Using Church Connection Cards Effectively: A Super Simple 4-Step Plan for Following Up on First-Time Guests
Do you remember the first day of your new job? What about the first day of junior high?
Do you remember the nervousness? Do you remember that feeling of being lost? Did you wonder if you were ever going to feel comfortable in the place with those people?
Every week, first-time guests walk into churches feeling just like that. They don’t know when to stand or sit. They don’t know the songs you’re singing. They don’t understand some of the words and expressions that are used from the platform.
If these feelings of anxiety and fear continue, they might slip out before the service is even over. But more likely, they’ll just decided not to come back. Maybe they’ll give up on church altogether.
This emotional and spiritual struggle plays out in churches all the time. And it leaves us asking a rather simple (and slightly embarrassing question):
How do we get first-time guests to come back again?
There are a lot of creative solutions to this problem (some of which we’ll mention in this post). But they all boil down to one big answer: you need to make a connection with that first-time guest.
Sometimes, this connection happens before the service with your welcome team or members of your church family. Sometimes, this connection happens during the service through the worship or preaching. But most often, this happens through intentional and personal follow-up after the service is over.
Most people come back to a church, because at some point between their first and second visit, they make a real connection with you or someone in your church.
This is why most churches have some kind of connection card or visitor card that they hand out to first-time guests.
Of course, some people are simply not going to fill out a connection card. That’s fine. But other people will be open to hearing more about your church and getting to know your people. You want to make it as easy as possible for them to do that.
If you want some helpful pointers on how to make this as easy as possible, check out our post on solving the church visitor card problem.
In this post, we’re going to focus on what you do after you get that connection card back.
After your weekly service or special event is over, the real works begins.
Your visitors came to your church with questions, physical needs, and ultimately, an eternal soul. Your follow-up provides an opportunity to nurture their relationship with your church and point them to Jesus Christ.
To follow up effectively, you need a process in place for every connection card that comes back to you.
These follow-up steps will obviously vary from church to church. There is no cookie-cutter system for visitor follow-up. Every church and community is unique.
These steps need to be carefully applied to your context.
You need a plan for how you are going to steward those relationships that God has graciously given to you and your church. If you leave it up to chance or convenience, you will see people slip through the cracks.
It’s inevitable. They will get distracted. You will get busy. And those connections will be lost.
If you don’t have a clear process for following up with first-time guests, hopefully this will be an encouragement to start one. And if you don’t know where to start, here are four simple steps that you can implement this week at your church.
This may sound complicated, but it doesn’t need to be.
We recommend a service called Mailer Lite. It’s free and easy to use. And we’ve even created a free PDF that you can download to help with this process of setting up an automated email sequence for the first time.
We would recommend that you start out with a 3-week email sequence. Keep it simple. Just 2-3 emails each week.
Here are some examples of what you can include in these emails:
- Letter from the Pastor
- Video sharing the gospel
- Behind the scenes look at a ministry in your church
- Info on your youth ministries (with pictures)
- Give a short, informal survey
- Testimonies/Stories from people at your church
- Links to your church Facebook page or Instagram
In those three weeks, your goal is just to help people get to know your church.
Now, this content may take a little time to think through and set up, but here’s the good news: once you’re finished, you can use it all year long for any visitor that attends your church.
So this time and energy is a long-term investment.
The best option here is to make it look like a greeting card. Don’t just fold it up on an 8x11 white sheet of paper and stuff it in a business envelope.
Get some nice greeting cards. You can order these online with your branding, or you can just pick up some simple greeting cards at the store.
In the card, just add a simple, handwritten message. Thank them for visiting and ask them to come back. And if possible, include a small gift. Maybe a $5 Starbucks card or a gas card. The address on the envelope should also be handwritten and include a real stamp.
Why all the emphasis on everything being handwritten? Because most people get dozens of letters a week from businesses and marketing companies. You don’t want to get lost in that frantic crowd of people screaming for their attention with the newest strategies and flashiest designs.
