Our family was the first-time church visitor as a result of moving our home office to the state of Florida.
We visited a few churches around our new little town of Port St. Lucie.
Since we have no church-going friends in this city, we are dependent upon advertisements and searching on the internet to find a church.
I have written before about different ways to follow up on church visitors, but want to share with you some current life experiences of follow-up letters.
We Filled Out Church Visitor Cards
I filled out a few church visitor cards. They came
- attached to the bulletin as a tear-off,
- a pew card specifically announced by the service leader,
- a visitor card handed to us by the church usher.
Any of these are good practices to collect visitor contact information.
I prefer a separate stand-alone card in a seat pocket or pew rack, rather than a tear-off because of the ripping noise.
I am not a fan of the registration books that are passed down the aisle in more traditional churches, but these are my personal preferences.
Some churches have put a QR code in strategic places like a bulletin corner, a sticker on a seat back, or sometimes on the display screen.
Recently, more churches arrange for a service where you text a four- or six-digit code to a number and you get a message with a link to fill out a virtual card online.
What Happened to Our Visitor Card?
Three of the four churches sent us a follow-up letter in the mail.
We received a Dunkin Donuts gift card and a Chik-fil-A coupon as thank-you gifts.
One church did nothing.
One church sent a form letter from the pastor, but also a handwritten thank you note.
One church pastor called us and invited us to his house for lunch.
Three of the four churches made an attempt to follow up using the information they received from us on the card.
- Church A sent a letter, a handwritten thank-you note, a Chik-Fil-A thank-you gift.
- Church B sent a letter and a personal phone call from the pastor.
- Church C sent a letter and a Dunkin Donuts gift card.
- Church D sent nothing.
A Review of Follow-up Letters
Of the follow-up letters we received from three of the four churches, one letter really caught our attention.
If I were to rank them in order of making us feel valued, this would be number 1.
Follow-Up Letter Number 1.
The best letter came from Church A. Their church visitor follow-up letter was beyond the generic fluff that says “Thanks for visiting, we hope you had a good time . . if you have any questions call us . . blah, blah, blah.”
This particular church visitor letter told us about the upcoming Pastor’s Luncheon. It mentioned there is no cost, and that all the food would be home-cooked. It clearly described the date, the time, the location, and a personal invitation to attend.
The church visitor letter also introduced us to some of the mid-week programs. The strength and focus of their program description were how it might benefit our family. They went beyond the invitation. They focused on why we might want to adjust our busy schedule to start participating in their mid-week programming.
The visitor letter from the church concluded with an invitation to come again the following Sunday for the next sermon in the particular series.
Follow-Up Letter Number 2
Church B sent a visitor follow-up letter that described the congregation as a family. We were invited to become a part of it. The letter told us a little about the church’s particular mission and purpose in the community. This church visitor letter reminded us of the Sunday service times and a personal invitation to come again.
Church B also has a monthly Pastor’s luncheon at the Pastor’s house with a home-cooked meal. While the letter from Church B did not mention that invitation at all, we did receive a personal phone call from the Pastor himself inviting us to his house for lunch with other first-time visitors.
We enjoyed lunch with the Pastor and his wife. I found it interesting at this lunch that the other first-time couple making this lunch had already volunteered to cook it. They had made the decision to get involved in this church after the first Sunday.
Follow-Up Letter Number 3
The final letter we received from Church C served no real purpose for us and read like a biography of the pastor. It stressed his qualifications and reminded us that we visited. We did appreciate the Dunkin Donuts gift card.
As I read the letter, I could not tell anything about the church or its ministries, or even why we might want to return.
One Church Went Beyond the First Letter.
Out of the four connection cards we filled out, only two churches used that information more than once, with additional follow-up contact that felt appropriate to us and timely.
Church A, which sent us a letter to the Pastor’s Luncheon, also sent a handwritten thank you note card. That extra effort has continued to invite us into their community life.
Church A also sent a second letter inviting us to the Pastor’s luncheon and also gave us a phone call of invitation.
These may have been triggered by a record of our repeat visit, but nonetheless, the second follow-up letter was a gentle and non-intrusive follow-up.
We attended the Pastor’s Luncheon where we learned a little about the church. It was a simple event, and the pastor was very clear about the simple next step on how our family could get involved.
One Church Did Nothing
Church D made no effort to send us a follow-up letter, make a phone call, or make any attempt to follow up with us as a first-time visitor. In spite of no letter, we will never forget the church greeter there.
However, about two weeks ago, we did receive our first written communication from Church D. It was a short letter that simply asked
Are you still attending our church?
If not, we will delete you. If you are, please let us know.
My family found it odd that the church that never made any effort to invite us back took the time to mail us a letter that we would be deleted.
Your Church Visitor Follow-Up Letter
Out of these observations, let me suggest some ideas that felt meaningful to us as first-time visitors, and can be done in churches of different sizes.
My suggestion would be to include the following items in/with your letter.
- A thank-you for attending.
- A simple next step that allows them to meet other people
- An invitation to the next sermon in the series.
- A thank you and a personal invitation to contact you or another pastor on staff.
You might invite them to
- A monthly pastor’s lunch
- A volunteer project in the community
- Your midweek supper to meet new friends
Whatever you invite your first-time guests to, make sure it is a simple clear step that is easy to follow.
No matter what your next step is, your church visitor may not know. Find ways to communicate that next step for your first-time church visitors. Do not assume that they will know.
If you send a follow-up letter, what do you say? Share some of your ideas in the comments below.