By Tim Massengale
Pastor Vernon Baker glanced at the card in his hand and double checked the address against the ‘MapQuest’ printout he held for directions. Looking at the number on the mail box, he pulled the car to the curb and shut off the engine. He glanced at the young saint sitting beside him.
“Well, David, are you ready to go fishing?” he said with a grin.
The young man grinned back weakly. “Sure, Elder! Let’s see if they are home.”
Ten minutes later they climbed back into the car and waving to the figure still standing on the door step, they drove on down the road to their next follow-up visit.
David sat quietly for a few minutes thinking about the visit they had just made. Then he spoke. “Bro. Baker, thanks for taking me with you. That was fun. I guess I expected them to be somewhat resistant to our visit.”
Bro. Baker smiled. “Oh, they don’t all go that well. Some people can be cold and occasionally they will be down-right rude. But I don’t let that stop me. These are the most important visits I will make all week. These are the future members of my church.”
David looked puzzled. “How can you be so sure?”
“Because every new convert first comes to church as a visitor. I can’t remember the last time someone received the Holy Ghost that had never sat on our pews. It does happen occasionally, but rarely. So our visitors are our future church. If these visitors don’t return and receive the Holy Ghost, we will have few, if any, new converts.”
David slowly nodded his head. “So you think visiting visitors is the best way to get them to return?”
“I know it is. Do you remember what we did at the door when Sarah answered?”
“Sure! You invited her and her husband to the upcoming Fall Festival Celebration next month.”
“Exactly. I let her know how much we enjoyed them visiting with us at the Easter Drama six months ago and gave her a flyer for the upcoming Fall Festival. This is the second time I have visited them and invited them back. The first visit was about three months after the drama and I stopped by to invite them to the revival we had with Bro. Winters last June. Now, three months later, I’m inviting them to the Fall Festival. I’m hoping they will come.”
“Why not just send them an invitation in the mail? That would be a lot easier,” David said.
“Yes, it would,” replied Bro. Baker with a nod. “But it would not allow me to do the two other things we did when we visited. Do you remember what happened after I handed her the flyer?”
“Uhhh…you said something about a home Bible study, I think.”
“Right. I asked her if she had thought anymore about the home Bible study program that I had told her about that last time I visited. Do you remember her response?”
“Yes. She said she would talk to her husband about it.”
“Yep. And I gave her a home Bible study brochure that explained it a bit more. Hopefully she will remember to ask him. Her response was pretty typical. Most say, ‘I’ll think about it’ or ‘I’ll have to talk to my husband,’ or some other excuse.”
David grinned. “Kind of discouraging, huh?”
Bro. Baker grinned back. “Not really. Most of the home Bible studies we get from visitor follow-up come after we have asked them four or five times for one. We rarely get one the first time we ask.”
“Fourth or fifth time? You mean you will be going back to visit again?”
“Absolutely! I will visit them at least four times unless I get a negative or rude reception. Each time I will invite them to an upcoming event and then ask them, ‘Have you thought any more about the home Bible study I was telling you about?’ I have found that most folks will say ‘yes’ when they are in the midst of a trial or personal crisis of some kind. Interesting enough, God seems to often put them in trial of some kind about the same time as we come knocking. That’s what the power of prayer will do!”
“Wow! That’s so cool! So you get a lot of home Bible studies from visitor follow-up?”
“You bet. But it requires you to make a personal visit. But that’s not the only thing a visit allows me to do. Do you remember what I did after I asked her for a Bible study?
“Yes. That’s the part that stayed with me the most. You told her we had some great prayer teams at the church and they had seen many miracles in prayer recently. Then you asked her if she had any prayer requests.”
“And her response?”
“She told you about her father that was in the hospital. You got his name and promised to go visit him. Then you asked her if she would mind praying for him right now!”
Bro. Baker grinned real big. “I glanced at you as we held hands and prayed. Your expression was priceless. But did you see Sara’s face when I finished praying?
“Yes! She was crying!”
“Exactly. She felt the Holy Ghost right there on that door step. David, people all over are going through problems and trials. They are touched to know someone cares and that someone is willing to pray with and for them. I have real hopes that Sara and Carl will be in church this Sunday. She said she would try and get him to come.”
David sat in silence for some time. Finally he looked up at his pastor and with a touch of emotion in his voice said, “Pastor, thank you again for letting me come. Now I know why you are always challenging us to invite people to church. It’s so you can have an excuse to visit them!”
Bro. Baker smiled broadly. “Not just me, David. We have about six couples that currently make weekly visits to our past guests. We visit them every three or four months, or until we get a positive or negative response. Each time we invite them back, ask for a home Bible study, and offer to pray for their needs. When we return three months later, we will ask about the need we have been praying for. I have found most people do not mind the occasional drop-by visit. It only takes about three or four minutes. But 99% of our converts come from our visitors. They are my future church members. That makes this time of weekly visitation pretty special.”
Bro. Baker consulted the follow-up card again as he drove slowly down the street looking for the next house number. Silently he prayed that this next visit would be as productive as the last one. He never knew, but was totally committed to the effort.
For a copy of the Departmental One-Year Plans (samples and blank form) and the pastor’s Five-Year Quality Improvement Goals worksheet call 1-800-800-0247. Cost is $6.00.