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.