Healthy churches know that every church visitor is a gift from God.
But many churches do not have a well-designed visitor follow-up process that helps turn visitors into fully committed members.
Nailing your follow-up process down is one of the most important things that you can do to help your church thrive. Plan your church visitor follow-up strategy well.
While you may have good practice in training your church members to increase the number of invitations to church, it is also a good practice to find ways to intentionally follow-up your first-time church visitor.
If your church visitors do not return and make friends with people in your congregation, your church
- will not grow
- will not help new believers who responded to an altar call invitation to grow as a disciple
- will not help new movers into your community get involved in your church with their treasures and talents
- will not help evangelism contacts via your outreaches continue to seek for Christ.
Plan your follow-up with intention
Healthy churches work on improving their church hospitality and increasing their invitation rate. They will usually see an increase the number of first-time visitors.
But when your first-time visitor attends your church and fills out a church visitor information card (if they do), what are some next steps you might take to intentionally follow up?
I’ve seen various statistics from church growth material over the years that indicate the importance of follow up with your first-time church visitor.
- Your church visitor retention rate is highest when you follow-up with visitors w/in 48 hours.
- Retention rates of a first-time visitor is 34%, 2nd time visitors 51%, and 3rd time is 78% in fast-growing churches.
Herb Miller gives the following statistics for following up:
- 85% of guests return if visited in 36 hours
- 60% of guests return if visited in 72 hours
- 15% of guests return if visited in 7 days.
Can you follow up too fast? Nelson Searcy, author of Fusion, makes the claim that Wednesdays worked best for his church.
Any sooner than that was really too fast (Read: How soon is too soon to re-contact a church visitor after their first-time visit?)
No matter your method, your visitor follow-up should be highly relational and focused on the guest when you reach out to them.
Here are six ways to be intentional in helping your church visitor to connect.
6 ways to follow up on your first-time church visitors
1. Visitor Welcome Packet
If you don’t get their contact information, you can’t send them literature, make a home visit, carry cookies to their house, or invite them to come to the next service.
How can you follow up with them if you have no record of their presence?
Give them a church visitor welcome packet before they leave.
I’ve seen church distribute these packets in various manners:
- Announcement inviting the church visitor to “Raise your hand and an usher will bring it.”
- Go to the Next Steps Center after the service and pick one up.
- Greeters and other church hospitality volunteers recognize first-time visitors and casually give them one while having a conversation with them.
As the person goes home with a welcome packet, they might peruse it and learn more about your church, your programming, and make a decision about returning.
2. Give Clear and Simple Next Steps
What is the simple next step that you would like your church visitors to take?
- Do you want to invite them to your Wednesday night supper?
- Do you want them to attend a New Guest Reception with the pastor?
- Do you want them to volunteer in a community service project coming on the 3rd Saturday?
- Maybe your next step is something simple as come back for the next part of the sermon series.
- Maybe it is to pick up a free book from the visitor welcome center.
No matter what your next step is, your church visitor will not know if you are not clear about it.
Find ways to communicate that next step for your first time church visitors.
Do not assume that they will know. We attended a church for several weeks before we figured out on our own what that next step was.
3. Mail a letter with a clear invitation to a next step.
Assuming you have collected your church visitor contact information, send a first-time visitor follow-up letter or note card of some kind.
You might already put this in your church visitor packet, but you might want to mail a customized one. You could say something along the lines of:
We’re truly glad you came. Many people like you have found this church to be their spiritual home. For them, it is a place to serve with their gifts, a safe place to explore and discover their faith, a place to find new friends, a place to grow their own relationship with Christ. I hope you found our people friendly and inviting. If not, I want to know about it so we can make sure future guests who follow you will not experience the same. Please call me directly at xxx-xxx-xxxx or email me at —————-
We hope that you’ll take the time over the next few weeks to discover how you can connect in a small group, or in a service ministry. We want to give you the time and space to do explore. I know that our church has a lot of great programming, but the first place you might want to check is our Wednesday night dinner and Bible Study. I’ve enclosed four coupons for your family to use over the next several weeks, so you can eat free. Come and share a meal with some potential new friends. Have a meal on us! I hope to see you there.
4. Post Service Reception
Once your worship service is over, provide the space for people to visit. Right now in our own church, this is one of our most important facilitators of growing new members. The coffee hour allows a time for people to talk in a more relaxed environment.
Church Greeters can be intentional in talking with first time visitors.
Provide some seating space and maybe a few tables to help facilitate an environment for conversation.
Make sure you provide quality beverages and snack items.
5. Meet the Pastor Reception
This might be your simple next step to suggest to your first time church visitors. You might hold them monthly or every other month as needed, hold them when you can gather a crowd.
You might schedule them with-in a month of a big event Sunday, like Easter, mother’s day, Christmas, Back to School.
I suggest you schedule them for Sunday’s after Church to avoid conflicts with small groups and other activities.
Allow for newcomers to meet some people they can relate to (other newcomers).
This can be a time where:
- The pastor can share the vision of the church
- Other newcomers can meet each other.
- You share simple next steps to getting involved.
- Information on your membership or core beliefs class.
6. Home Visitation
Some churches practice making home visits to church visitors as part of their church visitor follow up.
Not all churches will do this. In some cultures, this is considered invasive and truly unwanted. Know the custom of your culture.
But, if you choose to make home visitation, common tips include:
- Visits should be carried out by members of the church, not the pastor or other paid staff.
- Take place within 36 hours of the event; ideally, the same afternoon.
- Make it a brief front-porch visit.
- Delivery of cookies, bread, or some other thoughtful gift item.
The goal is to appreciate their visit, leave information about the church, and invite them back for a return visit.
To make this visit:
- Print a directional map from the church to First time Guest homes.
- Deliver a gift bag as a “Thank You for visiting” gesture.
- Say something like this “My name is . . . . and this is . . . from XYZ Church and we’re not coming in but we wanted to come by and say thank you for visiting XYZC and here is a small gift from the Church.”
Improve your Church Visitor Follow-Up
Systems have a place, and in the training webinar on church visitor assimilation available for download after purchase, I’ll cover a few systems that will help you.
Collecting visitor contact information has it’s place.
But the simplest form of church visitor assimilation is helping people make friends.
If your visitor can make 5-10 new friends within the first 6 months, they will likely stay and get involved.
Church Visitor Assimilation Webinar
If you need help on visitor assimilation, check out this church visitor assimilation webinar that looks at 5 necessary tools for church visitor assimilation.
It’s available instantly after purchase.
It is a recording of an online webinar.