Monday, March 21, 2016

What will your church do with your Easter guests?

For many churches Easter Sunday will be the highest attended service of the year. Members who haven't been seen since Christmas will make their appearance. Others who have been wanting to start going to church will choose Easter as the day they do so. Unfortunately, few of them will be seen the following Sunday.

There are many reasons why this is true, but one of the big reasons is that many churches do not know how to follow-up with their guests. It is important that the church does everything possible to make their guest's worship experience on Easter meaningful. This includes not just the music and sermon, but everything the guests experience that day. The place should be clean. The people should be friendly. Quality child care is critical that day. Information cards should be filled out by every guest so the church has a record of their attendance and the information needed for follow-up.

It used to be common to do a follow-up visit at the guest's home, but that is not very practical today, and people are reluctant to allow people they do not know into their homes. An e-mail should be sent to the guest within 36 hours thanking them for their attendance and inviting them back. By the end of the week they should receive a handwritten note from the pastor again thanking them for coming and an invitation to return the next Sunday. A simple gift should be included with this letter. Something as simple as a five dollar gas card is sufficient.

When they return the following week they should receive a second e-mail and letter from the pastor. Another small gift should be included. At this point, your guests have reached an important crossroads. Nelson Searcy points out that after four to six months from that second visit "they will either be assimilated into your church or they will be gone - far from the church and likely far from any kind of relationship with Jesus."

At this point it is important to ensure that your new church attendees enter into relationships with others in the church. However, it's also important to remember that they are often not going to be comfortable joining an existing group that has existed for a period of time. If you are serious about assimilating these folks into the life of your church you will need to continually be forming new groups.

Absolutely the best book I've read on this whole subject of doing effective follow-up with church guests is Nelson Searcy's book Fusion: Turning First-Time Guests into Fully-Engaged Members of Your Church. I wish this book had been available when I began my pastoral ministry. This is one book I am not afraid to say should be on the bookshelf of every pastor and lay leader committed to reaching people for Jesus Christ. Much of the material in this post I learned from this book, and I didn't scratch the surface of all that Searcy teaches about follow-up. If you'll implement his suggestions you will see more of your Easter guests return.

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