You’re using all your best outreach ideas to bring visitors to your church, and it’s working.
You’ve created a welcoming environment for new church visitors, and you make a point to connect with them when they arrive. They enjoy the service, turn in their connection cards, receive their welcome gift, and leave your church with smiles on their faces. Your job is done, right?
Not quite! How will you follow up with your visitors to make sure they come back?
Effectively following up with church visitors is important if you want them to continue connecting with your church. We have some great follow up ideas, but before we get to those, keep this in mind:
New church visitors come from a wide range of backgrounds — each one has a unique story.
They have their own struggles and hurts, triumphs and joys. In so many areas of society, people are treated as numbers. Church should be a haven, the one guaranteed place for people to be loved for exactly who they are. After all, that’s how Jesus loves them!
You may have visitors who don’t yet know Christ. They way you connect and follow up with them is a way to make the love of Jesus tangible to them
With this in mind, avoid approaching visitor follow up thinking, “Retaining this person will help my church grow.”
Instead, approach visitor follow up with the mindset of “How can I make this person feel loved, valued, and included? How can our church help them?”
Trust us — people will feel the difference! Now, here are three practical tips for following up with new church visitors.
1. Create a follow up contact sequence.
Timely contact is key to effectively following up with new visitors. However, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to this. How you follow up with new visitors will vary based on your church size, budget, and the demographics of your visitors. The most important things is to simply not to forget to contact them!
The contact information you have for each visitors depends on what your connection card asks for. Email and phone are standard, but you might have their home address, too.
- Email is your safest bet for follow up contact. Almost everyone has an email they check regularly, and people tend not to mind giving their email address out. This is a great way to communicate with church visitors in a way that fits their schedule. After all, they can open your email whenever they want!
- Texting is an option for younger visitors. This is of course best for short messages — a quick and easy way to say “Thanks so much for visiting today!” that you can follow up with a more detailed email later.
- Phone calls are great for older demographics who will appreciate a personal touch. Just make sure not to bombard a new visitor with too many phone calls. One follow-up call the week after they visit is a good place to start.
- Postcards or letters are a thoughtful option if you have visitors’ mailing addresses. A personalized, handwritten note will show your appreciation for their visit.
It’s important to have contact sequence set up for the first week after someone visits your church for the first time. Here’s an example:
- First contact (Sunday or Monday) – A short text or email to say “Thanks so much for coming!” is all you need.
- Second contact (mid-week) – A more detailed email or a phone call is a great option for mid-week follow up. You can give visitors more information about how to connect, answer any questions they may have, and offer to pray for them.
- Third contact (end of the week) – A short text or email to say “Hope to see you Sunday” reminds visitors that you’re looking forward to connecting with them in person again.
You can get very detailed with your contact sequences, but the most important step you can take is to have a plan. You can tweak and adjust as you go. As long as you’re reaching out to new visitors and making them feel valued, you’re on the right track!
2. Host a monthly welcome lunch.
Does your church host a welcome lunch for visitors? This is a really great way to connect with people on a personal level. Pastors and church staff can take the time to share the heart and history of the church and answer any questions guests may have. This is also a great time to explain in further detail all the ways guests can get plugged into your church.
If hosting a welcome lunch seems like a lot of work, don’t worry. You don’t have to do this every week — once per month will work just fine. It doesn’t have to be complicated, especially if you find a dedicated volunteer to organize the monthly lunch. He or she can coordinate food (church members can cook or you can cater it), decorations, set up and clean up, and any other details.
Be sure to have a range of dietary options available — vegetarian or vegan and gluten free options will help you avoid not being able to serve certain guests. Plus, if you do have guests with dietary restrictions, they’ll feel very grateful that you thought of them in advance.
Hosting a welcome lunch really is an easy way to connect with new visitors and draw them in for another point of personal contact. After all, people love free food! The table is a place for community, and you’ll be able to show new guests how much your church cares for them.
3. Plan a follow up outreach event.
It’s a good idea to have fun outreach events planned on a semi-regular basis, especially as a followup to big Sundays like Easter or Mother’s Day. This gives you a ready-made connection point with new guests. If they aren’t ready to commit to something regular like a small group, this is a great option for them. Here are a few ideas:
- Have a church movie night. Movies are an easy way to appeal to a wide range of audiences. Offering a free movie and providing popcorn and other snacks means all someone has to do is show up — and they might even bring some friends along with them!
- Host a blood drive. This is a great way to serve your community while also giving church visitors a chance for low-key connection. You can recruit people to volunteer, have them help spread the word, and most importantly, show up and donate.
- Throw a picnic. You can hold it at your church if you have space, or try going to a local park. Grill hotdogs and hamburgers, have fun games like cornhole or badminton, and spend time relaxing and connecting with people in a fun outdoors environment. If you hold it in a local park, this is a great way to draw community members in, even if they haven’t attended your church yet. Again, everyone loves free food!
If you practice these three ideas, your church will be well on its way to having an effective follow up strategy for new visitors. We want churches to grow — attracting and retaining new visitors is important. But in the end, numbers shouldn’t be driving our motivation to connect with church visitors.
Every new person who walks through our church doors is an opportunity — not to increase our numbers, but to recognize someone as a valuable member of God’s Kingdom who is worthy of feeling loved, included, and cared for. After all, what better place for someone to experience this than church?
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