There are many preferred methods of follow-up for church visitors: some churches go for a text message, or a courtesy phone call, or even an official pastoral visit! And while none of these methods are wrong (they might be super effective for you!), I personally think that following-up with church visitors via email is the bee's knees.
Here's why I prefer email:
It's personal, but not invasive
Let’s face it: visiting a church for the first time and then having the pastor show up at your door the next day is...a unique strategy.
It reminds me of a story my friend used to tell: when she was a little girl, a boy from her class who’d never spoken to her showed up at her house unexpectedly and gave her jewellery. Rather than thinking it was nice, she was completely shocked, confused, and a little weirded out. I feel like that’s where we’re at with home pastoral visits when you don’t know the pastor. Personal phone calls I’ve heard are sometimes appreciated by older generations, but I know that it is definitely invasive to receive a phone call from a stranger for people who grew up with a mobile phone in their back pocket.
Then there’s texting. This is probably the least intrusive [other than email], however there’s only so much you can say in a text.
Email fits the bill: you have the space to say what you want to and talk directly to someone, without leaving them running for the hills.
It's free and doesn't steal your time
My email service provider of the moment is MailerLite, which allows you to automatically send emails to your visitors AND its free for up to 1000 subscribers. Yes. Please.
People are more willing to give their details
If you ask for someone's email address, it's much less confronting than asking for their home address or phone number. Every day we seem to give our email address out to different brands, so we’ve become conditioned to it and think nothing of it. Therefore, if you only ask for an email address, you’ll have more visitors giving you their contact details.
Now that I’ve ranted about email being the greatest thing ever [which is a daily conversation in my household], let’s talk about what you should include in your follow-up emails.
Thank them for coming along to your church and emphasise how much it meant to you that they were there.
This is optional, but if you’d like to get a good idea of what your visitors think of your church, ask them! You can use a tool like Survey Monkey or Google Forms, and the first [or only!] question you should ask is ‘On a scale of 1-10, how likely are you to recommend _______ Church to family and friends?’ This will give you a good idea of how much they enjoyed your service.
Give a quick bio of who you are and why you’re writing to them. The trick with writing a great bio is to not write too much about yourself, and instead frame it so that you mention similar things to what they might be feeling.
‘I’m Ruthie, and I volunteer in communications at Waterside Church. I am always excited to meet new people where they’re at in life: whether they’re hurting or on fire for God, whether they’re just discovering who God is, or they’ve been walking with him for what feels like forever!’
A call-to-action is always a good idea, as long as you only include one. The idea behind a call-to-action in this first email is to make a further connection with the person, and for you to ensure that your emails are getting to their main inbox (rather than a spam or promotions folder). The simplest way to do this is with this great question:
“I would love to get to know you a little better. What drew you to attend CHURCHNAME on Sunday? Hit reply on this email and let me know!”
This question actually kills two birds with one stone (sorry birds!). For one, you’re asking a follow up question where they can be specific and deep in their answer, or vague and casual. This allows for a plethora of different people and personalities to still feel comfortable answering your question. Secondly, if someone replies to your email, their email provider (ie. Gmail, Outlook) will earmark your email address as ‘safe’. Therefore, you’ll be in their primary inbox whenever you send something through.
In email 2, you want to give a concise run-down answering the following:
- Who we are
- What we do [tying in with your church’s vision and mission]
- What we believe
You’ll probably have a lot more to say on those topics than you should say in an email, so I recommend giving an overview in your email and attaching a PDF welcome pack to the email for further reading. That way, they can choose between the TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read) version and ‘The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire version’.
Coffee on us
This is one that I haven’t figured out how to automate yet [so if you know how please comment below!], but I love the idea of sending a $5 gift card for them to buy a coffee. It’s a way of being generous and expecting nothing in return.
Obviously, this strategy will cost you $5-a-pop, so you’ll need to decide whether its a priority for your church at the moment. If you can’t allocate the budget to this, simply leave this strategy out.
So for email 3, you can let them know a little about the different ministries you offer. Once again, don't go into too much detail about each ministry, simply mention the ministry and its purpose, and then link them to your website where they can gain more specific info. A simple one-sentence description of a few carefully selected ministries will be just enough to have them wanting more. And that’s what you want!
Invite them back!
The other super important part of this email is to invite them back to your church for the next Sunday! You can make it sound simple and casual so that they know there is no pressure for them to attend. I’d also recommend sending this email on Friday morning, so that (a) they’re in a good mood, and (b) they receive your email before the weekend, in case they gave you their work address.
Have questions, comments or thoughts on this post? I’d love to hear them! Tweet me @salt_society or comment below and let me know!