Announcing Our New Partnership and Course

Announcing Our New Partnership and Course

We’re all about helping churches grow. It’s why we create practical courses, actionable resources, and have a team of coaches ready to help church leaders through any struggle they face.

It’s also why we’re thrilled to announce a new partnership.

Gloo is an organization that brings powerful tools to help you know your community, congregation, and online audiences.

We’ve been using their Insights tool for a while, and it’s some powerful stuff. It goes way beyond demographics and reports. And there’s Journey Studio – a new discipleship and growth path builder. Right away, we knew that our churches could use this to help people grow in their faith. 

Both of these tools will really help your church. And I can’t wait to show them to you in the coming months.

But we’ve released something you can use right now. And it’s 100% free. 

We worked with Gloo to create a brand new, premium course called Data Fueled Church. Normally, we sell these courses or make them only available to members, but because of this partnership, we want to give it to you.

This course isn’t about being data-driven. Because let’s be honest…you’re not supposed to be driven by numbers; you should be led by the Spirit.

But being informed is part of being a good steward. Knowing the numbers should help you make good ministry decisions. That’s the heart behind this course. 

Like all of our courses, this one has practical video teaching and resources to help you take action. 

There’s no cost to enroll.

12 New Digital Ministry Lessons for Every Leader

12 New Digital Ministry Lessons for Every Leader

Covid has been like a mission trip.

We thought we were going on a short-term trip to a place that felt foreign.

We got there, and had to immediately learn some new languages and methods.

Turns out, this is becoming more like a long-term mission assignment. And since arriving in this digital Babylon (credit to David Kinnaman), we have been reaching people we never thought possible. It has actually led us to a stronger, more relevant and durable way of doing ministry with analog tools, digital tools, and everything in between.

For many leaders, the conversation around technology in ministry is relatively new.  And not always welcome. Consider three postures that a leader might take when facing the possibility of innovation in the local church:

    • Some leaders get excited at the thought of trying something new.
    • Some leaders will try something new if they must (a good pandemic always helps).
    • Some leaders will refuse to adjust methods no matter the circumstance.

Each leader has followers who take a similar posture, which usually enhances the confirmation bias of the leader. This makes it difficult to form a measured, objective opinion about how and whether to adopt the new method. All three postures can produce benefit or harm if taken to an extreme.

It's about change, not technology.

The debate about technology’s role in the church has ranged from wineskins and a torn curtain to pipe organs, radio, and streaming video. With each advance, church leaders have had to grapple not only with the new medium, but also with the implications on power, ministry, and trust.

In many ways Christianity owes its global spread to the work of people powered by technology. In fact, a sense of curiosity among Spirit-led pioneers of the past led us to adopt innovative technology for the work of the church. The implications were often positive, though often not fully anticipated. Consider:

    • The printing press enabled not just Scripture distribution, but also increased literacy rates and changing roles in the church. It also changed the understanding of “prophets, priests, and kings,” which eventually led to full-scale reformation.
    • Broadcast technology allows God’s Word to transcend borders, even into closed countries. It also enabled the rise of large-scale revival, and personality-driven ministry. This made possible the rise of the megachurch in the late 20th century.
    • The combination of streaming media, video conferencing, and data-informed ministry made ministry possible during the Covid-19 pandemic. Quite literally, it was the lifeline that kept churches connected and, in some cases, made the decision between survival or closure.

Leaders who recognize the possibility of the moment are the ones who can smartly make new technology a tactic in their ministry strategy.

Are we in an awakening?

We are in a watershed moment for the Church.  In a recent interview, James Emery White (pastor at Mecklenburg Community Church) shared this with me: “I think the pandemic may have just saved the church in many ways. It got us out of a Sunday/weekend-centric approach. It forced us online and into social media, it also made us open to change, being creative when we were not creative before, and open to innovation. It also got us back down to raw mission–what is our mission?  You add all of that up, and it is dangerously close to an awakening.”

Here are 12 key trends that have emerged so far this year. I believe every leader needs to critically evaluate whether these are true in each local context, and if so… how to respond.

1. Attendance is Officially Dead

By most estimates, the average family attended church between 1.2 and 1.7 times each month in 2019. The reasons for this vary, but it really messed with attendance numbers. Do you have average weekly attendance of 500?  That could really mean you are reaching as many as 750 or 1000 people, just not all on the same week. Sporadic attendance patterns also make engagement models tough.

So, we had a problem with regular attendance. Then Covid hit.

Our buildings shut down, so attendance crashed to zero right? Well in many cases, pastors actually watched digital engagement increase at the very moment that physical attendance became impossible.

Then we entered phases of the numbers dilemma:

  1. Tuning in: Digital viewership soared (we think)
  2. Church surfing: many people viewed sermons, devotionals, music, and content from more than one source
  3. Re-opening surprise: as churches opened their doors again, only 35% of people came back
  4. Habit change: it's looking like many folks will permanently opt for a more digital (or at least hybrid) model for engaging with the church.

What does “attendance” even mean anymore? Counting people in a blended physical/digital environment is challenging. Churches desperately need new ways to not just get an accurate number, but to know who they're reaching.

At Gloo, we've been talking to a number of churches about this problem, and they've helped us develop some early solutions such as the new Insights+ suite of tools. It's now possible for any pastor to know how many people are interacting with the church online, and to see the human side of the numbers. What are the demographics? How are marriages and relationships? What are the deepest spiritual needs in the communities I serve?

Rather than counting attendance, churches should start counting engagements and outcomes in the people they serve.

