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.
Now, I know that follow up can be a struggle because pastors are busy, volunteers are busy, life is busy. And, to make matters worse, resources are low.
But if you want to take growing your church and the body of Christ seriously, then you need to be making some effort in this area.
It doesn't have to be perfect, but you should always have some kind of system in place that means every single visitor who walks through your doors is cared for and invited back.
Thankfully, I have spent a ton of time thinking about this, so now you don't have to. And I've come up with an easy-to-implement, cost effective, time-freeing solution, which I am sharing with you today 😊
Of course, just because this is what I'm suggesting does not mean that this is the only way you can follow up with your visitors - feel free to pick and choose from this system to tailor something to suit your church.
If you have nothing in place, this is simply where I suggest you start.
Let's get into it, friends!
Step 1 | Welcome at the door
Definitely, definitely, have someone at the door greeting everyone who comes into your church. This immediately builds up a personal connection with people, and they feel noticed.
Just a little bit of noticing goes a long way. When I was unemployed, I used to LOOK FORWARD to grocery shopping because it meant I got to talk to the girl at the checkout. I lived for human interaction. And people visiting your church could very well be in the same boat.
Bottom line: this is free and simple to set up, but it will go a long way towards getting to know your visitors.
*Bonus points if you're handing them something as they walk in, which brings me to the next step...
Step 2 | Welcome cards
Create some welcome cards that ask for visitor contact information in a non-creepy way. I personally think all you need to find out about someone on their first visit is their name and their email address. If that's all you need to know about your visitor, then that's all you should ask them [Tip: asking less will increase the number of people who fill out your welcome cards].
Hand these cards out to visitors when they enter the building (a la Step 1).
Step 3 | Service mentions
I feel like this needs to be said: it is no longer okay for you to mention each visitor by name from the front of the church. It's also not okay to make them stand up, or wave, or come up the front. I've talked to enough Christians in my time who find that very uncomfortable, and I can't even imagine how much more uncomfortable you would feel if you were in a church for the first time. Of course, it is totally fine to welcome the visitors from the stage, but perhaps say something like this:
"...and a big welcome to any visitors here today. You are most welcome to indulge in some coffee and cake after the service finishes, and you can check out some more info about our church at our Welcome Table."
Step 4 | The Welcome Table
Ah, the Welcome table. One might think this is in place to give visitors more information about your church, but one would be wrong. While that is one purpose a Welcome table serves, the deeper, more important purpose is this: a welcome table allows visitors to scream "I AM NEW, PLEASE SOMEONE INTRODUCE YOURSELF TO ME", without even saying a word. It breaks down the social barrier for your guest, because the table and the info give them something to do with their hands, and helps them look interested in the church while obviously indicating to others that they are new. Win-win.
So what is your job then? You should:
a) set up a stellar welcome table with your welcome cards, info about your church and any other merchandise you have, and
b ) assign someone each week to watch that table like a hawk, and when they see someone step over to look, swoop in and introduce themselves.
Step 5 | Filling out your welcome cards
Here you have a choice - you can either ask visitors to fill out your welcome card during the service, where they can then pop the card into the offering bag, or you can get them to fill it out at the welcome table. I personally prefer the welcome table option, because it is a little more personal, however, you do run the risk that people won't stop by your welcome table on the way out.
Step 6 | The contact info
So, you've done all the work to get visitors to your church, and now you've got their contact info. But now what do you do with it?
Every Monday morning, commit to uploading any church contact info to your email service provider [if you haven’t got one of these set up, I talk about my favourites here]. That way, you can drip a series of emails to their email address, that will give them a little more info about your church, and maybe even invite them back next Sunday!
If you’re interested in dripping out emails to your church guests, and freeing up your time for other tasks, I’ve got a stellar post here just for you.
Related reading | How to: Follow-up with your church visitors on autopilot
I hope you’ve enjoyed my ultimate system for welcoming and integrating newcomers! If you have more ideas on how to welcome church guests, tweet me @salt_society - I’d love to hear them!