If you don’t follow-up on your first-time visitors within a few hours of their visit, you shouldn’t be surprised if your church isn’t growing.

Every single study shows that follow-up is critical, and yet I still hear pastors handing out their … pardon me … lame excuses for why they don’t do it.

  • If your pastor is too busy to do follow-up … they’re too busy to be an effective pastor.
  • If your pastor doesn’t want to waste time by visiting people who might not be interested in the church … they’re spending too much time in their office.
  • If your pastor is afraid the visitors will think the church is stalking them … they don’t understand how desperate people are to build authentic relationships.
  • If your pastor can’t get the contact information for the visitors … then the rest of this post is for them.

I’ve touched on some of this before (see this archive post), but here’s the scoop:

You can get virtually every first-timer’s contact information if you’ll just do the following:

Use the Right Tools

Stop using pew pads, guest books, friendship folders, etc. to get the information. There are a couple reasons why they don’t work, but let me just be blunt: They Don’t Work. So stop depending on something that worked in 1955 to get visitors’ names today. Instead, use a Connections Card (NOT a Visitors Card) that’s an insert in your bulletin or a separate hand-out. Be sure to ask for the obvious, but don’t leave out things like email, text number (mobile), etc.

Leverage Conversations

Teach your greeters, hosts, ushers, and pretty much everyone in the congregation how to have conversations that gets contact information. Inviting someone to a church event and offering to pick them up, or send a reminder email, or a reminder text is great. Just be sure the info gets to the church office.

Offer a Worthy Bribe

But not just any bribe … offer an altruistic bribe to get the information. Most of us have tried to get first-time visitors to swap their contact information for a mug or a gift bag with a few chocolates and a fistful of church brochures. However, my wife and I attended a church recently and was blown away by the way they were soliciting (and getting) contact information. Rock City in Columbus, Ohio gets the full credit for this great idea. This church did their contact card solicitation late in the service, right after the sermon with the offering. You can see an example of what they do by watching the video below.

In a nutshell, here’s their pitch: “If you’re a first-time visitor, we’d like you to fill out the Connection Card completely. And for every visitor’s card that is completely filled out, we’ll make a $5 donation to the local food bank.”

We visited about halfway through the year and at that point they’d given over $8500 to the local food bank via their visitor cards … that means they’d received over 1700 completed visitor’s cards since January.

(Length 3:40)
Of course, I presume most of you reading this don’t have $8500 in the budget for the food bank. On the other hand, you’re likely not going to get 1700 visitors this year either. For most churches, the total donations would probably total less than $50 per month. And if your church does GREAT follow-up, then the odds are you’ll keep 50 percent of them or more (Improve Your Church’s Hospitality and Follow-Up).

So do some math. Divide your annual giving income by the total number of average worshippers. In most churches, you’ll find that number is between $1000–$2500 per year. That means, for every single person who gets involved in your church, their average giving to the church will be near those figures (maybe not the first year, but giving increases as commitment increases). So … is a $5 investment a wise investment to get someone’s full contact information?

You tell me …

Question: What are you doing to increase your first-time visitor’s return rate? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below.