When it comes to planting a church (or pastoring an established church for that matter), praying, preaching, singing, and a host of other things demand attention. Recently, Tony Merida wrote about the importance of hospitality in church planting. Pastors who are not hospitable simply should not hold the office of pastor (1 Tim 3:2).
However, I’m reminded of another important aspect of pastoral ministry: following up with guests. Though this isn’t new or profound, it is an important point to remember. At our church, when new people show up, we try to think strategically and carefully about engaging them in appropriate ways. We would love to see them return and, Lord willing, plug into the life of our congregation.
How, then, do we practice follow up? If a guest fills out our Connect Card, complete with contact information, then we have a short four-step process:
Personal & Handwritten Note—one of my tasks each week is to take time and write a handwritten note to each guest. I take our church letterhead, write a short note that lets them know I am thankful they visited with us and that I’d love to hear from them if they have any questions. I place one of my business cards in the note and drop it in the mail. It is amazing how people respond to handwritten notes (I also make it a practice to regularly write notes to our members).
Email follow-up—two weeks after the initial visit, or the week following the handwritten note, I send a short email that lets the person know I’m thinking about them. I also ask if there are ways I can pray for their family. This is a very short email that simply provides another “touch.”
Additional Email (3 or 4 weeks from #2)—several weeks after the follow up email, I’ll shoot another email that says "hello," lets the guest know we haven’t forgotten them, and I’ll also highlight our Discovery Class (a short class that orients guests to our beliefs, history, etc.) that meets every other month. Again, we send a short email that simply connects with the person one more time (if we don’t hear from them, or they don’t visit again, we generally will not send them any more correspondence so that we don’t become obnoxious).
Cup of Coffee—throughout the process, my goal is to meet face to face. If they respond to the initial note or one of the emails, I’ll usually try and arrange a coffee meeting. I guess, then, this isn’t a step as much as it’s something I’m aiming at throughout the process. Face-to-face conversations are tremendously important for retaining guests.
Those are four simple steps. We monitor all of this and keep track of where each guest stands in the process.
Again, there are a myriad of things to think about and take care of when you’re planting a church. You cannot neglect to pray. You must prepare to preach. Sunday services need planning. And the list goes on.
But in the midst of it all, brothers and sisters, do not forget to follow up with those the Lord has providentially guided to your church on any given Sunday. Following up with a guest is a means to see yet another person meaningfully connected to Jesus and Jesus’ people for their joy and God’s glory.