2. People (yes, even older ones) will learn technology if they have a good reason

Here's something that shocked us at my church during the quarantine. We had the highest level of Zoom participation in our Boomer groups and older. And although these folks were all-too-glad to get back to face-to-face fellowship, they've now seen that technology can work, and can help them maintain connection with people.

More broadly, according to a new Barna study, millennials have actually been more likely to stop engaging with church during Covid, compared to Boomers and Elders.

Pastors should consider technology-based solutions for effective ministry for the whole church, not just for the younger generations. Your middle and older generations may actually thank you for it.

3. Kids still need age-appropriate ways to learn and engage

What has been one of the most stressful parts of quarantine? For parents, it's trying to juggle daily responsibilities while keeping kids occupied.

What has been one of the biggest impediments to engaging with church, including watching the weekend streaming service? It's the fact that kids don't like it. And for those churches who have been doing virtual kids' ministry, many have been trying to combine several grades together so they can all watch together. This can result in a watered-down or too-young programming that the older kids will tune out.

Try thinking more strategically about engaging kids online, such as:

    • For middle and high-school students, schedule your digital programming sometime other than Sunday morning. They likely aren't awake anyway.
    • Segment younger elementary from older elementary.  Fourth grade is probably a good cutoff; the older kids will likely lose interest in the songs and message if it feels like they're targeting the little kids.
    • Kids crave community and like to learn when it's fun.  Try using various online tools such as YouVersion plans (groups can read together), Journey Studio to develop age-appropriate growth plans with a facilitator, or other learning tools like Kahoot for live quizzes on the material.
    • Since you're not spending money on snacks and stage props, invest in some tangible books, curriculum, swag, or other items you can physically send to every kid's home.  They'll be excited to get mail and much more likely to tune in digitally when they have the materials you sent.
    • Don’t forget the kids without phones and tablets. Some of them might be able to watch a YouTube video on a computer or complete a hands-on study lesson and then send it to a friend.

4. Our buildings and budgets need to change

Leaders may never get a better opportunity to scrutinize every budget line. As you consider re-opening and adding back programs, ask:

“What does this enable us to do?”

“Does this help us accomplish our mission?”

“How can we measure the success of this program?”

“What should this program look like if we want to serve both our physical and digital communities?”

“Is our church the best one to create or own this program, or should we curate/partner with the work of another organization?”

Every dollar you free up from old, outdated programs is a dollar you can now invest in reaching people in ways that are culturally relevant, measurable, and effective.

5. There is hope for the exhausted pastor

This year has probably been the hardest leadership environment we've seen.  Here are just some of the heavy, mind-crushing decisions that pastors have been asked to make:

    • Should I close my building?
    • How do I set up streaming?
    • Should I re-open my building?
    • How can I address racial equality in a way that is helpful?
    • Should we close again?
    • What if our government imposes rules on us that violate scripture?

At every turn, many leaders approached these decisions with a rigorous, careful process that included many voices and data.  Yet some pastors resorted to an isolated, gut-feel decision-making process that left them wondering (maybe deep down) if they were making the right call.  This is exhausting.

Healthy leaders are a prerequisite to a healthy organization. Operating for an extended period has taught us that using data to make decisions is very freeing. You'll never have 100% of the information to make any decision. But when you have more of the information you need:

    • Your decisions will consider a wider range of factors
    • You will reduce your blind spots
    • You will be better able to defend your decision to critics (you'll always have at least one)
    • You can stop guessing

The best tool of the Covid season, from my perspective, has been church-specific assessments. Asking your people for input on everything from face masks to job loss and financial disruption to protesting racial injustice has helped thousands of churches know their people better so they could make more informed decisions. And Gloo offers a wide range of these assessments for free.

Every church should be in the habit of checking in with people both physically and online; it's one of the easiest ways to take the burden off the shoulders of a pastor and let the Holy Spirit, wise counsel, and objective data guide the decision.

6. Knowing people has never been easier

There's no replacement for face-to-face. But does that mean digital is impersonal? Quite the opposite. Here's what one pastor told me in April:

“I was a critic of digital ministry until we were forced to switch. I'm completely converted. The quality and depth of the conversations I'm having with people online is incredible. Never have I been able go so personal, so quickly as I am right now. People are willing to share very personal things with me that they would never talk about in our building.”

Not only can personal interactions be surprisingly intimate online, but it's also now possible to know more than ever before about your community, and your engaged audiences (whether online or physically present). Churches are using macro-level information to learn things such as:

    • What are the demographics of the communities I serve?
    • Are the marriages in my church healthier now, compared to a year ago?
    • How many people are visiting our website for a 1st, 2nd, or 3rd week in a row?
    • What are the spiritual postures of people in different neighborhoods nearby?

These questions and many more can be answered and can lead to incredible ministry opportunities. Churches can attract, get, keep, grow, and multiply people more effectively now than in any prior time period.

7. Digital is diverse in every way

You don't need a big budget to leverage digital tools. In fact, congregations from the inner city to the suburbs are finding creative ways to reach more people than ever before. What's working? It's not slick production, fancy lights or multi-camera setups. Those are nice-to-haves.

What reaches people is authenticity.

A pastor recording a 3-minute honest comment on a smartphone can touch people in places where a 30-minute sermon cannot.

Further, digital pathways provide the means for any congregation to reach any individual–crossing the lines of ethnicity, community and social station.

Pastor Samuel Rodriguez told me, “The digital platform is multi-ethnic. It's not like there are groups left behind. It's multi-ethnic, multi-generational, and it becomes our primary faucet for disseminating the Gospel.”

8. Digital is both gathered and scattered, and it's neither

Is small group still small group when it's over video? Does virtual prayer still count? Can a person grow spiritually in a community that interacts through screens?

