Tag Archive | visitor

Do Your Guests Know You’re Expecting Them?

By Mark Waltz

 

This really happened to me.

I walked into a restaurant early in the lunch hour. Like 11:00. Surveying the place, I saw, well, nothing. Lots of open tables. And still I was told “give me just a couple of minutes and we’ll have a table for you.” I could see at least 1,200 seating options. But I waited.

As I sat down I intuitively wiped bread crumbs from the table into the floor and thought “this doesn’t make sense. There’s no way there have been other customers in here for lunch already.” Of course, the mess had to have been left over from the night before. We then learned that the coffee and tea were still brewing.

Bottom-line? This staff wasn’t ready for us. They weren’t really expecting customers – not this early any way.

How about your church? is it apparent that you’re expecting new people? Here are some simple ways to communicate “we’ve been expecting your…

  • a core of people who know church isn’t all about them – but about others, so they..
    • give up their front parking spaces
    • move to the center of the row, leaving the aisle seats open
    • greet people around them – even when they’re not “on” as an usher or greeter
    • invite their friends to join them
  • parking attendants in the parking lot
  • greeters at entry doors and ushers throughout the building
  • signage that points to “new family children’s area” or “guest services”
  • a verbal welcome from the front of the room that includes (without embarrassing) new guests
  • a program/bulletin that speaks to new people, using “normal” language
  • visible, accessible “on-ramps” that help new people connect and grow

When your guests show up will they think, “Wow! They acted like they were expecting me… and they were happy about it”… or will they feel as if they’ve crashed a party they weren’t invited to attend?

How are you planning for and expecting new guests at your church?

From the www.becausepeoplematter.com website, October 2009

Posted in AIS CD - Featured Stories, NC - New Convert Care Ministry, OPGP - General Outreach Ministry0 Comments

Visitor Follow-Up Training

By Rev. Tim Massengale

An effective visitor follow-up ministry should be a high priority in every church. Why? Because your visitors are, without a doubt, your best prospects for salvation. Consider the following reasons:

1. Ninety percent of the visitors that come to your church know someone within your church. Most of our churches have few “walk-ins.”
2. They are often searching for something spiritual or they would not have come.
3. They (hopefully) felt the power of God in your service.
4. Most important, the Word of God was planted in their heart by the power of preaching.
5. Finally, two very important statistics: (a) Ninety percent of all who receive the Holy Ghost in our churches receive the Spirit during a church service or a gathering of saints of some kind. (b) Most who receive the Holy Ghost in our services have come several times before receiving it. Very few receive the Spirit the first time they visit.

Therefore, since most who receive the Spirit receive it in a church service and also come multiple times before receiving it, we must do everything we can to get our visitors to return. Each visit increases their chances of going to the altar.

For a church to neglect so great an opportunity as their visitors and spend money, time and effort on a less likely prospect, is poor judgment. If your visitors do not return, you will have few receive the Holy Ghost. Therefore every church should strive to launch and maintain an effective visitor follow-up ministry.
How Visitor Follow-up Works

Visitor follow-up begins when the individual visits your church for the first time. Ideally a guest should be greeted at the door by a church doorkeeper. A friendly hand shake, a bright smile, and a kind word can set the tone for a pleasant welcome. Doorkeepers can help in many ways, especially when young mothers have arms full and children in tow.

After entering, each guest should be greeted by a trained host or hostess. A cheerful greeting and a warm handshake make a guest feel welcome and wanted. A well designed guest packet can also express that we care about their visit and hope that it will not be their last.

Guest reception experts tend to agree that it is best if the guest card is filled out by the host or hostess. Handing them a card and asking them to complete it and drop it in the offering plate will only see limited success. Many forget and very often the cards are incomplete.

Opening the guest packet, the Hostess quickly explains the contents and then takes out the guest card. Often she will say, “It’s so good to have you with us! Now, Pastor Smith will want to greet you properly. Would you mind if we got your names?” Most have no problem providing this basic information.

While names are a good beginning, it is the address that is the most essential element for effective follow-up. Research has shown that it’s best to be up honest and up front about why we want their address. Many have found success by simply saying, “We would like to add you to our church mailing list so we can inform you of future special activities. Would you mind if I got your address?” The majority are glad to provide this information for you. The hostess writes this on the card, making sure the name and address are spelled correctly. Phone numbers are optional. If they hesitate you should not press since this information iseasily looked up in the phone book or online.

After the guest card is completed, the guest is introduced to one of the ushers who helps them find an isle seat about half way down. Strategic seating of guests makes their response at altar time easier.

All guest cards are turned into the church office and quickly photocopied four times and distributed after service. One copy goes to the office secretary who will type up a letter from the pastor. This signed letter will be mailed the next day. She will also add the address to the church address database for future contacts by mail.

A second copy is given to someone assigned to make a phone call the next following evening. Often it goes like this: “Hi, this is Debbie from First Apostolic Church. Pastor Smith wanted me to call and express to you how much he appreciated you visiting with us in church this last Sunday and if there is anything else we can do for you, please let us know.” The purpose of the call is to simply leave a warm feeling in the heart of the visitor. The phone call says, “We care about you and we want you to return.”

