THE PROSPECT FILE
J. T.. PUGH
Perhaps the most important file of the entire church is the prospect file. It is said that, “Show me the prospect file of the church and I will tell you the extent of the church’s vision” We hope to share with you some important information relative to setting up a workable file system which will always be up to date and one that can furnish you the information that you need at any time.
SECURING NAMES FOR THE PROSPECT FILE
We will begin by considering ways of securing names for the prospect file.
1. New Move-ins
One of the best ways to discover prospects is through working the new move-in listings. Most cities of any size do provide a newcomers list. This can usually be obtained sometimes without cost and at other times for about five to ten dollars a month.
From this list many pastors find they have discovered some of their prime prospects.
The new move-ins have not gotten settled into a church. Perhaps even though they belong to another denomination they have had thoughts of changing churches. Moving into a new locality affords the break which is needed to push them along in this particular decision.
2. Visitors To The Church And Sunday School
Of course, every church should have a way through which the names and addresses of every visitor to the church is secured. Most of these are handed out by the ushers at the forepart of the service. A good ushering staff is able to lift them either personally or through the offering later in the service. These are often brought immediately to the pastor who is able to mention the presence of these people publicly. These people, according to the information on the visitors’ card, can be filed in the prospect list. Of course, some of them clearly indicate that they do not wish a visit.
3. Area Census
Every church should do something about census work. It should minutely cover detailed areas of the town. The population
shifts tremendously every three years. Out of these doors, of course, some of the prospects are discovered. Of course, no names should be included in the prospect file unless it can definitely be considered a prospect. To do otherwise would discourage the workers and waste much valuable time. Carefully review the section on Census/Witness Saturation Visitation for more information on census.
4. Periodical Review
A fourth and very effective way of picking up prospects is periodical review. A number of telephone directories can be brought to church once each quarter or each six months. The proper cards and writing equipment can be provided. These phone books and writing materials can be handed out in the forepart of the service with an explanation from the pastor that we wish each member to list the name and address of everyone that they have met whom they consider a prospect The purpose of the telephone directory is to assist the church member in finding the address of the party which they wish to list as a prospect.
ARRANGING THE PROSPECT FILE
The actual setting up of the file should be the next consideration. In the file drawer there should be a master card upon which is written the prospects’ name and address, age and family status. A card 4″ x 6″ or larger should be used. This leaves much blank space for each succeeding visit that is made upon the prospect and the results of the same to be recorded.
The information recorded from each visit should be the particular date of the visit, who made the visit and the response of the prospect. This large master card should never be removed from the visitation office.
Visitation Assignment Cards with space for four names can be purchased from the General Home Missions Department or
the mimeograph machine can be used to run off slips for assignments. These slips, one for each prospect to be visited on a given night should provide spaces which indicate the name of the worker who visited the prospect, the date of the visit and the response of the prospect. All of the workers should understand that these cards or slips are to be returned to the Outreach Director.
Five slips should be assigned for each visiting couple. Rubber bands are put around each five slips or else they are stapled together. They are numbered as #1 assignment, #2 assignment, etc.
VISITATION ASSIGNMENT LEDGER
In a large ledger should be noted the date of each assignment and visitation service. Under that date should be listed the couples who visited and what number assignment they took. The names of the prospects which were in this particular assignment should be written in the ledger. If it is impossible to determine who will take the particular assignment until after they arrive at the assignment service, this is no problem. It will be easy to take the ledger to the service and write down the name of the couple who takes each particular assignment.
Some may question the use of the ledger. However, it helps the Outreach Director to know which worker the various prospects have been assigned in the event he does not get the visitation slips back. Some will invariably go home from their last visit instead
of coming back to the reporting service. And there are some who will retain the slips which they have not contacted, intending
to finish the assignment on their own and turn them all in perhaps the next Sunday. Then, it goes without saying, some are simply lost. However, with the information written in the ledger the Outreach Director still has at hand all he needs to keep his master cards up to date.
He knows what couple to call upon by phone and secure from them a report of the visit which they did not turn in at the reporting service.
