By Tim Massengale
Pastor Mark North smiled at the group of saints assembled before him.
“Thanks for coming tonight. I asked you here so we could hopefully become more effective in our follow-up visitation. Most of you have been making at least one follow-up visit per week for several months now. Our results have been good — but I feel they could be better. So I have asked our good friend and neighboring pastor, Brother Vernon Baker, to speak to us tonight on the topic, ‘Making An Effective Follow-up Visit.’ You all know and love Brother Baker and he needs no additional introduction, so I will now turn the podium to him.”
Brother Baker stepped to the podium.
“Thank you, Pastor North. It’s an honor to speak to you fine folks. I love and respect your pastor. He’s a great man of God and you have a wonderful church. I appreciate the opportunity to talk about a subject that I feel very passionate about.
“I am not going to spend much time on the importance of guest follow-up. Since you are already involved in this ministry, you know how important it is. Remember, 100% of our new converts come from our church guests. Since only about 5% of our guests receive the Holy Ghost the first time they attend, that means if the other 95% are going to receive the Holy Ghost, we have to get them back again. Guest follow-up visitation is by far the most effective method of doing this.
“There are four parts to the guest follow-up ministry at my church. We are very diligent to get a guest card on every visitor. Once we have that card, we do four things: (1) We telephone them within 24 hours and thank them for visiting us. (2) I, as pastor, send them a letter which will arrive at their home within 2-3 days after their visit. (3) We then visit them at their home within seven days of their visit. This visit will be the topic of my comments tonight. (4) And finally, we place their information into our computer so we can print mailing labels. Six to eight times a year we send out special invitations to all past guests, inviting them to various upcoming church events.
“We have found that by using this follow-up procedure, we have a high percentage of return visits by our guests. If we can get them to attend church several times, they often end up in the altar seeking for the Holy Ghost. Bottom line is this: If the guest cared enough to get cleaned up, dressed up, and drive several miles to visit us, we should care enough to get cleaned up, dressed up, and drive several miles to visit them. Let’s extend to them the same courtesy they gave to us.”
The Follow-up Packet and Gift
Brother Baker held up a large manila envelope. Printed on the front were the words Guest Follow-up Assignment in bold letters.
“A follow-up visit begins when you receive a follow-up packet. These have been prepared for you by the Guest Follow-up Director. One or more of these packets — one packet for each home you will visit — will be handed to you on Bible study night. Inside the packet you should find the following: (1) A follow-up assignment card that contains important information about the guest. (2) A Mapquest print-out showing the exact location of the home. (3) A flyer promoting an upcoming church activity to which we will invite them. (4) A home Bible study brochure explaining what the HBS ministry is all about. (5) A HBS prospect slip. (6) A prayer request card. (7) And finally, a church card. Some also like to put in a tract on healing as well.
“You have until Sunday night to make your follow-up visit. I want to encourage you to pray before going out and ask God to open the heart of the person you will be visiting. I also encourage you to not go alone. Two people at the door step tends to be less threatening for a variety of reasons.
“Many churches like to provide a small gift for you to take. We have done this for several years with excellent success. We have had mugs made up with our church name and logo on them. We fill this mug with chocolate kisses, wrap it up in cellophane with a bow and church card. Everyone seems to love it and we have had good feedback from this gift. We also use homemade sugar cookies and pumpkin rolls as well.
On The Doorstep
“Most of our follow-up workers visit in early evening. Around seven o’clock seems to work best. We never make a visit past 9:00 PM. We also have good results on Saturday morning around 11:00 AM and on Sunday afternoon.”
A hand shot up from the front row. “What do you normally say when they open the door? Can you give us an example?”
“Good question! When they come to the door you should first introduce yourself. For example you might say, ‘Hi! I’m Mike Smith from First Pentecostal Church. You visited with us last Sunday morning and we wanted to stop by and drop off a small gift and also let you know how much we appreciated you visiting us. We wanted to make sure you enjoyed your visit and to answer any questions you might have about the church or its ministries.’
“Next, you should invite them to the upcoming event. For example, ‘Great! Glad you enjoyed the service. We also wanted to give you a personal invitation to our upcoming Homecoming Anniversary Service this next month.’ Hand them the flyer as you are inviting them. I usually encourage my workers to ‘sell” the event by telling them a bit more about it and how wonderful it will be.
“The third thing we do is ask them for a Home Bible Study. For example, ‘Oh, by the way, have you heard about our Home Bible Study program? No? Well, let me tell you about it!’ I always tell them to sell the HBS a bit also. For example, let them know it’s free, it’s taught in their own home, it helps you know your Bible, covers Genesis to Revelation, just 12 lessons, you will learn so much as the Bible becomes alive, and so on. As you talk about it, hand them the HBS brochure. If they say, ‘yes,’ be sure to complete a HBS Prospect Slip. This form asks the day and time that is best for them to have the study. This slip will be given to the HBS director to help them get going.