A third copy goes to the church’s Home Bible Study director. This person does not call or contact the visitor. They contact the person that invited the visitor. One of the questions on the guest card should be, “How did you hear about us?” The majority of our guests come because someone in the church invited them. The Home Bible Study director should contact this church member and encourage them to ask their friend for a home Bible study. If they are reluctant to teach a study, they should be encouraged to set up the study and a teacher will be provided to help them teach it.

The last copy goes to the pastor who will follow-up in whatever way he feels necessary. The original card is given to the Visitor Follow-Up (VFU) Director. This individual is the key to a successful visitor follow-up ministry and should be good with paperwork and details.

On Monday the VFU director takes all the guest cards from the previous week and prepares follow-up packets for those who will be making the follow-up visits. First she transfers the information from the guest card onto a follow-up card. The follow-up card contains additional information that is not on the guest card, such as: approximate age, marital status, church affiliation, and other information that will help the person assigned better know how to approach this person.
1. How To Make A Follow-up Visit
a. Obtain your weekly follow-up packets from the visitor follow-up director.
b. Review your assignments and put them in a logical visitation order.
c. Always pray before going out. Ask God to prepare their heart for your visit.
d. If possible, always go out in two’s. If alone, never go inside with the opposite gender.

2. Each follow-up packet should contain the following:
a. Follow-up assignment card (see sample in Total Church Growth materials)
b. Printout of home location from Mapquest
c. Home Bible Study tract or brochure
d. Home Bible Study prospect slip (see sample in TCG materials)
e. Church card
f. Flyer for the next ‘major event’ on your church calendar
g. Prayer Request Card

3. Consider taking a small gift
a. Many have found it successful to take a small gift each time you visit: homemade cookies, homemade breads, church mug, a nice pen, etc. For other ideas visit www.outreachgifts.com on the internet.

4. On The Doorstep #1
a. Introduce yourself: “Hi! I’m Mike Smith from First Pentecostal Church. You visited with us last Sunday morning and we wanted to stop by and let you know how much we appreciated you visiting us and wanted to make sure you enjoyed your visit and to answer any questions you might have about the church or its ministries.”

5. On The Doorstep #2
a. Invite them to an upcoming event: “Well great! Glad you enjoyed the service! We also wanted to give you a personal invitation to our upcoming Homecoming Anniversary Service this next month.”
b. Hand them the flyer as you are inviting them. “Sell” the event a bit.

6. On The Doorstep #3
a. Ask them for a Home Bible Study: Oh, by the way, have you heard about our Home Bible Study program? No? Well, let me tell you about!”
b. Sell the HBS a bit (free, in your own home, helps you know your Bible, Genesis to Revelation, just 12 lessons, learn so much, Bible becomes alive, etc.) As you ‘sell it’ hand them the HBS brochure.
c. If they say, ‘yes,’ complete a HBS Prospect Slip. Get day and time! Close the sale!

7. On The Doorstep #4
a. Prayer Requests: as you are saying good-by, ‘Oh, I also wanted to mention. We have some really great prayer teams at the church and we have been having some pronominal 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?
b. If they have needs, write them on the follow-up card.

8. On The Doorstep #5
a. Quick word of Prayer: If you feel led, ask if they would mind having a quick word of prayer right there for their need. “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?”
b. If possible, all three of you hold hands. Say a simple and sincere prayer. “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. Etc…”

9. On The Doorstep #6
a. If they are touched: Often times you will see that they are visibly touched by you praying with them. 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.
b. If anyone is in the hospital or jail, ask if they would like to have a minister visit this person. Get information so a follow-up visit can be made.

10. In The Car
a. Complete any information needed on the follow-up card: comments, contact date, visit results, etc.
b. Be sure to note their prayer requests on the follow-up card. The next time we visit, we need to ask about the need and if we should continue to pray.

11. If Nobody Is Home
a. Leave a church card on the door with a brief handwritten note.
b. Plan to visit at least once more before Sunday Night in order to try and find them home. Try visiting at a different time.
c. This guest will be assigned to visitor follow-up each week until someone finds them home.

12. Subsequent Visits
a. We try to visit all guests three to four times a year.
b. If they visit went well, the same person should be assigned to make subsequent visits. Build relationship. Trust.
c. Each time we go through the same steps: invite to upcoming event, ask for a HBS, and ask for prayer requests.
d. After first visit our question for a home Bible Study changes to: “Have you thought any more about that home Bible study I was telling you about? Sell it a bit each time.

13. Pray For Them!
a. Most likely you will be visiting them several times each year. Put them on your prayer list! Pray for them daily. Prayer changes things! Ask God to get them to a place they see their need of God. Most people tend to come to God while in the midst of personal crisis. Pray, “God, whatever it takes to see them saved!”

14. If You Get A Bad Visit
a. Not all visits go well. Some people are cold. Others can be rude or verbally abusive.
b. If we get a very cold response twice in a row, we will evaluate whether to visit again.
c. If they are verbally abusive in any way, or ask us not to visit again, note this on the card. We will not visit them again. But we will continue to pray.

