With Thanksgiving officially over, the countdown to Christmas is on. People are caught up in the flurry of shopping, planning/attending parties, picking out gifts, and going to all of the seasonal festivities. It’s during this season that many people are the most open and looking for a real message of hope for their lives. Help them make the Gospel the center of their lives all year long by being a regular part of your church.
What’s the best way to keep your visitors coming back after the Christmas season? The answer is as simple as “follow up.” Reconnecting with a follow up can go a long way to make visitors feel welcome and cared for, and it increases the likelihood that they will come back.
Here are 7 great follow up ideas your church can use to get visitors to come back in the new year and beyond:
1) Have a Welcome Team
Your guests will decide if they feel welcome even before the set foot inside. One key way to making a genuine first impression is establishing a vibrant welcome/greeter team. A smiling face, warm welcome and helpful guidance around your church building is a great way to make visitors feel at home and increase the likelihood that they will return.
Besides friendly faces, there are a few great tools you can use to create a more welcoming atmosphere. New handheld signs with messages like “You Belong Here” and “Welcome to Church” are sure to bring a smile as people arrive at your church.
The next tool that will help visitors feel more comfortable are T-shirts for your greeters and staff. A shirt that says “Ask Me” or “How Can I Help” or just “Welcome” is a subtle way for new guests to know where to turn for directions and basic information.
2) Offer a Check-in Table
Once you have made your guests feel welcome, you need a way to contact them in order to follow up after they leave. Check-in tables are a great way to connect with visitors. Placing a check-in table right as visitors walk in and out of the sanctuary, have an iPad or connection cards guests can fill out.
Many churches are finding it difficult to get visitors to share their contact information during a first visit. Younger visitors are more reluctant to provide “private” information to your church until they feel like they can trust you. Offering a free gift or snacks at your welcome area may be one way to overcome this reluctance. Also make sure the area is staffed by people who are warm, able to answer questions but won’t be too intrusive or pushy.
3) Plan a Welcome Lunch
Who can resist free food? Provide people who are new to your church a chance to learn more about your ministry, meet key staff members and connect with other new families at a special lunch meeting. Especially in bigger churches, first-time visitors can feel like it is hard to get to know people, so a welcome class like this is a great way to get people connected and follow up with them. These classes can be held every week or every other week but should be held more frequently during the Christmas season since there are more visitors.
Announcing this class during the service and having the class right after the service is one way to immediately follow up with guests and it is convenient because visitors can find a connection in the church the first time they come.
4) Say Thank You!
Remember the Thank You Notes your mom always told you to write after Christmas? Well, turns out she was right, formally thanking someone for spending time in your church can go a long way towards making them feel appreciated and recognized. But make sure you hand write them and have the lead pastor, teaching pastor or connections pastor sign them. (A children’s leader will also work if the note mentions having the children in their classes).
If you don’t have an address or time to write a proper note, send visitors a Text message. Texting may not seem like much, but it can go a long way towards showing visitors that you noticed them and want to be a part of their lives.
In today’s world, everyone is busy and it can be easy to forget things that are not in someone’s everyday routine. Getting a text from your church is a great way to remind people that they should come again. These texts could be just a little thank you for coming or it could be a reminder of upcoming events. Whatever this text looks like, be sure to personalize it and use the person’s name if you can.
Texting is also effective because everyone has their phones on them almost 24/7 and that means that the likelihood of your visitors seeing the text is very high.
5) Inviting Guests Back for An Event
Sometimes people need a reason to return to church – they aren’t used to the weekly routine of just showing up yet. So plan a special guest speaker, movie night or marriage seminar in the weeks after Christmas and then invite all your guests to return for the event. You can include a small invitation card in your Christmas bulletin shell for your next event and then follow up afterwards.
Email is a great way to share about upcoming events and special services. The emails that you send can be as professional or fun as you want and can be general or personalized. Including a person’s name in the subject or headline of the email will increase the chance that the person will read it. In fact, the more personalized you make the email, the more likely visitors are to attend your church and events again.
Ideally you should choose to highlight applicable events for your visitors – for example if they had teens, include an event for your youth group in the email. Also highlighting things that would be incentives such as free food or child care will increase the likelihood that visitors will come again.
6) Use Social Media
Social media is all the talk nowadays and is a great tool to reach lots of people at once. On Facebook and Instagram, posts can be targeted towards specific demographics of people in specific areas. This means that after visitors come to your church, you can send out ads for your next events that will reach the people in your area.
This might sound complicated but it doesn’t have to be. Outreach can create and run your social ads through YOUR church’s Facebook and/or Instagram accounts with Outreach Digital.
7) Make a Phone Call
It’s ironic that most of us carry phones around with us 24/7 but rarely use them to make actual calls! And that is why calling your guests makes a big impression. Even if you get voicemail and leave a message, it shows that visitors are important to your church. It’s even more effective if the person leaving the message met the person on Sunday and can say, “Hey, it was great meeting you and your family and I hope that you will come back for (such and such event).”
It is exciting to see all of the visitors coming to church this Christmas season, but it’s important to remember that many of them are looking for more than just a seasonal service. Use these tips to help you connect and to share God’s love with the people He brings into your church during this wonderful time of the year. Merry Christmas!