First Time Guest Follow Up and Change

I want to revisit the “why we use it” question. Admittedly, I can get so caught up in the application of the process, that I forget why the process was developed in the first place.

To connect human people to our church.

There are a few times a year that we visit other churches. We purposely want to take a break from the norm, but I also want to observe their guest services process.

Recently my daughter visited a church. When she came home I didn’t ask about the message, I asked about her first time guest experience. Parking? Approach? Clear directions? Connect area? Connect cards? First time guest gift? Did anyone say hello and introduce themselves to you? (I wonder what database they use. I kept that thought to myself.)

You see, as much as this blog is about databases, it’s also about the process. The database should reflect our church’s process.
At one church, the Next Steps Director writes a hand written note card to welcome the first time guests. Guests are entered into the database and entered into a process queue (new entry > hand written note card > alert to Next Steps Director).
At another church, a formal letter is emailed, authored by the Senior Pastor. Guests are entered into the system and a a “follow up” is assigned to the Senior Pastor who then sends the email and checks ‘complete.’
Some churches send first-time-guest surveys. Some do not.
One church may ask guests if they’d like more information. Another church sends it – whether it’s been asked for or not.
I once visited a church that sent an email, but then called later in the week. The sole purpose of that call: thanks for coming and we’re praying for you. Do you have any prayer requests? What was missing: they didn’t specifically invite me back. They didn’t invite me to a group or a class. They thanked me for coming and they prayed for me. No strings attached.

In our database, we have categories of visitor, attender, member. I love watching people move through that process.

But there is that dreaded list of first time visitors who didn’t come back.

I’ve tried to look at things through the lens of a first time guest. What is their experience?

Through most of our lives, we have been blessed that God has specifically called us to a church for His purpose and reason. However, there was one time, when He called us to leave a church with no clear direction or next step. We were (gasp) “Church Shoppers.”

Three weeks into visiting a new church. Our third Sunday morning visit. We arrived early and found our seats. No one approached us. As we sat in our seats, we sat alone. We watched other people reach across pews to tap people on the shoulder with the sole purpose of introducing themselves. None to us.

Temptation to leave crept in. We stayed. We heard a great sermon. We don’t regret that we stayed. Would we return? Would the average first time guest return?

Several years ago, as a new Christian, I attended a church with seemingly no clear path to membership. I’d attended. I’d accepted. I’d said the prayer. I got it. But membership seemed elusive. Or exclusive.

How hard would I try to become a member? Or would I be content with simply attending? Giving sporadically. Not serving. Not invested in my church. Because if I’m not a member, it’s not really my church.

I share each of those experiences not to criticize each church. As a matter of fact, I’m grateful, still, for each of those churches and the positive impact each had on my life. But those experiences helped shape and guide how I view my ministry today.

If I called each of our first time guests over the past six months – the ones who didn’t return – what would they say? Am I prepared to hear what they would say?

If I called one of our attenders who hasn’t been to church in several weeks, what would they say? Am I prepared to hear what they would say?

You see, as much as I love our church. And believe I’ve clearly communicated our next steps, I want to be open to change. I want to find the balance between adapting to our ever-changing society while helping our Pastor preserve the integrity of our church.

As you are building your database, make sure it reflects who and what your church is. But always be willing to re-evaluate what you’re doing and be open to change.

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