In the event that some of the assignment cards or slips have not been turned in the Director is to call the worker and get a report by phone of each of the people the workers were assigned to visit. This is very important. All information should be recorded on the master card. If this is not done it will soon be discovered that some prospects are getting too many visits. This can be as bad as not getting enough. Some, in fact, will not get enough unless all information is kept up to date and right at hand.
Unless the Outreach Director gets the desired information there will not be a record of response and of the general attitude which is needed.
The ledger also serves as a quick reference to the superintendent of Sunday School visitation. He can readily see who is being visited and who is not being visited. Thus, he and the Outreach Director correlate so as not to overlap with the Sunday school follow-up.
MAINTAINING THE PROSPECT FILE
Of course, we should think also about maintaining the file. New prospects are added to the file by making out a large card for them and placing it in the proper alphabetical position in the prospect file. The Outreach Director may choose to remove some cards from the file. In time, some people indicate they do not care to have any further contact with the church. It is best, however, not to entirely discard these files, but to move them to a separate section in the drawer. This is the inactive prospect file. After a space of time it may be good that these people at least receive a phone call. Things may have happened to cause them to change their mind relative to the church.
Pertinent information is typed from the assignment slip which the worker turns back in at the report service. This, of course, goes on to the permanent prospect card. The worker should return all slips or cards to the Outreach Director. Because he may not have been able to complete the assignment these can be re-assigned on the next visitation service.
The Director, by reading over the permanent card, can see whether each prospect is becoming warmer or colder in his attitude toward his church and God. The most likely prospects should be referred to the pastor for special attention. This is the responsibility of the Director.
Records and detail are a great factor in responsible and competent leadership. The leader in a local church who does not
draw back from keeping accurate records and initiating a concise program does both his God and his church a great service.
WHY KEEP A PROSPECT FILE?
Every church should have a file system to keep information concerning visitors and prospects. Each card contains basic information on each family who is even remotely considered as a prospect. By reviewing these names regularly, the personal
evangelist will recognize special needs or will be prompted by the Spirit to contact a person.
Why keep a prospect / visitors file? It’s simple! Not every person receives the Holy Ghost the first time they hear the gospel. Sometimes the gospel seed falls on hard ground or stony ground. But events soften some hearts and continued attention will often nurture a soul to spiritual birth. Don’t give up just because a person doesn’t respond the first time. Keep going back, again and again. Your persistence will pay off.
A prospect/visitors file, properly and consistently used, is a tremendous source which feeds into the church altar. Never
remove a name from the file but as prospects become saints, baptized in Jesus’ name and filled with the Holy Ghost, put their name in a special section of the file. As you review the file occasionally you will be thrilled at the number who have received the Holy Ghost. By checking the date they first visited the church, you will discover that persistence pays in souls won to God.
PROSPECT FILE SUPPLIES
As each prospect is designated, a special card is filed out. A copy of this card can be found on this page. A supply can be obtained by writing the General Home Missions Department. These should be kept in alphabetical order and must be easily accessible to the personal workers of the church.
SPECIAL USES OF THE PROSPECT FILE
How to use the prospect file
a. Write special letters – A personal hand-typed letter is not always possible from a pastor, but good mimeographing in our
day supplies an effective way to get a message by mail to the prospect where possible, see that the letter is hand typed; but
where not possible, make positive that the best mimeographing is done. Splotchy, crooked copies are worse than no copy at all. With your letter include any current advertising or a special bulletin which the church may have.
b. Advertisements – Before the special events of the revival, like faith studies, miracle month or the public services, special advertisements may be printed and mailed with a note of invitation.
c. Telephone calls on Sunday or before special meetings – By going through the cards and picking out good prospects and making a phone call you will see that the Sunday night service or the special service will have a good supply of visitors.
d. Use for visitation list- The personal visitation teams that gather at specific times can use the prospect file as a ready list of people to contact. The original card must never be taken from the prospect file, but lists can CARD be made from the cards and a report returned and recorded on the original card.
e. Use it for Sunday school contacts- During special emphasis in Sunday school for the revival, the prospect file becomes a ready source for Sunday school visitors and members.
f. Keep a permanent record of follow-up contacts. This can be done on the prospect card itself or by creating a “Permanent
Record Book of Visitation Assignments.”