Developing A Computer Database Prospect File (Entire Article)

By Tim Massengale

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When Mark North walked into the church main office, Elder Vernon Baker sat hunched over the computer with a look of irritation on his face.

“Oh, come on!” The white haired pastor said under his breath.  He clicked on first one option then another as he searched for the correct menu.  Finally he broke into a grin. “Got it!”  Two more clicks and the printer in the corner of the room blinked into life and began to print addresses on bright white label sheets.

“Got what?” Mark asked, coming up behind him.  Brother Baker looked up.

“Mark!  Good to see you.  I was just getting the labels ready for tomorrow morning.  I’m having several church ladies come over to stuff and stamp invitations to our revival with Brother Morris next week.  Hoping for a great turnout.”

Mark stood beside Pastor Baker watching the laser printer spit out one sheet after another.

Mark reached over to a pile of revival flyers on the desk.  The full-color brochures announced ‘Endtime Holy Spirit Outpouring!’ in large letters with a photo of an evangelist praying with several people during altar call.  A second stack was a personal letter from Brother Baker printed on church letterhead inviting everyone to ‘experience the amazing power of Pentecost’ at the upcoming weekend of services.

Mark nodded his head approvingly.  “Looks good!  Where are you getting your address from?”

“From our computer prospect file,” Brother Baker answered.  “We have over six thousand names and addresses of people that have had contact with our church in some way.  We use this database for mail outs five or six times a year.  All of our new converts have come from this database.”

“No kidding?” Mark answered in surprise. “Every one of them? How’s that?”

“Well, we enter in all of our first time guests into this prospect file.  Remember what I told you – 100% of your new converts come from your church guests.  But we also add lots of other address from various church ministries.”

“Such as?” Mark asked, eyebrows arched.

“Well, all our bus parents are in this database.  When we go door knocking and find someone that expresses interest, we will add them also.  At least once a year we ask all our church members to submit the names of family, friends and co-workers to whom they have been witnessing and who they feel would be open to getting various church invitations in the mail.  We also get names and address from those that attend our annual block party.  We get some contacts from street evangelism, our Songfest-In-The-Park concert, lots of places.  We also make sure all backsliders get added into our database too.”

“That’s so cool!” Mark exclaimed.  “And you have six thousand address?”

“Ah…let’s see,” Elder Baker replied, studying the computer screen.  “6,348 to be exact.”

“Do you use them for anything besides mailing out invitations?”

“Well, when we enter the name and address into the computer, we also enter in the name of the person that gave us that contact.  We also enter the event or activity that resulted in the contact; and we always put in the date.  This information allows us to do several things.  First, if the contact came to the Easter drama, we will send an extra mailing or two to all who have attended our drama before.  Secondly, several times a year we print out the names that are associated with our church members.  For example, if you have provided us with two dozen different names over the years of people you brought to church or contacts you made while involved in some church evangelism event, we will then print out that list for you and ask if you could possibly contact them again with a personal invitation. Finally, the date allows us to filter older address from newer ones so we can adjust the size of the mailing to fit our budget.  With this program we can ask for only those guests that have attended our Christmas program during the past two years.  So instead of a 6,300 piece mailing, we are only doing about a seven hundred piece mailing.

“Impressive!  But doesn’t this get awfully expensive?” Mark asked.

“Well, most of our mailings are sent with our not-for-profit bulk rate permit.  This allows us to send out a letter for less than twenty cents.  That’s what the ladies will be doing tomorrow – putting on labels, sorting them by zip code and bundling them according to postal requirements for bulk mailing.  But at least once a year we send out an invitation to everyone in our database by regular first-class.  This way we get address correction when they move.  If they have moved with no forwarding address, it comes back to us and we delete them from the database.

Mark nodded his head thoughtfully.  “How long have you been doing this?”

“For years.  Before computers we used an old metal address plate system.  But as soon as office computers became available, we got rid of that clunker – it was a real mess.  We have been doing bulk mailings of some kind for over thirty years now.  The reason is simple:  It works.  Do you want to know why?”

Mark grinned widely.  “No, but I’m hoping you will tell me.”

“Most people come to God because of a crisis in their lives.  Something happens – a death in the family, financial troubles, divorce, someone gets seriously ill – you name it.  It’s during these times that people feel a need of God.  Mark, I can’t tell you the number of times that people have told me that it was during their crisis that they received a flyer in the mail that reminded them of the church they had visited, sometimes many years before.  Now they needed spiritual help;  now they needed God.  So they end up coming to church and going to the altar and God filled them with His Spirit.  Our mailing list allows us to keep in touch with a vast number of contacts over an extended period of time.  Like I said, one hundred percent of our new converts come from this database.  The only exceptions are those that receive the Spirit the first time they visit with us.  But they end up in the database anyway as new members.  We also have all our church members in here so I can send out special reminders and announcements to all church members.”

“Okay, Elder.  You have convinced me.  I’m going home and get this started for my church too.  I just have one request.”

Elder Baker raised an eyebrow.  “And that would be?”

“Could you copy your addresses onto a disk for me to help me get started, because we sure could use some good contacts….”

Mark ducked as the elder pastor tossed a wadded up ball of paper at him.


Prospect Evangelism Works

This story illustrates the value of prospect evangelism.  A growing church will find prospects everywhere. They will find them behind barriers of prison, hospital, rest home, and ghetto – areas that many Christians seem reluctant to penetrate. Yet, somehow our attitudes must change. Like William Booth, we must also cry, “Some wish to live in the sound of chapel bell, but give me a rescue mission, ten yards from hell.”  We must adopt the attitude of D. L. Moody when he wrote, “I see every person as though he had a huge “L” in the midst of his forehead. I consider him lost until I know he is saved.”

You can build your church prospect file from church service visitors, individuals attending church socials and programs, door knocking, and church members family and friends.  But when your prospect list begins to grow and the names are overflowing your computer file, what then?


What To Do With Your Prospects

  1. Visit them – The most effective way to reach people is with a personal visit. Prospects names are put on visitation cards and the family is personally invited to church. If the opportunity presents itself, the Home Bible Study ministry is explained and a study is set up.
  2. Place the prospect on the church mailing list – With bulk mailing rates a church can send out monthly bulletins, revival announcements, letters of invitation, Home Bible Study promotions, and many other items into the prospects home on a regular basis.
  3. Telephone them – A simple, low key phone call to invite your prospects to a special program or service is an easy way to turn a name into a visitor.
  4. Get a Home Bible Study – All contact with prospects should have two goals in mind: getting them out to church and getting them in a Home Bible Study.
  5. Enroll the adults in Sunday School – Use the concept of “Enroll to Grow” to pre-enroll the prospect right on their door step. For more information contact the UPCI Sunday School Division.
  6. Involve the children in Bus Ministry – Whether the parents enroll in Sunday School or not, have the children become a part of your bus, van, or car ministry.


New Testament Evangelism

The purpose of a tree (the church) is to bare fruit. That is the very essence of it’s existence. But it must be noted that the tree does not eat the fruit itself. Rather, the fruit is given away to a lost and hungry world. Within all fruit are seeds, capable of growing yet another tree. True, not every seed that falls will grow. Nevertheless, we understand that the more seeds that are sown, the more trees you will have.

A church becomes a New Testament church when it is more interested in: helping than in being helped; loving than in being loved; giving than being given to; fasting than being fed; and meeting needs than having needs met.

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