Don’t aim for professional. Personal is much better here.
Make an attempt to call every first-time visitor who attends your church.
This phone call can obviously be made by a pastor, ministry leader, or church secretary. But you can also find a volunteer from your church to do this. Just be sure they’re friendly and comfortable talking on the phone.
Keep the call brief and personal. Thank them for visiting. Answer any questions that they might have about the church. Then, finish the call by asking if there is anything you can pray with them about.
This is a huge opportunity for you to make a spiritual connection with that person. It’s an opportunity for you to hear how God might be at work in their life. And it’s an opportunity for you to see how your church might be able to serve and love them.
If they share a prayer request with you, don’t just write it down for your records. Take the time right then to pray with them over the phone.
This simple act of listening and praying will probably be the most meaningful thing that happens in your entire follow-up process.
This is probably the only step in this follow-up process that’s really controversial. It used to be very common for churches to make personal visits on every first-time visitor. It was even common for these visits to be unannounced. Today, that’s not always a good idea.
Some people will tell you never to make this type of visit. But like we said at the very beginning, there is no one-size-fits-all formula here. It’s just really important for you to know the people in your area.
If people in your area are open to a personal visit or if they give you permission to stop by, you should certainly take that opportunity.
Just be sensitive of their time. Don’t force the conversation or hold them hostage in their own living room. You don’t want them to be looking for a way out, desperately searching for an excuse to make an exit.
It might help to follow the same basic plan that you used for the phone call. Thank them for coming, answer any questions they might have, and offer to pray with them.
If they’re not up for a visit at the house, just meet up at a local coffee shop or restaurant.
Last point here: you should consider bringing a gift from the church with you. Maybe a pie from a local bakery or a tumbler with your church logo on it.
Keep your community and demographic in mind here. But don’t miss an easy opportunity to be generous and thoughtful. Those small gifts go a long way toward communicating appreciation and love.
Notice that all of this communication is aimed at connecting with people.
And whether you’re talking to someone on the phone, writing out a letter, or setting up an email sequence, there is one principle that should drive your communication:
Focus on the next step for that first-time guest.
Focus on the next step. Don’t overload them with 10 activities, 5 new ministries, and a book-length history of your church.
Share what you feel you need to share about your church. But choose one or two big things that you’re hoping they will do after that call, letter, email, or visit.
Is there an upcoming event that would really help then connect with you? Give them an invitation.
Are your small groups the best entry point for first-time guests? Ask them to try out a group that week.
Is there a service opportunity that would be appropriate for non-members? Tell them how to get involved.
Depending on the area you minister in and the people you minister to, the specific next steps may vary. But you need to have a very clear idea of what you are hoping and praying will happen through your church communication.
Stay focused on that next step. Then, pray and work toward that goal.
These are simple steps that you can implement this week at your church to help you connect with first-time guests at your church. You’ll need to make some adjustments to fit these steps to your church and community. You might add or remove a step.
The steps on this list are not complicated or flashy, which means that any church can use them to craft a follow-up strategy for their community.
But no matter what you decide to do, don’t forget the gospel. Don’t forget that you are witnesses to the greatest act of love and redemption in history.
Your church may offer ministry opportunities, exciting activities, and community events. But most of all, your church offers the free gift of a relationship with God through Jesus Christ.
You’re not trying to compete with marketing agencies or keep up with the latest business strategies. You’re just trying to point people to Jesus.
God is at work in your church and your community. Are you ready to be a part of what He is doing?
Think through the follow-up process at your church.
Do you have a clearly defined steps for welcoming, engaging, and following-up on visitors?
Do you have connection cards ready to give out?
Do you have a plan for what to do when someone fills one out?
We’d love to hear how you follow-up on first time guests at your church.
Do you have a visitor gift that’s really worked at your church?
Would you add anything to this list of follow-up strategies?
What practices do you have in place to help visitors feel loved at your church and welcomed to come back?
Let us know in the comments below!