15. Importance of Visitor Follow-Up
a. The most important and successful evangelism ministry in the church is visitor follow-up. You are visiting the future members of our church.
b. If our visitors do not return, we will have few, if any, who receive the Holy Ghost. 95% of all who receive the Holy Ghost in our church came multiple times before they received it.
c. Visitor follow-up has proven to be the most successful way to encourage a guest to return. It also provides many home Bible studies.

Posted in AIS CD - Church Growth, AIS CD - Featured Stories, NC - New Convert Care Ministry1 Comment

Why Do People Join the Church?

WHY DO PEOPLE JOIN THE CHURCH?

Different people join the church for different reasons. In an exploratory study, Edward A. Rauff, Director of the Research and Information Center for the Lutheran Council in the U.S.A., asked 180 people to respond to the question, “Why did you join the church?” (Some interviewees indicated more than one reason for their decision.) Their answers fell into the following categories:

1. Family Relationships and Responsibilities. The dominant reason thirty respondents gave for establishing a relationship with a church was to keep the family together and to strengthen family life. The pull of a family member made them look toward the church.

2. The Influence of Christian People. Twenty-two said that they saw a difference in the quality of life of a friend, relative, neighbor, or co-worker, and then connected that difference in some way to the person’s religious conviction or church membership.

3. A Church Visit, Program, Special Event, Sacred Act. Nineteen recalled that when they visited a church for special occasions or were brought into some church programs, they felt called to a deeper awareness, reflection, or self-examination.

4. A Search for Community. A friendly atmosphere made eighteen feel at home when they visited a church. It bespoke a relationship that was warmer and deeper than they had experienced in non-church groups. This warm welcome made a return easier.

5. Personal Crisis. Seventeen felt they had lost control of their lives. Various events prompted a reordering of priorities and values and a reaching out to the church for help in meeting needs not previously experienced.

6. The End of Rebellion. Fifteen said their decision to join a church was made in response to a need to take up a role that had been laid aside, a need to “go home,” and return to former values and principles.

7. The Influence of Pastors. For twelve interviewees, the clergy were crucial in drawing them into a congregational relationship. The one-on-one interactions with clergy were milestones in the spiritual journeys that ended in church affiliation.

8. God’s Intervention. Twelve described their turning toward the church as so sudden and unexpected and so difficult to explain that it was “out of the blue,” an act of God. God’s kairos was also seen as a time of fulfillment, after earlier starts toward some church relationship.

9. The Journey Toward Truth. Eleven of the respondents pursued a personal and determined journey toward truth, often in the face of resistance. Square one, in some journeys, was a college course in intellectual history or the chance reading of some Christian author, or intense discussion with some Christian apologist.

10. A feeling of Emptiness. Eleven people who were interviewed noted a “feeling of emptiness” although they had “everything.” An aching,long-festering sense of hurt or sudden discovery of great loneliness nudged them along their way toward the church.

11. The Response to Evangelism. Ten felt they had been reached through the formal efforts of a congregation that initiated an evangelism thrust within the community. They cited the gentle, yet persistent concern of Christians for their present church affiliation.

12. The Reaction to Guilt and Fear. Ten of those interviewed gave rather intense testimony that joining the church freed them from a feeling of guilt and insecurity and gave them an assurance of salvation.

(The above material was published by The Pilgrim Press, in New York,NY.)

Christian Information Network

Posted in AIS File Library, GG - General Church Growth -0 Comments

Reaching the Church Shopper

REACHING THE CHURCH SHOPPER
EDGAR M. DAVIS

Your have a wonderful worship service. The choir is excellent. Scripture reading is appropriate. The musicians are enthusiastic. Preaching is under the anointing of the Holy Spirit. Why isn’t your church keeping the visitors and church shoppers?

I have seen many such churches. They had a fine spirit. I could sense God’s presence in their midst, and yet statistics revealed no numerical increase in perhaps three or four years. In some instances there was a decrease in numbers. It was not because they didn’t have good services, or because the minister wasn’t preaching the Word. Nor was it because the people were unfriendly. What was the problem?

In observing and talking with church leaders who are seeing visitors and church shoppers return to their church, I would like to suggest some guidelines which may be helpful.

VISITORS AND CHURCH SHOPPERS

The first suggestion is something most churches, to some degree, are already doing. When visitors attend your church for the fist time, ushers or designated greeters should welcome them to the service. In addition to the bulletin, specially prepared visitor information material should be provided to introduce the church and its various ministries. Seek to be especially helpful. If the visitors are a family, help direct individual members to the classrooms for their age levels or special interest. Point out your facilities, such as the nursery, appropriate Sunday School rooms, the restrooms. Include an easy-to-read floor plan of the church facilities, and post signs around the church that help direct first-time visitors to appropriate places. Better yet, have enough greeters or other appointed members on hand to personally go with each member to their appropriate room and introduce them to others in the class. Some churches make sure there are members of each Sunday School class available near the greeters throughout the morning. When a visitor arrives the greeter can introduce the newcomer to that particular class member, who in turn stays with the visitor throughout the morning, introducing him to others in the class and building a relationship with the person. Demonstrate personal attention to your newcomers. Extend to them a warm welcome.