Hang in there, I'm not saying that Matthew 18:20 is irrelevant. But what if “where two or three are gathered” could extend to new definitions of “gathered?”  Could God still move through pixels?

Things you can only do in person:

    • Face to face fellowship
    • Corporate worship
    • Community care and outreach
    • Local ministry

Things you can only do online:

    • Streaming
    • Targeted communication
    • Personalization
    • Data-informed leadership
    • Measuring growth over time

Things can actually be better with a blend of analog and digital:

    • Worship
    • Bible teaching
    • Prayer
    • Evangelism
    • Giving
    • Groups
    • Leader Development

9. People may not be looking for church, but they are looking for answers.

There are 5 core areas of human flourishing, and our world is disrupted in all of them.

    • Spiritual
    • Relationships
    • Finances
    • Vocation
    • Health

Research on Google Trends reveals that each of these topics has experienced spikes in traffic since March 2020 (health and money are the leaders). If your church is preaching scripture, then you have something to offer your community in all of these areas! The question is, will you be able to reach these people in new ways?

Reaching people through an area of their lives with acute need (see the list above) can lead to gospel conversations, spiritual formation, and deeper discipleship opportunities. This applies in person, and it applies online. This is your moment to think about how to be a more externally focused church.

10. The fields are ripe

Is the world hurting right now? You bet. Is your community in need of gospel-centered love, restoration, teaching, and truth? Absolutely. Are they finding it in church buildings? Not so much.

The gospel message is not tied to any one delivery mechanism, and regardless of medium, it never returns void (Isaiah 55:11). As many are hearing the groans of a broken world in need of a savior, the gospel message is more needed now than ever. And people are responding online!

Terry Storch, Digerati Pastor at Life.Church, shared a breathtaking statistic with me after our first all-digital Easter. Across the thousands of churches that interact with the Church Online Platform that his team manages, they saw 75,000 people indicate a first-time decision (online) to accept Jesus Christ as savior on Easter alone. Praise God for the technology to reach people who need to hear the Good News.

We must hold each other accountable to evangelize. Not later, but right now. By any means available to us.

If your church is solely using its online presence as a content delivery channel for existing members, you are missing the bigger opportunity to reach and win souls. Whether it's neighborhood evangelism, Google ad campaigns, or any form of social media outreach, there are countless creative ways that you and your congregation can reach people right now.

11. New technology makes discipleship more accessible and measurable

There are rich and effective tools available to draw each person forward on their spiritual journey. One of our core tenets that Gloo acknowledges is that relationships catalyze growth. Intimate, life-on-life discipleship often involves in-person connections (as it should), but we can leverage additional tools in the process. Not just as an alternative, but to enrich the personal connection!

Have you ever used a personal trainer or a nutritional coach? These relationships work. Using a trainer/coach helps me reach my goal because I am combining a relationship with the right steps, and we can measure the result. Your discipling process might look slightly different but should mirror this sequence for the most part.

Effective discipleship ministries are leveraging tools to equip their people to disciple each other effectively. These might include:

    • Bible app
    • Videos, books, and resources from networks, denominations, or other movements
    • Discipleship apps such as One 2 One, LifeCoach, or Blue Book/Green Book
    • A comprehensive growth step delivery platform such as the Gloo Journey Studio, which lets you create a custom plan for any person or group, deliver it in the context of a discipling relationship, and measure the results

12. Waiting for the other shoe to drop is a bad strategy

The church has adopted new tools before—with significant consequences. Consider things we take for granted now such as printed Bibles, musical instruments, buildings with climate control, websites, online giving, and live streaming.

Every leader has a choice on whether to keep pushing forward. Sometimes that means doing the same thing for a while. Sometimes that means trying new things. I get it.

We're tired of disruption. Tired of pivots. Tired of hearing about the “new normal.”  But a big reason we're tired is that we're in uncharted territory, and it's hard to keep guessing at what's coming next.

Change involves curiosity. Sacrifice. And often, getting outside your comfort zone.

Don’t wait for the world to throw your church another curveball. You can be more prepared for what’s next if you continually seek ways to reach people no matter the landscape. The future of the local church will be shaped by how we handle the digital opportunity now.

Brad Hill is a senior executive leader at Gloo. Based in Boulder, CO, Gloo is a technology company built on a passion for personal growth and transforming lives. By connecting an innovative suite of products and resources for church leaders, Gloo supports a trusted platform that helps church leaders know and move every person they serve. You can learn more at gloo.us.

Take the Next Step

Data Fueled Church is a free, on-demand course that combines best practices and real-church examples, giving you a better understanding of how churches can use data, insights, and analytics to make better ministry decisions. This course is not overly technical. Instead, it focuses on practical applications for ministry, leadership, and reaching people.

How Church Leaders Can Communicate Without Knowing the Final Answers

How Church Leaders Can Communicate Without Knowing the Final Answers

No one knows much about what the future holds as some COVID-19 restrictions are eased, but we know that a lot feels uncertain.

Church leaders are hearing questions such as…

What’s our plan?

Will we reopen soon?

Will there be any layoffs?

With so much uncertainty in the world, your answer might be, “I don’t know.” And rightfully so.

But “I don’t know” doesn’t help and doesn’t give people a lot of confidence. On the other hand, communicating with clarity reduces anxiety.

We have two suggestions that we believe will help you communicate even when you don’t know what to say. When the answer is, “I don’t know,” here’s what you can do.

#1 – Bring your process front and center

Where “we don’t know right now” can be frustrating, communicating a plan or process is reassuring to people.

