Why First-time Guest Follow Up Matters (and Isn’t As Annoying As You Might Think)

If you want to divide a room full of church staff members, toss out a fun topic like Calvinism. Oops. I mean first-time guest (FTG) follow up.

(That paragraph was predestined to be unfunny.)

There are multiple reasons that FTG follow up isn’t at the top of most of our priority lists: we view it as a great idea…for someone else on our team. We see it as a necessary evil…not something we want to do, but something we have to do. We look at it as an interruption to our day…as an unwanted intrusion on the part of our guest…as an investment of time with no measurable return.

But I would argue that FTG follow up is one of the most important things we can do, and it’s something our guests both want and need.

Let’s take five bullet points and systematically destroy those above arguments:

1. Follow up is assumed by your first-timers.

If a FTG stops by your tent, fills out a card in service, or otherwise lets you know they’re present, there is an inherent assumption that you’re going to follow up with them. To do so isn’t an intrusion…it’s an expectation. To fail to do so leaves a part of the introductory process to your church undone.

2. Follow up is mostly appreciated.

In hundreds (maybe thousands?) of FTG calls I’ve made over the years, the opening script is mostly the same:

Me: Hello, is this Bob?

Bob: [deep sigh] Uh, yesss.

Me: Hi Bob, my name is Danny, and I’m one of the pastors at the Summit Church…

Bob: [suddenly sucking that sigh back in, brightening up] Oh, hey! How are you?

The point is that Bob – like all of us – assumes that this unknown caller is trying to sell him something. Once he discovers that I’m just making a friendly follow up call, he opens up. Our guests really do appreciate that personal touch (and in our case, have told us so…more on that in #3). And out of those many, many calls over the years, I can count on two hands the number of calls that maybe weren’t so much appreciated. (Maybe I shouldn’t have tried to sell them an extended warranty on their car.)

3. Follow up really does lead to lasting connections.

So many of our staff have shared stories of church members coming up to them months or years later, saying something like, “You know, you’re the reason that I stuck around.” A little digging points back to that first phone call…a phone call that the staff member has long since forgotten, but the guest remembers all too well. The call makes a really large church feel small, it gives a guest a specific point of connection, and it helps them know that there’s someone in their corner.

4. Follow up keeps us tethered to those we serve.

For church staff members from the lead pastor to the intern, there is no better grounding than a FTG follow up call. When we ask the guest “How was your experience?” they tell us. Those weekly conversations remind us who we’re here for, how our weekends are perceived, and what actually connects with – or confuses – our guests. I would make the argument that anyone on the payroll at a church should have FTG follow up as part of their job description. (Okay, maybe not the people in charge of the payroll. They’re usually scary.)

5. Follow up narrows down the menu and gives them a map.

In #3 above, I said that follow up makes a large church feel small. And before you argue that you’re not a large church, keep in mind that anything new feels big and overwhelming. So that call helps you help the guest: what’s their best next step? How can they get this particular question answered? What makes the most sense for them in this point of their journey?

I tell our team all the time: in the five minutes before I make follow up calls, it’s the moment of my week I dread the most. But in the five minutes after, I know it’s the best investment of my time I can possibly make.

This post originally appeared on dfranks.com.

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Thom S. Rainer is the founder and CEO of Church Answers, an online community and resource for church leaders. Prior to founding Church Answers, Rainer served as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Before coming to LifeWay, he served at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary for twelve years where he was the founding dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism. He is a 1977 graduate of the University of Alabama and earned his Master of Divinity and Ph.D. degrees from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.