How To Follow Up With Out-Of-Town Guests
Guest follow-up is all about stewardship.
Think about the process a guest goes through to visit your church for the first time: something in their life (a move, a crisis, a curiosity) causes them to begin the search for a church. They weed through options based on Google results, personal recommendations, and even bumper stickers on cars. They block out time in their schedule to make the visit. They subject themselves to potential embarrassment and awkwardness. And if you have a first-time guest tent (or something similar), they may even opt to pass along their personal information.
(And that’s just the human side of the visit equation. I believe there is a divinely sovereign situation happening in the background, but that’s another post for another day.)
So if a guest is trusting us with their time and information – and if God has orchestrated the desire to show up in the first place – there is a mandated stewardship that drives the necessity of following up.
I’ve provided a rough outline of our follow-up process here, but that’s largely for in-town guests. What do you do with those who hail from several zip codes away?
Why the “out-of-town” distinction matters
One of the primary goals of follow-up is to invite the guest back for a second visit. We want to create an “I’ll see you tomorrow!” expectation. But dividing in-town and out-of-town is also a good stewardship. It makes sense that you wouldn’t pursue a guest from three states away in the same way (and for as long as) you would a guest in the neighborhood across the street. On our guest information cards, we ask for a zip code (no street address at this point) to help us make that distinction.
Here are five things to keep in mind when following up with out-of-towners:
1. Find out what sparked their visit.
Were they in town visiting relatives? Were they making a college visit with their high school junior and scoping out potential churches? Do they listen to your pastor on podcast, and wanted to pop in on their way to vacation? Knowing their “point A” will help you decide what “point B” needs to be.
2. Help determine their next step.
Here’s your “point B.” If you ask good questions during their first visit, you know how you can serve them in the future. In the case of the family making a college visit, explain the kind of ministries you offer for college students, and introduce them to church members who teach at, currently attend, or are graduates of the school. If it’s a family who might be moving to the area because of a job transfer, provide your personal information and an offer to help them navigate the city, get connected with a realtor, or unload the U-Haul.
3. Create a system for capturing (and passing along) relevant information.
It’s one thing to have these conversations at your first-time guest tent or welcome center. It’s another thing to make sure that the follow-up team has all of this info. If you find out relevant facts, write them on the card or report them in some other way. It helps the follow-up process flow smoothly…and it might actually make it seem like we know what we’re doing.
4. Non-prospects still deserve follow-up.
We’ve all been on the receiving end of a pushy salesman who found out we weren’t in the market to buy anything. When the salesman drops you like a hot potato, it’s obvious he saw you as a transaction. Don’t make this mistake with your guests…even the out-of-town ones. Be gracious and generous to them, even if they’re not prospects to start attending your church. If you have a practice of sending a thank you email and a guest survey to your in-towners, send it to your out-of-towners. If you call in-towners to inquire about their experience, do the same thing for out-of-towners. Don’t cast them out just because they were just passing through. (For the record, I’m all for an abbreviated follow up process. I will usually call our in-towners and then follow up with an email specific to their next steps. For out-of-towners, I usually forego the email since there’s likely not a next step.)
5. Know when to let it go.
If Queen Elsa has taught us anything, it’s this principle. Out-of-towners probably don’t want to be added to your weekly newsletter. They definitely shouldn’t go on your perpetual invite list for your monthly newcomers event. Have an option in your database where you can follow up with out-of-towners, but then mark them as complete or no future follow up. It’s presumptuous and a little obnoxious to do otherwise.
Do you have a plan for following up with out-of-towners? I’d love to hear about it. Comment below.