Welcoming visitors is already done, to a greater or lesser extent, in most churches. But there may be some important areas you are overlooking.

Most pastors have experienced the situation where a visitor comments about the nice service and how much he/she enjoyed it. Then you never see the person again. You wonder where they are next Sunday and why they didn’t return. Later you may be surprised to hear that they visited another church down the street. The church may not have as many activities as yours, or as nice of facilities. Yet, in spite of the person’s complimentary response to the service at your church they joined another church.

GOING THE SECOND MILE

Look closely at the vital area of visitor “follow-up.” A comprehensive, workable strategy in this area will produce startling results I seeing visitors and church shoppers remain to become part of the family of God, working faithfully and conscientiously in your church’s ministry.Here are some suggestions…

Week One: Every Monday morning instruct your secretary to send out a letter to each newcomer from the day before. Communicate your delight in having them worship at the church. In the letter mention that you and some of the church family would like to drop by for a visit that week, and that your secretary will be calling beforehand to set up a convenient time for the visit. (By Wednesday the letter will have been received.)

In this letter include a schedule of the regular worship services, plus other activities of the church. Let the visitor know that you think highly of this church and the value it brings to its members. Tell them that you would like for them to be an important part of this church. You may be surprised at how honored and impressed they will be that you noticed and cared enough about them to send a personal letter, that you wanted to visit with them personally.

On Wednesday and Thursday your secretary should phone the visiting families and individuals to set up an appointment for your visit. The secretary is an important public relations person and should, herself, extend a friendly welcome to the person if possible, she should set up an appointment with the person or family for a Friday or Saturday. You may want to take your Sunday School Superintendent, assistant pastor, youth leader, or another person from the church who would have something in common with the potential new member(s).

In your visit let the people know you are genuinely concerned about them-personally-not as statistics on a roll. Too often churches give the impression they are only interested in “numbers” and “dollars. ” Your motive in visiting is not to add figures to your attendance record. Communicate that you are paying a visit because you are concerned about them.

ROLE OF THE SUNDAY SCHOOL
If the visitors have children, teacher(s) for their age groups should also be part of your church’s follow-up strategy. Develop a plan for teachers to call the family (by phone or in person) during the week following their visit. I have found that calls by the Sunday School teachers take place best on Thursday night prior to the pastor’s Friday or Saturday visit. One of the important functions of the teachers is , with sincerity, to build up the pastor and the church to the visitor.

Teachers should represent their church in a positive and enthusiastic manner. Honest bragging on the church, the pastor. and the people is a good thing for visitors to hear and members to say. By the time you personally arrive a day or two later, the newcomer will be looking forward to your visit.

Visitor follow-up does not stop here. When a newcomer arrives in town he Will shop at no more than one to three churches before settling on one ; or none at all. So staying in close contact with the newcomer during the first month of their new residency is critical.

Week Two : The next week a second letter should be sent from you to the visitor. Refer to your previous visit and time of fellowship together. Mention any topic of special interest that was discussed during the visit, and refer to particular ministries or activities of the church which might be relevant.

Also in the letter, answer any questions that were raised during the visit. (Keep a notebook handy during your visiting to record important areas to which you should later respond. ) You may want to enclose a brochure. article, a book, or tract that pertains to a subject discussed.

During this second week other individuals from the church should visit the person/family. Those visiting from your church should have various areas in common with the visitor. They should be involved in activities of the church and be positive about the influence of Christ and the church on a person’s life. If, from your visit the previous week, you become aware of some particular need or concern in that home, ask a person to visit from the church who is gifted in dealing with such a situation, or has had a personal experience and victorious testimony.

Church leaders and active members should not be surprised if they are asked to pay a friendly follow-up visit to a newcomer. A church-wide system of involvement not only responds to the needs of the visitors , but includes more members in the ministry of the church.

NEED TO BE “NEEDED”

Most people who visit a church want to be wanted. Your church’s sincere interest in filling this need is evidenced by personal letters from the church and the pastor, by personal visits by members, by showing a special interest in them and their life. In the process you will discover their own special talents and interests, which can be an important contribution in your church as well. Let the newcomer know that not only do you want to help them, but there is a place for them in your church-where they can help you. Giving, as well as receiving, is an important part of belonging and feeling needed.

Those who actively seek out a church home when they move to a new community desire to be used of God and to get involved in the work of the Lord. They are not used to being “pew-sitters, ” and are apt to bypass a church which shows no need of their abilities. God is not a person of waste. He desires that we each “make full proof of our ministry. ” I believe that as people seek the leading of the Lord in their search for a new church home, He will direct them to a church that provides the opportunity to make use of the talents and gifts with which He has equipped them to serve in His Kingdom.