Simply knowing that there’s a plan being worked on puts people at ease.

Fewer people cared about the church’s cleaning process a few months ago. Everyone assumed that this hidden process excited and that it was happening behind the scenes.

But now, especially as churches consider reopening buildings for in-person services, plans and processes need to be front and center.

Even if you don’t have all of the answers yet, share the process you’ll use to get there. For example, “We’re not reopening the building this month, but we’ve put together a team of health professionals in our church family to help us do it safely. This group of people will meet every week during the month of July and work on safety and sanitation policies, reopening guidelines, and ordering the equipment we need.”

You can communicate this process for any decision when the answer is still “I don’t know.” Communicate how you’re making the decision, who is a part of the team helping to make the decision, and how you’re ultimately going to process it and decide.

#2 – Share trigger points or milestones

If you’ve spent any time on social media or watching the news from March 2020 to now, you know that opinions vary on staying home, wearing masks, and reopening businesses.

But one of the main, common frustrations seems to be that people hear “We’re closing things down” and there’s no answer in response when they ask, “Until when?”

You don’t have to know the final answer to say, “Here’s what we’re waiting for before we make our decision.”

We’re going to close the building down until we see cases reach this level.

We’re requiring masks until we see this happen.

We won’t meet publicly until these things happen.

We’re taking our cues from here.

We don’t have to cut anyone’s salary right now, but if our reserve account dips below this number, then we’re going to start reevaluating.

Communicating trigger points or milestones is more reassuring than saying, “We’re monitoring the situation.” It gives people specific things to look toward for answers and moments of change to look forward to.

When you say, “Here’s our process” or “These are the key milestones for us as we make decisions” even in the midst of uncertainty, people can have confidence in your communication and your leadership.

Watch our practical tips on communicating without knowing the final answer:

Take a Next Step

Knowing what to say can be a big leadership hurdle right now, but that’s understandable. We’ve never been in a situation like this before and “pastoring through a pandemic” isn’t taught in seminary. But that’s why we created those twelve prewritten emails—to help you save time and communicate well. 

You can serve through communicating and these email templates can help you get started. These pre-written emails will help you communicate with clarity, care, and concern and offer the hope and consistency that people need in these uncertain times.

Free Download

12 Emails to Send Your Church
 

The Guest Retention Formula: A Practical Guide to Effective Church Follow-Up Processes

The Guest Retention Formula: A Practical Guide to Effective Church Follow-Up Processes

When someone visits your church, whether online or in-person, you want to see them. You want to know their name. You want them to know that you’re glad they showed up.

And you don’t want their first visit (or first view) to be their last. What’s the key to getting guests to come back? Following up. Guest retention rate is highest when you follow up with people quickly and strategically.

In other words, an effective follow-up process is one of the most crucial processes you can have in your church.

Why does a follow-up process matter for a church?

  • It makes people who visit your church feel cared for.
  • It increases the likelihood that a first-time guest will come back again.
  • It shows how well your congregation is doing at inviting people to church.
  • It puts a system in place to help make sure no one falls through the cracks.

But follow-up also tends to be one of the most neglected processes in churches.

In the haze of happiness about a new guest visiting the church, we forget to follow up and ask how they’re doing, how their experience was, how we can pray for them, or how they’re interested in getting connected.

Close the gap between first-time attendance and long-term engagement by revisiting that neglected (or nonexistent) follow-up process in your church. Here’s how.

How to Measure the Effectiveness of a Follow-Up System

How well does your church retain first-time guests?

How effective are you when it comes to connecting new people into the life of the church?

Do you get them through the front door only to see them leave out the back door?

These are important church growth questions.

If people visit your service but never get connected, your church will struggle to grow.

That’s why every church needs to know their guest connection rate. It’s one simple number that lets you know how well you’re reaching and keeping new people and very few churches know this number.

To figure out your guest connection rate, you need to know two things:

  • The number of first-time guests who visit during a specific period
  • The number of those people who are connected six months later

Let’s dive in a little deeper…

How to Track First-Time Guests

If you want to know how many first-time guests are connected, you first need to get a grip on how many first-time guests are visiting. Here are three places you can get information from first-time guests so you can know who is there.

  • A Connection Card – When properly explained, a connection card is the best way to get relevant information from guests. You might even offer a gift for guests who complete the card. You can also set up a virtual connection card form for online services using any survey site (such as Google Forms or Typeform). Some church database platforms, like Church Community Builder, offer built-in forms.
  • Kids Check-In – When parents check their kids in for the first time, this is a great place to get relevant information. Ask someone on the administrative team to “flag” the names people who checked in their kids for the first time and plan to follow up with them.
  • A Welcome Center – Your church should have a clear and visible area for new people to get information. Whether you give guests a brochure or a gift at the welcome center, make sure that they filled out their contact information so the church can follow up with them.

For the purpose of calculating your guest retention rate, choose a period of time, and count all first-time guests during that period. For example, you could choose the month of January or the first three months of the year. Take a look at how many first-time guests visited your church during that period and write down the number.

How to Know Who is Connected

Once you know how many guests visited your church during a certain period, it’s time to fast-forward and see who is connected.

Now, this raises an important issue.

You have to define “connected.” It’s hard to know how many people are connected if the term “connected” has different meanings for every leader. That’s why you should discuss it with your team and just decide.

When I was pastoring Oak Leaf Church, we had this discussion and decided that of all the things we wanted people to do, the top three things were:

  1. Get in a small group.
  2. Serve on a volunteer team.
  3. Financially support the church.

Yes, there are other things that are important too, but those were the big three for us. These three actions showed that people we connected and engaged. And we decided that a connected person was someone who was doing two of the three.

