Editor’s Note: as a result of last months article entitled “Pastor Johnson Makes a Follow-up Visit,” we received many requests for additional information about how to organize and maintain an effective visitor follow-up ministry in the local church. The following article is in response to those requests.
In my ever-so-humble opinion, an effective visitor follow-up ministry should be a high priority in every church. Why? Because your visitors are, without a doubt, your best prospects for salvation. For a church to neglect so great an opportunity as their visitors and spend money, time and effort on a less likely prospect, is, in the opinion of many experts, poor judgment.
Church growth experts arrive at this conclusion because of two important statistics: (a) Ninety percent of all who receive the Holy Ghost in our churches receive the Spirit during a church service or a gathering of saints of some kind. (b) Most who receive the Holy Ghost in our services have come several times before receiving it. Very few receive the Spirit the first time they visit.
Therefore, since most who receive the Spirit receive it in a church service and also come multiple times before receiving it, we must do everything we can to get our visitors to return. Each visit increases their chances of going to the altar.
We must understand this well: if our visitors do not return, we will have few receive the Holy Ghost. Therefore every church should strive to launch and maintain an effective visitor follow-up ministry.
Making Guests Feel Welcome
Visitor follow-up begins when the individual visits your church for the first time. Ideally a guest will be greeted at the door by a church doorkeeper. A friendly hand shake, a warm smile, and a kind word can set the tone for a great worship experience. Doorkeepers can help in many ways, especially when young mothers have arms full and children in tow.
After entering, each guest should be greeted by a trained host or hostess. A cheerful greeting and a bright smile goes a long way toward making a guest feel welcome and wanted. A well designed guest packet can also express that we care about their visit and hope that this visit will not be their last.
Guest reception experts tend to agree that it is best if the guest card is filled out by the host or hostess. Handing them a card and asking them to complete it and drop it in the offering plate will only see limited success. Many forget and very often the cards are incomplete.
Opening the guest packet, the Hostess quickly explains the contents and then takes out the guest card. Often she will say, “It’s so good to have you with us! Now, Pastor Smith will want to greet you properly. Would you mind if we got your names?” Most have no problem providing this basic information.
While names are a good beginning, it is the address that is the most essential element for effective follow-up. Research has shown that it’s best to be up honest and up front about why we want their address. Many have found success by simply saying, “We would love to add you to our church mailing list so we can inform you of future activities. Would you mind if I got your address?” The majority are glad to provide this information for you. The hostess writes this on the card, making sure the name and address are spelled correctly. Phone numbers are optional. If they hesitate you should not press since this information is easily looked up in the phone book or online.
After the guest card is completed, the guest is introduced to one of the ushers who helps them find an isle seat about half way down. Strategic seating of guests makes their response at altar time easier.
How Visitor Follow-up Works
All guest cards are turned into the church office and quickly photocopied four times and distributed after service. One copy goes to the office secretary who will type up a letter from the pastor. This signed letter will be mailed the next day. She will also add the address to the church database for future contacts by mail.
A second copy is given to someone assigned to make a phone call the following evening. Often it goes like this: “Hi, this is Debbie from First Apostolic Church. Pastor Smith wanted me to call and express to you how much he appreciated you visiting with us in church this past Sunday and if there is anything more we can do for you, please let us know.” The purpose of the call is to simply leave a warm feeling in the heart of the visitor. The phone call says, “We care about you and we want you to return.”
A third copy goes to the church’s Home Bible Study (HBS) director. The HBS director does not call or contact the visitor. They contact the person that invited the visitor. One of the questions on the guest card should be, “How did you hear about us?” The majority of our guests come because someone in the church invited them. The Home Bible Study director should contact this church member and encourage them to ask their friend for a home Bible study. If they are reluctant to teach a study, they should be encouraged to set up the study and a teacher will be provided for them.
The last copy goes to the pastor who will follow-up in whatever way he feels necessary. The original card is given to the Visitor Follow-Up (VFU) Director. This individual is the key to a successful visitor follow-up ministry and should be an individual that is good with paperwork and details.
On Monday the VFU director will take all the guest cards from the previous week and prepare follow-up packets for those who will be making the actual follow-up visits. First he or she transfers the information from the guest card onto a follow-up card. The follow-up card contains additional information that is not on the guest card, such as: approximate age, marital status, church affiliation, and other information that will help the person assigned to better know how to speak to this person. This additional information is obtained by calling the person who knows the visitor and asking a few questions, including the best day and time to visit. The more we know about the guest the better we are able to connect with them. We also need to find out if the saint feels a follow-up visit would be beneficial. We want this ministry to help, not hurt.
The follow-up packet, usually a 7x 9 inch envelop, contains the follow-up card, a map of how to get to the house (a few minutes online with Map-Quest provides this), a flyer for your next upcoming event, a home Bible study brochure, and a church card. Other tracts can be included as well. On the front of the packet a post-it note will identify who will be assigned this follow-up visit.
Come Bible study night, all assignments are handed out. Those making follow-up visits should be well trained. They will be visiting the best prospects you have. So select your follow-up team carefully. They will go to the home anytime between Bible study night and the following Sunday night. If no one is home the first time, they leave a church card and should try again the next day or so. On the back of the follow-up card space is provided to record the results of your visit.
Three things are accomplished by making the visit: First we let them know how much we appreciated their visiting us and hope they will return again on Sunday. We also hand them the flyer and invite them to our next upcoming special event. We will then ask them if they have heard about our home Bible study ministry. After briefly explaining it, we ask them if they would like a study. Finally, we ask if they have any special needs that they would like the church to pray with them about. If so, we offer to say a quick prayer with them right there on the door step. The entire time spent is usually less then 3-4 minutes. Occasionally we are invited inside, but not very often. But the power of that few minutes cannot be over emphasized. Follow-up teams should spend time in prayer before going out. They are visiting the future converts of your church.
All packets should be returned Sunday evening to the follow-up director. If no contact has been made the same address will be reassigned each week until they are contacted. Once they have been contacted, the envelop is filed for a second visit 3-4 months later. We are committed to visiting them at least four times, if not more. But we always put at least three months between each visit. As long as the visits are productive and the guest is receptive, we will continue to knock on their door, invite them back, and ask for a Bible study and prayer requests.
The science behind this kind of follow-up is fairly simple: most people come to God during a life crisis of some kind. Death in the family, sickness, divorce, financial difficulty, problems with children or spouse, the list goes on. During these times a person sees their need of God. Often times God arranges for us to knock on their door at just the opportune time. If God knows that we will be returning, He can prepare the way for us. God wants them to be saved even more than we do. Don’t stop visiting! Don’t stop praying! As long as they are open and receptive, we should continue to reach out. That is the calling and duty of the church: to seek and to save that which is lost. Visitor follow-up has proven to be the most successful way to fulfill this God-given responsibility.