Who Should Follow Up With First-Time Guests?
Today…who actually follows up with your first-time guests? Is it a team? A person? A paid staffer? A freebie volunteer? Here’s the case … and the buts … for each:
1. The case for a volunteer team.
Enlisting a group of volunteers to do all guest follow up can feel quite organic. After all, they’re following up as a fellow church attendee, not someone who’s paid to get in touch with people. Given the right follow up process, outline, talking points, and next steps, a trained and dedicated group of volunteers can be really effective.
But, it can be hard to get responses from guests if they’re getting a call from “just a volunteer.” A volunteer team might occasionally get stumped on questions. And unless you have a great system, accountability can be hard to come by.
2. The case for that one specific volunteer.
What if a first-time guest received a phone call, email, or (gasp!) a handwritten note from the actual volunteer who greeted them on Sunday at the first-time guest tent? This can be a great way to deepen the relationship, give the guest a familiar voice, and make a large church feel small.
While the above “buts” may still apply, there’s something pretty fantastic about implementing this system. Another but is that the volunteer needs to be on board with not only serving guests on Sunday, but serving them throughout the week. Make sure it’s what they signed up for.
3. The case for your entire staff team.
In theory, I’m a firm believer that anyone on the payroll of a church should be following up with first-time guests on a regular basis. That’s right: everyone from the lead pastor to the front desk receptionist to the custodian to the youth pastor (well, maybe not the youth pastor). Talking to first timers on the reg will help tether your staff to what people actually experience on the weekend.
But, we should acknowledge reality: just because someone is paid by a church doesn’t mean they’re necessarily great with people. We have some incredibly talented people on our team who don’t serve in pastoral roles, and to put them on the phone to cold call a guest would be cruel for … ahem … two different people.
4. The case for one specific staff member.
Let’s say you have a small trickle of first-time guests, or you have a staff position that eats, sleeps, and breathes guest services for 40 hours a week. Should that person be the sole liaison between your church and guests? Well, it can be effective, since they can hone a process and know where everyone is in the guest pipeline.
But, it violates the “tether” principle of #3 above. If that staffer is on vacation or sick, that’s a week’s worth of follow up that doesn’t happen. And they’re not replicating the work of the ministry in the lives of others.
Some final thoughts
In our context, we’ve found a modified version #3 above to be the most effective. First-time guest follow up lies in the hands of campus staff members. Depending on the number of guests per weekend, it may not be the entire staff, but it’ll usually fall to our Guest Services Director and some age-appropriate ministry leads.
Years ago when I first took on this role, guest follow up was handled by a superb team of dedicated volunteers (#1 above). But the but was in full force with them. We found that guests didn’t always respond to a voicemail or email from a volunteer. So we began to experiment with staff phone calls, and there was something about the line “I’m one of the pastors at the Summit” that seemed to elicit a response.
However and whoever you choose to follow up, just follow up. Your guests are worth it.