The ultimate system for welcoming and integrating church visitors

The ultimate system for welcoming and integrating church visitors

My church has a problem. Yours might too.

We have around 100 welcoming, friendly, loving, God-fearing people. Those people are pretty great at pouncing on any newcomers that appear (after all, we're not a big church, and it's always a great injection of vibrancy when a new person shows up, not to mention the fact that we also very keen to share the gospel with anyone interested in listening!)

However, once those exciting wonderful newcomers walk out those front doors after the service, they are gone forever.

Not because we weren't welcoming, or the music wasn't to their taste or the coffee was bad, but because we didn't follow up with them. Ever.

I like to call it the Friendly But No Follow Up Trap.

5 steps to more church connections (using welcome cards!)

Let me ask you something. When a visitor or newcomer comes to your church, how do you get their contact details?

Do you run up to them at the end of the service and scribble their phone number on a piece of paper? Do you hand out slips of paper asking them to fill out their contact details? Do you let visitors slip through your fingers, and just hope they’ll keep coming back?

Feel like listening instead of reading?

5 steps to more church contacts (using connection cards!)

Lets use our imaginations:

Imagine you’ve been invited over to someone’s house, and you don’t really know anyone going, but you know the host a little and you’re interested in getting to know them more. 

When you get to the party, no one greets you or talks to you, and you sit in a corner alone until you can’t bear it anymore, and you get up and leave to go home, feeling sad and a bit humiliated. 

What if when you arrived at the party, instead of being ignored, one of the host’s friends came up and introduced themselves and a few of their friends, and you chatted for ages, shared some laughs and nibbles, and went home with your heart full. In the next day or two that person sends you a text saying how great it was to meet you, and hopefully they’ll see you at the next shindig. 

You’d feel glad that you’d gone to the party, right? You might even go along to the next one, especially now that you know you’ve got a friend. 

Follow up with church visitors is important, peeps! Now, let’s talk about how to do it!

Introducing, the Welcome Card system…

You might also know the welcome card as a connect card, prayer card, communications card, care card… or something similar. 

I’m talking about the card that you hand out to church visitors to grab their contact details in a (hopefully!) non-creepy or invasive way. 

Now, you might have a welcome card already, but do you have a system in place that will ensure that every visitor will receive and fill out your church’s welcome card? 

1 | Simplify your card

Cut the unnecessary details from your welcome card. We don’t want this card to be a giant-government-esque need-to-know-everything card. We just want to know one way to best contact the visitor after the service, to let them know how much we appreciated them for coming along. That’s it. 

The less details you ask for on a welcome or connection card, the more likely it is that someone will fill it out. 

Here are some examples of super simple, but very effective welcome cards (the first asks for a little more information than the second):

Church connection card examples

For more inspiration for your own connection card, click here to check out my Pinterest board that is jam-packed with ideas!

Limiting to just asking for one or two things makes you seem less invasive, while also giving you what you need. Really, do you need to know how old they are, how many people are in their family, or how to spell their last name? At this stage, no.

The other good thing about a simple welcome card is how easy they are to design! You could even make yours by using a business card template on Canva! Or check out these brilliant free templates from Ryan at Ministry Voice.

2 | Decide on distribution

Figure out what will work best at your church to distribute the cards. Have a think about what systems are already in place! Where do you give out your print newsletter, if you have one? This might be a good place to start, however here are some ideas of how you can give out your welcome cards:

  • At the door when guests are entering
  • Left on each seat before the service (or in the back of your pews)
  • On a ‘welcome’ table at the back of the church to be filled out after the service
  • Distributed by designated ‘welcomers’ who are appointed to specifically notice newcomers and start a conversation with them
  • Handed out with coffee after the service
  • Distributed in a visitor welcome notice during the service

Be careful when deciding on distribution. Think about what the visitor might be feeling (most probably don’t want to be singled out during the service), or they might feel like they’re being watched if someone approaches them afterwards. 

My preferred methods of distributing welcome cards are:

  • At the door when guests are entering
  • Left on each seat before the service

Here’s why:

  • You can make sure every person has a welcome card
  • It is less invasive, as the visitor is not singled out, or eyeballed while they’re filling out the card
  • They have the time and are sitting down (during the service)
  • It takes the least effort for the visitor, and doesn’t rely on them doing anything after the service, or sticking around to check out the welcome area or coffee
  • It makes it easier for you to collect them!

3 | Collection!

