Sunday comes and a new visitor or family comes to your church. How exciting is that? Then after they leave, questions like these flood your mind. “Are they going to come back? Are they Christians? What prompted them to come?”
Let’s be honest, a lot of people that visit your church for the first time will never come back again. It would be great if all of them became members and chose to serve in the local church. But like one person said, “That just ain’t going to happen.”
What I would like to do is pass along four ideas that may be a help for your church in the area of follow-up visitation.
1. Follow-up Should Be Made Immediately
Every avenue of communication should be used to follow up with your visitors. You want to thank your visitor for coming to church while it is still fresh on their mind. This can be done through email, text message, snail mail, etc. The earlier, the better (preferably Monday).
Herb Miller in his book, How To Build A Magnetic Church writes:
Research demonstrates that if lay people will make a 15 minute visit in the homes of first time visitors within 36 hours of their visit to the church, 85%of them will return the following week. If the lag time is 72 hours the return rate drops to 60%; and after one week it slips to 15%. If the pastor makes the visit instead of lay people, the percentage of return is cut in half. Herb Miller, the specialist who did this research, said, “No other single factor makes a greater difference in improving annual membership additions than an immediate visit to the homes of first-time worshipers.”
2. Follow-up By Face-To-Face Visitation Is Highly Effective
Before you make a visit, you need to decide if it would be better to schedule an appointment or to make a random visit. Everybody is different, so it’s best to understand your visitor as best as you can. You want to know their name and hours they work. Pray before you go so you can be led of the Spirit.
NFL hall of Famer Jerry Rice played football for the San Francisco 49ers. He is considered by many experts to be the greatest wide receiver of all time. Interviewers from Black Entertainment Television once asked Rice, “Why did you attend a small, obscure university like Mississippi Valley State University in Itta Bena, Mississippi?
Rice responded, “Out of all the big-time schools, such as UCLA, to recruit me, MVSU was the only school to come to my house and give me a personal visit.”
The big-time schools sent cards, letters, and advertisements; but only one school showed Rice personal attention.
3. Follow-up To Help The Person
How often have you invited people to church and they said, “Okay” and they never came back? One of these days I’m going to designate a “Someday Sunday” where everyone who has ever made a commitment to church will all come on that day.
I have recently learned an important lesson that I have applied to my ministry. It’s so simple, yet the principle is helpful. Here it is: People are more likely to resist your follow-up visit when they perceive you want something from them, but they will open up when they think you are there to help them.
For example, if somebody is not saved, you can ask the person, “If you could be 100% sure that you were going to heaven, you would like to know, wouldn’t you?” Then go into your gospel presentation.
If somebody is sick and tired of religion, agree with the person and then tell them, “Christianity is more than a religion, it’s a relationship with God. You would like to build a better relationship with God, wouldn’t you?” They would agree and then you go into your gospel presentation.
If the visitor is a Christian, ask them, “You would like to better understand the Bible, wouldn’t you?” When they agree, then ask them, “How are you going to accomplish that.” You want to establish some goals. When they mention church attendance, then tell them, “All right, let me help you out. I’ll give you a call on Saturday night to remind you about church, okay?”
If they are a dedicated Christian and are looking to grow in their walk with the Lord and serve in the church, ask them, “Spiritually speaking, where would you like to see yourself in 6 months to a year? Let me help you with your walk with God. We have a wonderful Sunday school class.”
Let me also suggest that you ask your church members to make you aware of anyone who is in need (E.g., Financial hard times, loss of a loved one, hospital visit, in need of counsel).
4. Follow-up With An Incentive
Have you ever thought of sending a gift to those who visited your church? For example, at the church I pastor, we send a $5 gift card to every first-time visitor that they can use to pay for the gas in coming to church. By doing this, it helps build a relationship with the visitor. You may not use this approach. Instead you may offer to take the visitor out to eat if they come to church. Whatever you do in visitation, know that you are not changing your message, but you can change your approach. I hope these four ideas were a help and a blessing to your ministry. Feel free to let me know of any ideas you are using with your follow-up visits.