You don’t have to define connected that way, but it’s important that you define the word. Once you do, you can figure out how many people are truly connected to your church.

Now it’s time to do the math.

If you know how many guests you had in a certain time period, you can look at that group of people and see how many are connected. Divide the second number (how many people are connected) by the first number (how many guests attended) and that’s your guest connection rate.

So, if you had 10 first-time guests during the month of January, and two of those people were connected in July, your guest connection rate is 20%.

This number is one of the most important metrics in your church.

You don’t have to measure this every week, but this is a great exercise to do twice a year. It takes a little number crunching and some figuring out with the team, but it helps you see how well your follow-up system is working and make adjustments accordingly.

Keys to Effective Follow-Up

Following up is one of the biggest missed opportunities in churches.

Without a clear follow-up strategy and process, first-time guests don’t feel welcome or get connected, new givers don’t know the impact their donation has and might not feel compelled to give again, and new believers don’t get a clear path for growth.

Just like you don’t communicate with your 14-year-old nephew and your 80-year-old grandmother the same way, you’ll use many different methods to follow up with different groups in your church. But there are a few defining characteristics of a great follow-up process that are important for every follow-up process you have.

#1 – Punctuality

Imagine you met someone new and sent them a text message two months later saying, “It was so nice meeting you!” They might not believe you. Timeliness in following up with guests is critical. Research has shown that your guest retention rate is highest when you follow up within 48 hours.

In 1987, statistics from Herb Miller reported how many guests will return depending on how quickly someone from the church visits their home.

  • 85% of guests return if visited in 36 hours
  • 60% of guests return if visited in 72 hours
  • 15% of guests return if visited in 7 days

We can replace “visited” with “called,” “emailed,” “texted,” etc. in today’s follow-up strategies, but the point remains strong: following up quickly makes your guests feel seen and valued, which makes them more likely to visit your church again.

#2 – Personalization

Many churches have a follow-up process that includes one automated email with a generic message about coming back soon and listing the service times. If that’s your church, you have a big opportunity to improve your process by personalizing it.

Emails are still effective but make them more personal with an introduction letter from the pastor and their family, answering frequently asked questions, linking to previous sermons they might find helpful, or a list of ways they and their children can get involved.

The follow-up process is also a great way to involve volunteers. Volunteers can write handwritten notes to first-time guests and givers, make phone calls, or send texts. There’s a place for automation (and, as we mentioned above, a way to make automation feel less automated), but there’s nothing like a personal touch.

Need a little help writing emails? Download our free email templates, 12 Emails to Send Your Church. These pre-written emails will help you communicate with clarity, care, and concern and offer the hope and consistency that people need in uncertain times and beyond.

Free Download

12 Emails to Send Your Church
 

 

If you’re a Church Fuel member, check out the pre-written follow-up email templates in The Follow-Up Course and our Resource Library. We have emails for following up with guests, givers, and new believers.

#3 – Clarity

Your follow-up process should answer the “Now What?” question. It’s up to you and your team to define what the next steps are so you can clearly communicate them when you follow up.

“Thank you for giving to our church. Please pray about our upcoming opportunity to reach our community, which your donation will allow us to do in the following ways.”

“We’re so glad you accepted Andrea’s invitation to visit our church. We saw that you live in the Fulton County area, and Jennifer leads an awesome group of women there. I’d love to connect you two.”

“It’s awesome to see you building your new relationship with Jesus. I’d recommend starting with this Study Bible and devotional.”

Clear and simple next steps give a purpose to your process and give people a path to follow.

#4 – Intentionality

It’s time to get serious about following up. A follow-up process that makes guests feel cared for and helps them get connected in your church doesn’t happen by accident.

Those you’re following up with can tell when your efforts are rushed and uncoordinated, so it’s worth taking the time to focus on how your church can intentionally follow up with people.

It doesn’t have to be complicated. Start simple by putting a system in place to follow up within 48 hours. Assign parts of the process to different members of your team and ask them to report on how many follow-up postcards, emails, etc. were sent each week.

#5 – Documentation

Don’t assume that everyone on your team knows how to follow up, that guests know what’s next, or that givers know how much you appreciate their giving.

Write it down. Put it on the calendar. Present it to your staff. Documentation takes the guesswork out of what’s next when someone takes an action at your church (visiting, joining a small group, becoming a believer, etc.).

It’s hard to follow a process you can’t see, but when your process is documented, your church has an official plan for following up—one of the most important actions a church can take. 

The Best Follow-Up Process for First-Time Guests

Churches spend a lot of time, money, and energy encouraging guests to visit their church. And rightfully so.

Our churches should be places where the community is welcomed and where guests are expected. We should create welcoming environmentsequip our people to invite, and constantly be on the lookout for fresh ways to advertise and promote.

But getting people in the front door might just be the easier part of a two-step process.

One of the biggest challenges that churches face is how to invite first-time guests back and help them connect with the life of the church.

Not just to attend, but to stick.

Not just to visit, but to connect.

With all of the focus on reaching first-time guests, we can’t forget that the follow-up or connection process is what helps new people find their place in the church.

Without a good follow-up process, your front door will be more like a turnstile, inviting people in and just sending them back to their regular lives.

So, what should you do after a first-time guest visits your church? What makes a great follow-up process?

First, a few very important principles.

#1 – Your follow-up process should be planned.

Guests are going to visit your church in the coming weeks, whether you are ready for them or not. That’s why it’s smart to think ahead through what you want to happen next.

There’s no need to rely on hope. You can carefully craft a strategy and a process that happens every single time. Your follow-up process should have an intentional ending.

