes. We placed blank postcards (with the church’s information) in the office and the hospitality area. We trained volunteers that if they met someone new, they would offer them a connect card to fill out, and after church, the volunteer would write a 2 or 3 sentence personal note to thank them for coming and invite them to return.
This formed new relationships with new attendees, that volunteers were in direct contact with and offered the chance to add a personal touch (Ex. We’d love to have your grandson in children’s church; or next time we’ll make sure we have enough decaf around.). The personal notes should be simple, short, and sweet.
This same method works for your online hosts/ushers who are greeting people online in the chat and comments of the service. Invite people to complete an online connect card (which can be made easily using a free google form) and have the online hosts draft personal messages to visitors they’ve connected with during the service. Have designated volunteers and/or staff ready to compose and mail out thank-you postcards or emails within 48 hours of the service. Then what?
Having a workflow in place for the visitor response process in your church is a very helpful tool. Many membership databases have capability to do workflows. If not, or if you don’t have a membership database, Planning Center People is a great and free option to use and implement workflows through. Workflows help get the “every-member commitment” active in growing the church. An example of basic visitor response workflow is:
- Thanks for Visiting Message – Expected Response Time: 48 hours
- Join us for worship – Expected Response Time: The Saturday before the next service
- Email/Text about Small groups – After 2nd Visit
- 1 month follow up – Ask if they have questions about the church or would like to meet with a pastor
After they’ve attended three times, a workflow would look like:
- Phone call from Group Leader or Staff
- Update Profile Information
- Invite to Membership Class
- Follow Up Email
The fact remains that the average return rate for visitors is only about 10%. A large part of that is because people feel they weren’t noticed, their presence wasn’t appreciated, or they left feeling as much like an outsider as when they arrived. So, I invite and encourage you to put some energy behind what happens next after first time visitors. The church of Jesus Christ can and will grow if we continue to be intentional about embracing those we are encountering and welcoming them into the fold.