Don’t Forget To Pray
“The last thing we do is ask for prayer requests. Usually, as you are saying good-bye, you will say something like, ‘Oh, I also wanted to mention — we have some really great prayer teams at the church and we have been having some amazing miracles of answered prayer. Just recently a woman was healed of cancer. Another fellow needed work and God helped him find a great job. Really exciting stuff! Would you happen to have any special needs you would like our prayer teams to pray about?’
“If they have a need, write it on the prayer request card. Then, if you feel led to do so, ask if they would mind having a quick word of prayer right there for their need. I usually say something like, ‘Debbie, we will certainly make this a matter of prayer. In fact, would you mind if we took a moment and said a short prayer right now for your father?’ I have yet to be turned down. The three of us will hold hands and I try to say a simple, but sincere prayer. Something like, ‘Lord, we are so thankful today for Debbie and Mike and their two wonderful children. We know your hand is upon this family and home. We ask that you would continue to bless them and draw them closer to you. Lord, today we are agreeing together for the healing of Debbie’s father who is in the hospital for heart surgery,’ and so on.
“Quite often they are touched and you will see their eyes bright with tears. You should then reemphasize again how much we would love to see them in church this coming Sunday and, if you feel led to, mention again how much they would enjoy the Home Bible Study. If their prayer request involves someone in the hospital or jail, you should ask if they would like to have a minister visit. If so, get the needed information so a follow-up visit can be made.
“Once you are back in the car, be sure to complete the back of the follow-up card and tell how the visit went. Also, make sure the prayer request card is filled out in detail. The next time we visit we will want to ask about the need and if we should continue to pray.”
A hand went up toward the back. “What if no one is home?”
“Great question. If no one is at home, you should leave a church card with a simple note on the card, like: ‘Stopped by to say hi. Sorry we missed you!’ You should always try several times to find them home. Sunday afternoon on the way home from church often is a great time to visit and we can often see them come to church that evening.
“Always return the packet on Sunday evening, even if you never contacted them. This packet will be reassigned every week until we contact them. If you are given this packet again, try visiting at a different time or day so you will have a better chance of catching them home. Some people work evenings and weekends.”
Brother Baker continued. “While the at-home visit is the most important and successful element is a good guest follow-up program, it is critical that we visit more than once. Research has shown that the visitors return most often after the second or third follow-up visit to the home. But you can’t go back every week. That would be annoying. We always try to put at least three months between each visit. This also gives the Holy Ghost time to work on their heart and get them to a place where they feel a need of God. We try to visit all guests four times a year, three months apart.
“Usually the same person who made the first visit is assigned for subsequent visits. This helps build relationship and trust. Each time we visit we go through the same three steps: invite to an upcoming event, ask for a Home Bible Study, and ask for prayer requests. After the first visit, the question for a home Bible study changes: ‘Have you thought anymore about that home Bible study I was telling you about?’ Most of the Bible studies we get from guest follow-up come after we have asked them three or four times.”
The elderly pastor smiled broadly. “That pretty much concludes my thoughts on Guest Follow-up. Thank you so much for your kind attention. The last thing I want to encourage you to do is to pray for the people you visit. You will most likely be visiting them several times each year. Put them on your prayer list! Pray for them daily! Ask God to get them to the place that they see their need of God. Most people tend to come to God while in the midst of a personal crisis. So pray, ‘God, whatever it takes to see them saved!’ Prayer will make the difference. Are there any questions?”
A hand went up. “What if you get a bad visit? What if they tell you to get lost or say something ugly?”
Brother Baker nodded his head understandingly. “I know exactly what you mean. I have gotten a few of those myself. We have been doing guest follow-up visitation for years at my church. I can safely say that 95% of the people we talk to are pleasant and polite. But occasionally visits don’t go well. Some people will be cold or even rude or verbally abusive. Often we will try again three months later — perhaps they were just having a bad day. But after two bad visits we drop them from future follow-up visits. But we keep them on our mail list unless they ask to be removed. We also continue to pray for them. But I want to stress, bad visits rarely happen. Most are very pleasant and open to a quick visit. They also love the chocolate and other gifts we leave!”
Elder Baker paused and looked around. “Any other questions? Yes, go ahead.”
“Should we call first before visiting?”
“Excellent question! I tell my follow-up workers that this is up to them. If you do call them, simply let them know you will be in their area and you would like to drop by a gift from the church. You will normally get a positive response with this approach. But most of our workers do not call. They just drop by unannounced. Since you are only there for a few minutes most do not seem to mind.
Brother Baker paused again. “Other questions? No? Well, let me say again how much I enjoyed being here with you tonight. I hope I was able to share a few additional insights into helping you make a good follow-up visit.
“In my ever so humble opinion, guest follow-up is the most important and successful evangelism ministry a church can have. Remember, 100% of your new converts come from your church visitors. So you are visiting the future members of your church. If your visitors do not return, you will have few, if any, receive the Holy Ghost. 95% of all who receive the Holy Ghost attend multiple times before they receive the Spirit. Guest follow-up has proven to be the most successful way to encourage a guest to return. It also provides you with a steady flow of home Bible studies. Thank you and may God bless your evangelism efforts!”
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