Weeks Three and Four: During the third and fourth weeks, personal visits by members of your church should be continued and/or repeated. People representing appropriate departments and small groups in your church should visit the home and share what is happening in and through the church, and how the visitor can get involved. Members should urge the new family to participate in special events planned by the church and personally offer transportation or to meet them at the event. Also during the third and fourth weeks, be sure Sunday School members/teachers keep in contact with the various family members by phone, mail, or in person. People new to church attendance, or new to the community, are often reluctant to participate in the Sunday School hour. It will help immensely for individual Sunday School teachers and members to make friends in the home with potential class members.

You, as the pastor, also have a continuing role in the third and fourth weeks of follow-up. I realize that by now you have already sent at least two letters and paid one or more visits to the home. But remember that you are, at least initially, the key person in the eyes of these newcomers. Not everyone gets special attention from the pastor! Make an effort to learn their name, to recognize them at worship and other church functions. It is important to keep in touch with them by phone and personal visits from time to time.

In a large church it may not be possible for the pastor to do as much personal visitation as he would like. But as long as it is at all possible, do as much visitation as you can. After all, what is really more important in the work of Christ than building up the Body of Christ? These people are first and foremost your responsibility. While others, to be sure, will be sharing in visitation and follow-up with you, it is imperative that you, as minister of the church, set the example and demonstrate an active, personal interest in every newcomer.

As you follow or adopt these suggestions, the newcomers will have been visited for four straight weeks by people from your church. They will have received letters and phone calls from the pastor. They will have seen and experienced, without a doubt, that your church is interested in them. And it is more than likely they will stop their shopping and return to your church for a long-term commitment to worship, work, and fellowship.

RESULTS OF FOLLOW-UP

Not only will newcomers become a part of your church and fellowship, but they will provide contacts to other new people among the ranks of their neighbors, friends, and relatives. When their own unchurched acquaintances express a hunger or interest to which the church can speak, you can be sure the now new members will direct them to your church-which is now their church. And the love and personal concern originally demonstrated to them will be passed on again.

FOOTNOTE

1. THE CARING SYSTEM (developed by CHRISTIAN COMMUNICATION, 150 S. Los Robles, Suite 600, Pasadena, CA 91101) is an excellent such method for tracking visitors on a regular basis and building church contacts with prospects based on their unique needs and situations. Free descriptive brochure is available.

Posted in AIS File Library, GG - General Church Growth -0 Comments

How Well Does It Work?

VISITOR FOLLOW-UP: HOW WELL DOES IT WORK?
M. SHELLEY

What do they really think-those people we call on? Do they associate church visitation teams with the assorted cultist who go door knocking and pamphlet peddling? How many people are glad to see us, and how many feel we’re invading their privacy?

They’re normally civil, perhaps even polite-but pastors and lay volunteers wonder, What do they say after we’ve left? And more important, What effect, if any, did this visit have?

To find out, LEADERSHIP surveyed nearly seven hundred people who had been contacted in the past year by the calling programs of three diverse congregations: Galilee Baptist Church in Denver, Colorado; Bismarck Reformed Church in Bismarck, North Dakota; and Big Valley Grace Community Church in Modesto, California.

Each of these churches has weekly visitation based on the Evangelism Explosion method. The program, which trains lay people to give a brief, systematic presentation of the gospel, is used by many churches, including these three, to follow up on  first-time visitors to their worship services.

These were not “cold contacts”-homes picked out of the phone book or off a city map. These were people who had shown some interest in the church, usually by attending a Sunday morning service and signing a visitor form.

In order to get candid reactions and the greatest number of responses, the surveys were short-five questions-and anonymous, though people were given the option of including name and phone number if they were willing to talk further. Thirty percent included their names.

In order to assess the effect over time, separate surveys were sent to those visited from September 1982 through August 1983 and those contacted since September 1983.

Because of the strong response (from one group an amazing 74 percent of the surveys were answered) and the similar results from all three churches (despite their different sizes and locations), the survey may indicate what other churches with similar programs can expect.

Generally a Positive, Helpful Contact

Nearly 80 percent felt good about the visit, and over 60 percent indicated it was either helpful or very helpful.  In response to the question “After they left, what were your personal feelings about the visit?” less than 1 percent marked Strongly Negative (They shouldn’t have come.) Five percent said Negative (It was an irritation), 13 percent were neutral, 44 percent said Positive (I appreciated their stopping), and another 35 percent felt Strongly Positive (I was very glad they came). Three percent marked Other.

Several surveys said, “I was nervous and hesitant at first, but afterward I was glad they’d come.” Others were grateful for “meeting people who cared.” Those who were negative complained primarily about the timing of the visit.

“We had just moved to town and were very busy laying carpet and cutting the pads underneath in anticipation of the moving van arriving the next morning,” wrote one respondent. “When the team called, I explained our predicament and suggested we meet another time, but they said they only visited that night
each week and insisted they come in for a short visit. I felt very uncomfortable-we had no furniture, no refreshments, and were in work clothes. We explained we were Christians already, yet we had to listen to the whole speech because one member of the team ‘needed practice.’ The `short’ visit lasted an hour and
a half, and we were resentful since we had to work into the early morning hours to prepare for the movers.”