In other words, it should lead to one clear place. What do you really want these new guests to do? Where do you want them to go? You don’t need ten different options; you need one clear step.

And speaking of steps, you can intentionally design each step of the follow-up process. Whether it’s an email, a text message, or a personal invite, each step should be there because it’s important.

Download our free Follow-Up Checklist to start evaluating the most important parts of your follow-up processes and establish clarity in ownership, effectiveness, and more.

Free Download

The Follow-Up Checklist
 

 

#2 – Your follow-up process should be personal.

It’s important to realize that your church can’t follow up with people; people at your church can follow up with people. So, even as you design an intentional process (and can use automation in that process), it needs to be personal.

If you send emails, make sure they come from a real person and can receive a real reply. If you send text messages, make sure they come from a real person and can receive a reply. If you send a handwritten notecard, make sure it’s signed by a real person who leaves a real phone number.

I’ve seen churches adopt a “concierge” approach for guests – a volunteer or staff member acting as a single point of contact for a new guest. We think this is one awesome idea to stay connected to your guests.

#3 – Your follow-up process should be automated.

As you build your intentional and personal follow up process, remember that a good bit of it can be automated. This is particularly true when it comes to email.

New guests to your church don’t need to be subscribed to your weekly or monthly e-newsletter, dropping into regular communication without any helpful context.

Instead, they need a carefully crafted series of introductory emails. They should receive these messages before hearing anything else that might overwhelm or confuse them.

A new person needs to know the basics before they hear about what’s current.

Craft an email sequence that introduces them to the regular ministries (not just the special events), shares the story and heart behind your church, and invites them to the most appropriate next step.

If you’re a Church Fuel member, login to the Resource Library and download the Automated Follow-up Campaign. It’s a Word document that you can quickly customize it to suit your needs. You’ll also find a coaching video explaining how to set things up and what types of technology to use.

Building Your Follow-Up Process

With those principles in mind, let’s talk about some action steps you can take to build an intentional, personal, and automated follow-up process.

#1 – Decide

The first step in building a follow-up process is to decide what you want people to do. You’re beginning with the end in mind and asking the question, “What’s the main thing we want guests to do?”

In the business and marketing world, this is the “Call to Action.” For your church, what action do you want to call guests to? Does your follow-up process lead them to fill out a card or form on Sunday that results in a phone call from a volunteer on Monday?

You must intentionally craft a process that leads to this one clear step, not provide a myriad of options that will confuse new people. If your current follow-up process isn’t working well, clarifying the desired outcome will help.

#2 – Draw

Once you know where you want people to end up, it’s time to draw out your process.

There are all kinds of technological tools you can use to create flowcharts, but at this point, we recommend that you keep it simple.

Get a few people together in a room with a whiteboard and start drawing. The first-time guest is a stick figure on the left side and the action you want them to take is on the right side. Then, start discussing and mapping out the steps.

Once you’ve got it on a whiteboard, it might be helpful to draw it in a flowchart. I use a Mac tool called Omnigraffle to make org charts and flow charts, but there are lots of other tools online.

Again, if you’re a Church Fuel member, you’ll find a template (PDF and original Omnigraffle version) in the Resource Library.

#3 – Implement

Once you’ve decided on the goal and determined the steps, now it’s time to implement your process.

If you’re a visionary leader, this might be when you mentally check out. Visionaries often think “decided” is the same thing as “done.” But it’s actually executing the plan that leads to results. And you don’t have to do it alone.

If you are a WOW type of leader, involve a HOW person to help make your process a reality. Set up the systems and implement the automation that will make the follow-up process actually work.

This may take a few weeks, but don’t give up. Test it as a team and make sure every email, text message, and other steps in your process go off without a hitch.

#4 – Measure

Once you implement your process, there is a good chance it won’t work. I know that’s not very encouraging. But your process is just your first draft. It hasn’t gone through editing, improvement, or quality control yet.

That’s why you need to collect data on your process and look at it carefully. Are people opening or clicking on the emails? Are people responding to the text messages? Is your one clear step actually the right step or is there something simpler or better that should take its place?

Don’t just tweak your process based on a gut feeling; use real numbers.

Figure out your guest connection rate, which is the number of new people connected after six months of visiting divided by the total number of guests in the control time period.

Measurement just might be the secret sauce of the entire follow-up process.

#5 – Adjust

If you know what’s working, keep doing it.

But if your careful analysis of the numbers and process uncovers some things that aren’t working well, make changes.

In other words, if your process isn’t working the way it should, change it. Get the same group of people together and come up with version two.

Is your church’s follow-up process up to par? Use our free Follow-Up Checklist to help you ask the right who, what, and how questions and start establishing clarity.

Free Download

The Follow-Up Checklist
 

 

Tools for Following Up

Building an intentional follow-up strategy for your church can feel overwhelming, but there are many tools available to make it simpler. These tools can assist with both automated follow-up and more traditional methods.

It’s important to remember that you don’t have to purchase a full suite of technology in order to get started. Meet with your key leaders to map out the pieces of your church’s follow-up process, and then choose the tools from there.

Tools for Automated Follow-Up

While a church follow-up process should have connection points that include a personal touch, use automation where you can.

Text in Church is a great tool for sending automated text messages to your church. For sending automated follow-up emails, tools such as MailChimp, MailerLite, Constant Contact, and Vertical Response come in handy. These email services allow you to set up visually appealing email designs, schedule them in advance to send at a specific time, and segment your church’s email list.

