Decades ago, church was a place your family had attended for generations. Today, people relocate for jobs, college, adventure and a thousand other reasons, and find themselves “shopping” for a new one.
While visiting churches in their new area, they may spend one Sunday at yours. The impression they get that morning is how they’ll decide to come back or not… unless you find a way to give them a bigger picture—like e-mail.
How E-mail Can Bring Them Back
The trick is creating something called a follow up series: a set of auto-delivered e-mails sent to new subscribers, designed to get visitors comfortable with your church.
Follow ups are easy to create if you use an e-mail marketing service that provides pre-designed e-mail templates. You can just drop your content in and specify how many days you’d like to go by between messages.
Then every new visitor will receive all the details you’d like to share about your church. That is, after you get their e-mail addresses.
Getting Their Addresses
Most likely, you already have a method in place to welcome first-time visitors.
If you have assigned greeters, encourage them to find out if visitors are just passing through or if they’re looking for a new church. If they’re church-shopping, have the greeters ask if they’d mind getting a few e-mails with more information about your church.
If you use welcome cards and have people fill out their information, make sure to include a note on the card that they’ll be getting e-mails about the church, or if you want to e-mail them on a personal basis, have a box they can check if they’d like more information.
Then you can send them e-mails.
What to Put In Your Follow Ups
After you’ve thanked your visitors for stopping by, you’ll want to give them information to make them feel as welcome and comfortable as possible, while at the same time, representing your church accurately. You may want to send:
- Greetings from your church leadership, with pictures so they can recognize a familiar face if they return.
- Service, small groups and Sunday School schedules.
- Stories of what God has been doing in your church.
- Details about upcoming events (or where to find that info—if you truly automate this process, you want to use content that doesn’t have to be updated every few months).
- Opportunities to volunteer.
- Baptism and membership procedures.
Note that you’ll want to keep the series short. Even if it takes a while for someone to choose a church, you should be able to give them a good idea of your church’s attitude, beliefs and practices within a few messages. (Plus, if they’ve ruled your church out, you don’t want them reporting you as spam. Be sure to include an unsubscribe notice—most e-mail services do this automatically.)
Those who do choose your church as their regularly scheduled service, however, may want to keep getting e-mails from you.
If you already send weekly broadcasts to your congregation, you’ll just have to add your new recipients. You can either ask in person if they’d like to be added, or you can send them an invitation to subscribe to those e-mails. You could also include a subscribe option in your last follow up e-mail.
With an auto-response follow up series you’re giving one-time visitors a reason to come back.
- Learn more about how to welcome church visitors with this massive collection of resources and blog posts.
- Walking into a church for the first time can be scary. Check out Unwelcome: 50 Ways Churches Drive Away First-Time Visitors by Jonathan Malm for practical ideas and perspective on first-time guests.