Several mentioned that the visits came just as they were leaving the house, at bedtime for kids, when someone was sick, or at mealtime. “My husband and I were both in our bathrobes and felt uncomfortable with the unexpected visitors,” said one. Another wrote, “My husband had the flu, the house was a disaster, and they came unannounced. I would have appreciated some warning.”

Several others commented on the approach of the callers:

“They treated me like a new Christian instead of the person I am-a Christian of twenty-five years.”

“Once they discovered I was a Christian, they `practiced’ the plan of salvation on me. I felt like a guinea
pig.”

These, however, represent a minority. In response to the question `after they left, did you feel you had gained anything by their coming?” Only between 3 and 19 percent (depending on the church) said No, the visit wasn’t helpful. The overwhelming majority said the visit was either somewhat helpful, helpful, or very helpful.

What, if anything, did they feel they’d gained? Most checked more than one response:
Information about the church (69 percent)
Beginning a friendship with the visitor (32 percent)
A further step in my Christian walk (26 percent)
Help with a personal question or problem (13 percent)
A new understanding about the Christian faith (9 percent)
A new relationship with Jesus Christ (6 percent)
Other (12 percent).

Among those marking Other, a few were negative (“We appreciated the first visit, but after we told them we were active in our own church, they should not have come back four more times. It was an irritation”). Most, however, expressed appreciation. “I was glad to see Christians evangelizing rather than the cults,” said one man.

Or, as a Bismarck woman wrote, “I became a Christian three years before, but I backslid. After this visit I felt as though someone cared. When they left, I rededicated my life to Christ. Now I’ve joined a women’s Bible study at the church.”

Long-Term Effects

Survey responses also revealed the church attendance patterns following the visitation.

Overall, 28 percent said they’re now regularly attending the church that called on them. Another 12 percent have been back once or twice.

Some 13 percent have visited another church and become active there, and 10 percent were already attending another church and have become more active there.

No change in church involvement was reported by 23 percent, and 14 percent marked other.

Another way of looking at it: Based on this sampling, 40 percent of those you visit will wind up back at your church at least once, and a full 50 percent will become more frequent church attenders, either at your church or another.

Often this takes time. While 30 percent of those visited recently claimed no change in church involvement, that number dropped to 18 percent among those visited several months ago. In other words, results sometimes come late; people begin showing up months after the doorbell was first rung.

Where do these unhurried people eventually plug in?
Primarily other churches. Of those called on recently, 30 percent are regularly attending that church. For
those called on a year ago, the figure dips slightly to 27 percent. But during that year, the number of those becoming more active in other churches rises from a combined 14 percent to 29 percent.

If visitation is seen as a ministry for the kingdom of God rather than simply for the specific congregation, this can be encouraging: over half the people you visit will likely become more active at one church or another.

The Fraction We Focus On

Evangelism programs often rate their success by how many people “pray the prayer,” committing themselves to Jesus. What about this 6 percent? Who were these people?

Mostly young adults. By age, the new believers fell into these categories:
1-19 years-none
20-35 years-8O percent
36-50 years-7 percent
51-65 years-l3 percent
65 years or more-none
Possibly this can be explained because the early adult years are transition years, and those in flux are
more receptive to the gospel. It also maybe the result of this group doing more church shopping and thus being the focus of more visitation.

In addition, 80 percent of those claiming a new relationship with Jesus Christ also marked the response Took a further step in my Christian walk. Perhaps this wasn’t the first time they had heard the gospel; perhaps they had been getting closer to taking this step for some time.

What part did the visit itself play in their decision?
What had been especially influential? We phoned all those who’d said they’d begun a new relationship with Christ and who’d included their name and phone number.

Slightly over half described the experience as primarily a renewal of previous religious commitment.

“We wanted to get back into following Christ,” said the wife of an air force officer. “We were puzzled about things in the Bible. They answered our questions and gave us the words to describe our faith.”

“I was already a Christian, but I’d sort of gotten away from it,” said a young woman in California. “But they were so warm but not pushy; they didn’t make me feel like an outcast. They opened my eyes about how people really are-that it is normal to slack off, but you have to keep coming back.”

In every case, however, even among those making a first-time commitment, there had been exposure to the gospel before they met with the visitation team.

“I’d been reading the Bible with a Christian girl at work, and I was beginning to understand what God wants,” said a Denver woman. “But I had never really prayed to ask Jesus into my life. The people from the church asked if I wanted to, and I said yes. It was my first time `officially,’ and I was real nervous because I didn’t know the people. If that had been my first contact with Jesus, I wouldn’t have done it.”

Another new believer, a medical student, explained, “I grew up (and still am) an Episcopalian, but I never had what I’d call a personal relationship with God. Then I experienced several deaths of people about my age, and I realized that if I was going to be a doctor, I’d better come to terms with death.

“When the group from Galilee came, they explained their faith, and it made sense. They were very supportive, but didn’t push. They didn’t say anything I hadn’t heard before, but we prayed together, and it was a big symbolic event, a outward declaration of my faith. It was the beginning of the process of change in my life.”

What We’ve Learned

After sifting survey returns and interviewing by phone, what can we conclude? What would be helpful for visitation teams to know? Three things stand out:

1. Calling on people is not offensive. The strongest finding of this survey is that while some people may be hesitant at first, 80 percent wind up enjoying the attention they receive.

