FIRST-PERSON: Boost up for follow-up

PENSACOLA, Fla. (BP) -- When a first-time guest completes a guest registration card at your church, what happens next?

The most common answer to that question: absolutely nothing. No, it's not an intentional oversight, but without an ongoing, immediate follow-up plan, your church may miss opportunities to reach guests for Christ and include them in your church family.

Need fresh ideas? Tweak some of these to fit your unique church:

-- First-time-guest Online Survey. People love to give an opinion! Create a brief survey on your church website. See a sample survey below or at dianadavis.org. Carefully study survey responses.

-- Same-day contact. A specially trained volunteer can make a brief phone call to each guest on the Sunday afternoon they visit your church.

-- Email + snail mail. Assign volunteers to send a swift, personal email or handwritten card to each first-time guest.

-- Small group personal invitation. Immediately provide contact info to an appropriate small group or Sunday School class for each family member. A member of that small group may offer to meet the guest at a specific door to escort them to class.

-- A personal touch. Examples: An Indiana church delivers three coupons for a free drink in their coffee area, encouraging the guest to return for three consecutive Sundays. In a different church, their volunteers deliver a church coffee mug to the guest's door before they get home from church. A baking volunteer at First Baptist Church in Garland, Texas, prepares fresh homemade cookies for each first-time guest, then a delivery volunteer simply knocks on their door and gives them delicious cookies and a goodie-bag of church info.

-- Pastor's letter. Many pastors prepare a warm letter or email to welcome first-time guests; some even jot a handwritten note. Pastor Ted Traylor at Olive Baptist Church in Pensacola, Fla., often texts or phones first-time guests on Saturdays, inviting them to come back on Sunday.

Notice that church members -- not just ministry staff -- accomplish the majority of follow-up. Newcomers want to hear what you love about your church. They desire relationships. And relationships provide evangelistic opportunities.

When God brings a first-time guest to your church this Sunday and they complete a guest registration card, what will happen next?

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Online survey sample; also at dianadavis.org

Your Church Name

First-Time-Guest Survey

Thanks so much for worshiping God with us at __________________________ Church today.

We value your opinion and appreciate your feedback.

Name (optional)____________________________________

Email (optional)_____________________________

Gender: Male___ Female___

Age: 18-22___ 23-34___ 35-46___ 47-58___ 59-70___ 70+___

What was the first thing you noticed when you arrived?

What did you like best?

What did you like least?

Based on your experience today, will you come again?

Definitely yes___ Likely___ Unsure___ Definitely not___

During the past year, have you regularly attended any church (3+ times per month)? Yes___ No___

Do you have any suggestion of how we can better serve first-time guests?

Thanks for taking time to help us. We hope you'll join us again next Sunday.

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NOTE: Adjust questions to fit your church, keeping the questions to 10 or less. Ask your media team to post this on your church website, with boxes for questions and submission online, with a "Press Submit" button at the bottom.

If your church has no website, try this instead. For years, my pastor/husband included a stamped church-addressed postcard survey with his pastor letter to first-time guests.

Diana Davis, on the Web at www.dianadavis.org, is an author, columnist and ministry wife in Pensacola, Fla. She is the author of "Fresh Ideas," "Deacon Wives" (B&H Publishing) and the newly released "Six Simple Steps -- Finding Contentment and Joy as a Ministry Wife," (New Hope Publishers).
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