Segmenting, which is simply splitting your email list into sub-groups, can help make your church’s follow-up messaging more effective. For example, you can send special emails to first-time givers, following up to thank them for their generosity and share how it will be used to further the mission.

Tools for Manual or “Pen & Paper” Follow-Up

The most essential tool to achieve excellence in non-automated follow-up methods is utilizing teams. You might be thinking, “But people aren’t tools!” While that may be true, people are the most valuable resources a church can have to help execute this portion of a follow-up process well.

Recruit staff members or volunteers to write and mail notes, make phone calls, put gift bags together, etc. You can order church branded notecards from Church Ink especially for these follow-up notes. This team can even work together on a certain day of the week and use scripts to help guide what to write in follow-up cards or what to say on follow-up phone calls.

And if you want to send a gift box in the mail as a follow-up thank you gift for visiting, donating, or volunteering, Church Swag Box is a service that makes it easy to create custom boxes.

How to Follow Up with First-Time Guests

As a pastor, staff member, or lover of the local church, there are few joys that compare to when a brand-new person walks through your doors for the first time.

It is our goal, as Christ-followers, to help others find and follow Christ. This might be by being friendly and normal to someone who is new to your church or getting a committed attendee to become a high capacity volunteer. For many, these opportunities begin with those first hesitant steps through the entrance of a church.

While it’s definitely a success to get people to attend a church service, there’s plenty that can go wrong. Even if your guest had an all-around great experience, sometimes a lack of motivation or fear of attending alone could stop a second visit. Would you want to attend an event (in an environment you’re uncomfortable in) alone? What can we do to make our guests want to come back? To make our church service feel like home?

#1 – Provide first-time guests with a small gift during their first visit

Do you remember the last time you were invited to a friend’s house? You walked into their home probably smelling of lemon-scented Lysol that they had wiped their table down with just minutes before you entered their home. There may have been cheese trays and fruit. Or dinner in the oven.

They were expecting you.

When church leaders are all in place, a small gift can act as that personal touch that communicates to your guests that you not only knew they were coming, but you were excited about them too—so much so that you got them a gift.

Gifts don’t have to be anything elaborate. They can be something as small as a pen and a brochure showing them how they can get connected to your church. For people who love free stuff (which should be all of us), T-shirts or coffee mugs may be a great idea. This could also take a guest’s visit past a weekend experience and remind them of your church every time they drink coffee on their way to work.

One of the more personal gifts that may speak to first time guests is what Tuscaloosa Vineyard Church practices. They give out a $5 gift card to somewhere like Starbucks and include a hand-written note from a pastor. Personal and practical.

#2 – Handwrite a thank you note.

Somehow, we’ve already passed the year after Marty McFly and Doc travel to the future. While the movie portrayal wasn’t altogether accurate, it’s safe to say that we do spend the better part of our days on screens.

Kindles, desktops, laptops, working from home, etc. are all great tools and resources, but there’s still nothing like a notebook and a pen. Spatially, sometimes I have to avert my eyes from a screen to a physical piece of paper before they glaze over permanently.

An automated thank you note can feel, well… automatic. As a first-time guest anywhere, receiving a thank you note that’s typed or printed is a nice gesture, but I’m unimpressed knowing that this same note has been passed out to an endless number of other guests. I feel like another number.

There’s something about knowing that someone took a pen to paper, took time out of their day, and wrote specifically to me. They wanted to know that I knew they were glad I was there.

When all of the snail mail that your attendees get are typically bills, it would be a treat for a first-time guest to open the mail to see that you remembered them and want them to come back. A little effort can go a long way.

#3 – Give your guest a quick mid-week phone call.

For some, the idea of making a phone call to someone you may have just met briefly or not at all can induce sweaty hands and a rapid heartbeat.

I understand your fears.

Something important to remember, though, is that you have the upper hand. As the pastor, staff, or high capacity volunteer member of your church, you are an insider. Your guest is the new kid at school that wandered into class, just wanting to make friends.

This does not (and shouldn’t) have to be a long, drawn out conversation. Just a quick hello and check-in. You can thank them for visiting and close by asking if there is anything that they may need prayer for. You’re simply letting your guest know you were glad they came and hope they come again. You’re letting them know that they were noticed and important. Again, this communicates that they’re not just another number, but you’re taking the time to make them feel like a unique individual that you care about.

#4 – Send your guest a text message.

Even if you happen to be great with phone calls, you may find that your guests are not. Not everyone answers calls from phone numbers they don’t recognize, and voicemail is becoming more outdated.

A text message is quick, simple, still gets your point across, and the guest you’re reaching out to doesn’t feel obligated to respond. Especially for first-time guests who are “church shy,” it may be best not to overwhelm them and let them remain anonymous while they are still exploring your church. This is a good way to let them do that, while still letting them know you notice them and are readily available to them.

And text messages are also more likely to be read. Compared to the 20% average open rate of emails, text messages have an average open rate of a whopping 98%.

#5 – Send your guest an e-mail.

While this shouldn’t be the only way to follow up with a first-time guest, it can still be a great way to do so.

While most people are sorting through spam and bills, it may be a refreshing change of pace to see an e-mail from the church service they attended on Sunday.

The key here is to make it personal. You don’t want your guest to feel like a number or a project. Be normal. Be funny. Avoid rigid language. Maybe add some visual communication – like photos or a short video thanking your guest for attending. Similar to a phone call, you can ask how they’re doing or what they may need prayer for.

Don’t overwhelm. Rather than trying to let them know of every single ministry your church offers, make your call to action something as simple as coming back to a service.

Being intentional, being personal, and being natural with these or any follow-up strategies you use will turn guests into regular attendees and will hopefully connect them to the church and to Christ.