Those who knock on doors without phoning ahead of time have greater risk of negative response, but as Mike Pentel, a visitation team leader at Galilee Baptist, says, “It’s a  tradeoff. When you call ahead of time and ask if you can come over, it’s easier for them to say no. The people who need it most wouldn’t get touched. If we don’t find anyone at home several nights in a row, then we’ll try to call and set up an appointment. ”

And unless the time was inconvenient, even those who weren’t called appreciated the visit.

Many of those ready to make spiritual decisions, however, are eager to talk and simply waiting for the opportunity. Most of those who’d begun a new relationship with Christ also said they knew the visitors were coming-either someone phoned or someone had talked to them at church. Instead of discouraging anyone from coming over, these people said they were prepared to discuss spiritual things with the visitation team.

2. Make sure the communication is two-way. No one surveyed objected to what the callers said. People who’ve visited a church are interested in what the church stands for. The resistance comes when the message is dispensed as a monologue or a sales pitch with only token responses asked of the listener.

“All the visitor did was tell me the basics of Christianity without ever asking about where I was in my spiritual life,” wrote one man. “He rambled on and sought no interaction from me.”

Another said, “I didn’t get any information about the church-only their personal experiences.”

One woman reported, “It was uncomfortable because I was a Christian, but my husband is not. He stood up
through the whole visit hoping they’d leave, though he’s too polite to ask them. But one man talked for twenty minutes without stopping. They needed to ask us some questions. It was unnatural.”
Interestingly, now a year later, that woman is involved herself in the church’s visitation program, and she’s learned from her pastor how to talk about the gospel naturally. “It’s much more relaxed that way,” she says.

3. Don’t be discouraged if the night doesn’t produce a dramatic conversion. Lay people sometimes get the impression that the evening is less than successful if no one prays to accept Christ. Actually, a profession of faith is the exception, not the rule-one in approximately twenty visits. But that doesn’t mean failure. Significant spiritual things are happening.

One woman, for instance, who indicate; personal question or problem, said, `about a month before the people from the church came, my ex-husband kidnapped my son. He came over for a visit, put our son
in the car, and left. I haven’t seen either of them since.

“I was feeling so guilty-I should have known . . . I should have done something to stop it.

“You never get over those feelings, but the people who  visited me from the church really helped. They didn’t second-guess me, and they helped me see I didn’t need to keep blaming myself. They cared about me.

“I told them I was thinking of taking in an older person to room with me, and within the next week, each of them phoned me with names of people to contact. They kept me going through a rough time.”

No, this woman didn’t make a profession of faith that night. Nor has she been added to the church rolls-she’s only been back once or twice. But that anonymous visitation team showed that ministry, even when it’s not visible, can be effective.

SOURCES AND RESOURCES

I. BOOKS

Arn, Win, editor. The Pastor’s Church Growth Handbook, Volumes I and  II. Church Growth Press, 1979 and 1982. See especially Volume I,  “The Apathetic and Bored Church Member” by John S. Savage; Volume
II, “The Unchurched American” by George Gallup, Jr. and “Views of  Evangelism” by Flavi Yeakley.

Callahan, Kennon L. Twelve Keys to an Effective Church. Harper &  Row, 1983. See Chapter 2, “Pastoral and Lay Visitation.’

Dale, Robert D., and Delos Miles. Evangelizing the Hard-to-Reach.  Broadman Press, 1986. See Chapter 4, “The Drop-Outs: Forsaking   the Assembly.”

Greenway, Roger S., editor. The Pastor-Evangelist. Presbyterian and  Reformed Publishers, 1987. See Chapter 7, “Learning How to  Witness” by D. James Kennedy, and Chapter 9, “Follow-up to  Fellowship” by James C. Bland III.

Hunter, George III. The Contagious Congregation. Abingdon, 1979. See  Chapter 2, “A New Model for Christian Witnessing.”

Johnson, Ben. An Evangelism Primer. John Knox Press, 1983. See  especially Chapter 5, “Strategies for Congregational Outreach.”

Kennedy, D. James. Evangelism Explosion. Tyndale, third  edition, 1983.

Little, Paul E. How to Give Away Your Faith. Intervarsity  Press, 1966. See Chapter 2, “How to Witness.”

Metzger, Will. Tell the Truth. InterVarsity Press, 1981. See  Chapter 9, “How to Communicate Personally.”

Miles, Delos. Introduction to Evangelism. Broadman Press, 1983.  See Chapters 13 and 14, “The Spiritual Autobiography” and “The  Personal Testimony.”

Miller, C. John. Outgrowing the Ingrown Church. Zondervan,  1986. See Chapter 10, “Equipping for the Harvest Field.”

Miller, Herb. Tools for Active Christians. The Bethany Press,  1979. See Chapter 5, “Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore: The  Inactive Church Member,” and Chapter 6, “Overcoming  Evangelphobia: The Evangelism Call.”