Collecting the cards will depend on how and when you distribute them, but here’s a couple of ideas:

  • Ask visitors to place their welcome cards in the offering bag/bucket
  • Ask them to place the card in a specific box in the foyer
  • Give them to a member of the church (who will then need to put the card in a box elsewhere to keep them all contained)

4 | Other things to keep in mind

Some churches like to ask everyone in the congregation to fill out a welcome card, to make visitors feel more at ease. The only issue with this is the incredible cost to print that many welcome cards each week. It might be something to consider though! You could compromise and ask regular attendees to fill out a welcome card if they’ve noticed that they’re sitting near a visitor, to save you on printing but still make your visitor feel welcome. 

5 | What next?

You might be wondering, now that I’ve got their contact details, how do I actually follow-up a visitor or newcomer? I’ve got another blog post on exactly that! Check it out here. 

Take action!

Create your own simple church welcome card, then implement a system at your church for collecting visitors' contact details!

How to: Target your church media (for visitors and regulars!)

Have you ever read a newsletter and then put it down, thinking, ‘none of this interests me’?

Have you ever attempted to navigate a website, and when you can’t find what you want, you click away?

I’ll bet you have experienced at least one of these things. And the problem is this: church communicators (or communicators in general) are often tripped up when they are trying to figure out who they’re talking to

Our default in church is to say, ‘Well, duh, EVERYONE. We want EVERYONE to come to Christ, and therefore EVERYTHING will be communicated to EVERYONE.’

I apologise for the all-caps, but I really wanted to emphasise this trap we are constantly falling into. 

Feel like listening instead of reading?

How to: Target your church media (for visitors, newcomers, and regulars!)

Let me give you an example of what I’m talking about.

Imagine if we talked to our church visitors the same way that we’re talked to our regular attendees. Imagine if we bombarded them with information about the men’s breakfast, and the women’s camp they should totally come to, and our discipleship training program, and then ask them to like our Facebook page and contact Joni if you’re interested in coming to her Bible study, and then throw in somewhere that if they’re not saved they’re going to hell. It is a LOT to take in for a new person. 

So, you either end up assuming too much of your visitors, overloading them with information and inviting them to a billion different events that they’re just not ready for, or you end up patronising your regular attendees because you’re telling them about things they already know.

So, what do we do about it?

Before we move onto our main points for today, I just want to throw a couple of thoughts out there.

Firstly, it is not rude, or ungodly, or exclusive, or cliquey, to spend a little time figuring out who needs to hear what, and targeting specifically at groups of people, rather than everyone being thrown in together (which is a lot of what we’ll be talking about today!).

Secondly, if you begin to segment who you’re talking to into different groups, you can actually communicate with each group or segment much more effectively than if you were talking to a large group. 

Alrighty, let me show you how its done!

In business, we often refer to two different types of communication - internal and external. Your internal communications usually go out to your employees, but in this case, lets refer to your internal communications recipients as our regular churchgoers. Your external communications go out into the world with the aim of bringing people in, so external communications are usually for people outside of the church, or visitors. 

Whenever you’re putting together any form of communications, ask yourself this question: who am I writing this for? Are the people who I want to see this already in the church, or are they outside of the church?

This. Is. Vital. 

We cannot mix these two groups, because they are coming from entirely different perspectives. So, how do we decide if what we’re doing is internal or external communications, and how does that change what I’m doing?

Let’s start with the medium you’re using. I’ve split these into internal and external communications, but you can chop and change to what suits your church best.

I highly recommend popping the different media you use into a quick table like this! It will give you clarity of thought, and you’ll be able to see quickly and easily who you’re aiming what at. 

So, with a quick glance at this table, I can see that our website will be aimed at newcomers, and therefore I can head on over to the website and format the website and all of the text and images to appeal to newcomers. 

Similarly, I can glance and see that our print newsletter is going to be focused on regular attendees, and therefore I can go ahead and pack it with the information they’ll be wanting. 

I have added a ‘both’ category, however this still doesn’t mean you would talk to internal and external people in the same way. For instance, your email newsletter could be sent to both regulars and newbies, but when a new person signs up for your newsletter, you could automate an email sequence that introduces them to your church, and what it is that you do and believe, before throwing them into the deep end with an information overload. 

So, where do you go from here? I’ve put together a quick workbook to help you figure out what you’re using to communicate internally and externally. If you’re struggling, make sure you talk to your pastor or leadership about it - this is not something you should have to figure out on your own!  I hope this post has helped you to think a little more strategically about your communications!