How to Follow Up with Online Guests

Does following up with virtual guests feel confusing or daunting?

A guest follow-up strategy has always been an important part of church ministry but following up with online guests requires us to adjust our standard in-person practices.

Where we once asked people to fill out a card directly in front of them or required them to give us their information for our children’s ministry, the COVID-19 pandemic meant that we now have to consider how to engage a Facebook user that clicks on a video from the comfort of their couch. Regardless of your follow-up process, the first step to engaging your guests is getting their contact information.

Here are a few creative ideas to engage the guests who visit your church online, capture their contact information, and build a relationship with them.

#1 – Engage Guests with Video

Draw a new visitor in with a customized video on your website or in follow-up emails. From a behind-the-scenes look at your ministries to an introduction to your lead pastor, video increases traffic, increases interest, and gives people a connection to your church.

#2 – Live Chat

Whether you’re chatting live during your service, or you offer a chat-to-text service, offering a live chat provides an opportunity for new guests to ask questions, request info, or feel a part of the community in real-time.

Tools like Church Online Platform allow you to chat in real-time with people watching your live stream. Keep in mind that any direct communication tool is only as great as the team behind it. So have a person or team of people equipped to engage your guests effectively. Notice the live chat option for the Rhiza Church livestream.

#3 – Offer a Personalized Introduction to Your Church

In a world of automation, personal touches make a big difference. When you ask guests for contact information, let them know that someone from the church (either a staff member or volunteer) will follow up with them to answer any questions they might have, and to check in.

You might be surprised at people’s willingness to give you contact information knowing that it will be used to reach out in a meaningful way, and not just spam their inbox. Being personable and helpful can go a long way

#4 ­– Use Data to Drive Content

Pay attention to your Google Analytics, and where your visitors are going when they click around on your church’s website. If they’re looking for services, make sure that it’s clear where to find them. If they’re looking for contact information, make sure it’s on your landing page.

Whatever it is that your guests are searching for, design your website and social media platforms to allow for easy discovery.

Check out 5 Ways to Immediately Improve Your Church Website.

#5 – Have an Online Connect Card

From utilizing a text-in-church service to a google form, an online connect card allows your guest to easily give you their contact information so you can begin the process of getting to know them. For best results, make sure to limit the form fields.

A few great examples of online connection cards to inspire you:

Take the Next Step

The Follow-Up Course is newly updated with a detailed guide that includes 6 more creative ways to follow up with people online, follow-up email templates for following up with guests, givers, and new believers, practical coaching videos, and resources to help you create a solid foundation for every follow-up process in your church.

The course is designed to help you create, improve, and launch an effective follow-up process and get people connected. If you’re tired of people falling through the cracks, take an intentional action step to learn and lead the way for a better follow-up system in your church.

How to Encourage Your Church to Invite Others to Online Services

How to Encourage Your Church to Invite Others to Online Services

 

For many churches, the numbers are down across the board—giving, online service attendance, and participation.

But don’t let that get you down.

We’re still in the middle of a remarkable opportunity to reach people online. And while getting people to invite others to church is already a challenge, encouraging your church to invite people to an online service seems even trickier.

To give your church the tips and tools to invite someone to an online service, try these practical ideas.

#1 – Make it easy

The easier you make something, the more likely people are to do it.

Providing your church with templates for inviting people to watch church online not only takes away the “I don’t know how” grounds, but helps them feel more confident and equipped when they extend an invitation.

Create graphics (with messages such as “you’re invited” or “join me online”) for people to download and post on social media or attach to text messages. Write example text messages and social media captions for people, too. Since people are so unique, invitations will be too, so make fun, formal, and informal graphics and message options.

Put all of this on one page on your website (yourchurch.com/invite is an easy link to remember). 

#2 – Equip people

It’s not enough to tell people to invite someone to online service; you have to show them how.

Don’t assume that everyone knows what to do. Record a video or write an email that explains why it’s so important to connect people with the church, even if it’s virtually right now. Tell your congregation where to find pre-written and ready-made tools that make it easier (see above).

And teach them what to do—how to share posts and how to listen for the right time to extend an invitation (these “clues” from Andy Stanley are helpful).

#3 – Reach out

Few methods are more effective than a direct ask.

When you reach out to church members to find out how they’re doing or chat casually, ask them if they’ll commit to inviting someone to the church’s next online service.

Send a quick text message to a few of the most active, engaged people in your congregation an hour before service starts and ask them to post an invitation on their social media, share a specific post from the church’s social media, or text someone inviting them to watch.

And when they do invite people to watch an online service, reach out again and thank them. Consider adding a “Who invited you?” question to your digital connection card so you can do this.

#4 – Create a guest-friendly online service

Imagine this: you invite a new friend to have dinner with your extended family, but your family barely acknowledges them and tells inside jokes the entire time. Would you want to invite that friend back to an environment where they weren’t made to feel welcome?

People are more likely to invite others to watch an online service that won’t make them feel like a complete outsider.

Welcome guests who are watching your livestream or video service the same way you would in an in-person service. Take a little time to explain what certain parts of the service mean. This helps create a culture of guest-friendliness online.

Hospitality looks different in this season. But with a little direction and a lot of intentionally, you can witness the power of a personal invitation and watch your church grow in the process—yes, even online.

Take the Next Step

Follow-up is one of the most important systems in a church. To help make sure both online and in-person guests don't fall through the cracks, download our free Follow-Up Checklist. It will help you evaluate the key pieces of your follow-up process, ask the right who, what, and how questions, and establish clarity in ownership, effectiveness, and more.