Schaller, Lyle E. It’s a Different World! Abingdon Press, 1987.  Lyle Schaller writes a book a year, each of them packed with  information that helps the church meet the challenge of today’s  world. See especially Chapter 8, “From Doorbell to Mailbox.”

The Pastor and the People (revised). Abingdon Press, 1986. See especially Chapter 12, “Where Are the Visitors?”

Sweazey, George E. The Church as Evangelist. Harper & Row, 1978.  See Chapters 6, 10, and 11: “Making Contacts,” “Using Lay  Callers,” and “Instructions for Evangelism Callers.”

Wagner, C. Peter. Strategies for Church Growth. Regal Books, 1987.  This is one of several helpful books by Peter Wagner on how to  help churches grow. Refer especially to Chapter 1, “Why Plan Strategy,” and Chapter 3, “The Harvest Principle.”

Watson, David. Called and Committed. Harold Shaw Publishers, 1982. See Chapter 9, “Evangelism.”

II. ORGANIZATIONS

The Alban Institute helps congregations to equip the people of God for ministry in the church and in the world. Through onsite training, educational events, consulting, research, and publishing, the institute works with many denominations. For a publications catalog write The Alban Institute, 412 Nebraska
Avenue NW, Washington, D.C. 20016.

The Billy Graham Center sponsors a variety of conferences and workshops to evangelize the lost, including the well-known Billy Graham Evangelistic Association School of Evangelism. For a list of events and dates, write The Billy Graham Center, Wheaton College, Wheaton, Illinois 60187.

The Charles E. Fuller Institute of Evangelism and Church Growth is a nonprofit organization dedicated to enhancing the ministry potential of the church. Using seminars, consultants, and training resources, the institute is geared toward equipping church leaders for more effective ministry. For a catalog, write
Fuller Institute, P.O.. Box 91990, Pasadena, California 91109.
Church Development Resources is the program and publishing arm of Christian Reformed Home Missions. Its materials and programs are used by more than 50 denominations in North America and include programs such as Men’s Life, Coffee Break, and Story Hour, which seek to evangelize, disciple, and assimilate men, women, and children. Through its Discover Your Gifts congregational workshop, Church Development Resources has been a leader in the discovery and use of spiritual gifts to mobilize members for ministry. For a catalog or further information, write Church Development Resources, 2850 Kalamazoo Avenue, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49560 or 3@75 Mainway, Burlington, Ontario L7M 1A9.

The Church Growth Center is a nonprofit ministry dedicated to the transformational change of the church, toward the effective implementation of the Great Commission to make disciples of all nations. For information and a listing of services and resources, write Church Growth Center, Corunna, Indiana @6730.

Church Growth, Inc. (formerly Institute for American Church Growth) is a leading support organization helping churches in their task of making disciples. Using seminars, study kits, books, films, and videos, the organization supports and enhances the leadership of the pastor and the growth of the local church.
For a catalog write Church Growth, 709 E. Colorado Boulevard, Suite 150, Pasadena, California 91101.

Dynacom Ministries includes in its evangelism resources a visitation program developed by Paul A. Cedar called “Night of Caring,” which uses video presentation for thirteen sessions of training and calling. For further information write Dynacom Ministries, 127 N. Madison Avenue, Suite 22, Pasadena, California 91101.

Evangelism Explosion III International provides training and resources for visitation evangelism based on D. James Kennedy’s Evangelism Explosion. Basic and advanced workshops are scheduled at various places in the United States, Canada, and 80 other nations. For information and a schedule of workshops, write Evangelism Explosion III, P.O.. Box 23820, Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33307. In Canada, P.O.. Box 266, Station D, Scarborough, Ontario MIR 5B7.

The Life Enrichment Center of Pine Rest Christian Hospital provides presentations, short courses, workshops, and special events of many different kinds. Included are workshops on caring for inactive church members, friendship skills, effective communication, and leadership styles. For more information,
write the center at 6850 South Division Avenue, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49508.

The Navigators is an international, evangelical Christian organization dedicated to help fulfill the Great Commission by multiplying laborers for Christ in every nation. The publishing arm, NavPress, publishes many helpful discipleship resources. Write The Navigators at P.O.. Box 6000, Colorado Springs, Colorado 80934.

Stephen Ministries is a non-profit religious educational organization best known for the Stephen Series, an intensive training process that helps church members discover people’s needs and minister to them with loving care. For a Stephen Series inquiry packet, write Stephen Ministries, 1325 Boland, St. Louis, Missouri 63117.

Serendipity has for many years Provided innovative Bible studies and seminars on small group dynamics that help churches attract and assimilate new members. For information on materials and workshops, write Serendipity, Box 1012, Littleton, Colorado 80160.

Serve International is a church-serving ministry committed to helping pastors and church leaders in equipping God’s people for renewal, follow-up, and personal evangelism. The basic textbook is the LifeCycle training manual by Archie Parrish. Contact Serve International at 120 Interstate North Parkway East, Suite 404, Atlanta, Georgia 30339.

Posted in AIS File Library, VF - Visitor Followup Ministry0 Comments


Log in / Logout

Subscribe Today!

Options

CLICK TO VIEW ISSUE 30-10

Archives