The Most Underestimated Advantage for Church Growth

These are comments you never want to hear as a leader in your church.

  • “I visited your church and checked a box on a card, but I never heard back from anyone.”
  • “I spoke with a staff member, and they said they would call me, but I never got a call.”
  • “I attended a training meeting and volunteered to help, but no one followed up with my next steps.”

When I hear statements like these, I cringe inside. Not because I think churches and people are required to be perfect (no organization is flawless), but because 99% of the time the lapse was avoidable.

It’s the little things that make a huge difference.

It’s the personal touch, the second-mile effort and the keeping of system-based promises that make you and your church stand out.

Your various forms of in-bound communication with church attendees constitute a system. For example, a tear-off card in your bulletin, registration using Wufoo, or your ChMS.

An implied system-based promise says when a church attendee reaches out or responds to you using your system, you will respond. To say it another way, the very presence of your system is a promise that you will respond.

The larger your church becomes, the more difficult this is to accomplish, but the greater the impact.

The larger your church, the more you receive a little grace because people understand the law of large numbers. However, don’t let that grace allow you to get sloppy.

People need to know you care, and the only way they know you care is if you are willing to chase even just one.

It’s both tougher and easier for smaller churches. The number of people to keep up with is not as overwhelming, but a higher level of personal touch is expected.

The bottom line is that follow up is not easy for any church, but it’s essential.

When people know you care and that they matter, the potential for them to continue to attend and engage more fully is exponentially increased.

One of the best practical ways to make a sincere and lasting impact, and to advance engagement, is to make that phone call, send the text, or respond to the request that’s been waiting for you in whatever way is most appropriate.

When it comes to people, follow up is not ultimately about details and systems, it’s all about creating and maintaining trust. The details and systems are just a tool for engagement and relationship based on trust.

Five teaching points to train your teams:

1) Follow-up is a demonstration of integrity.
When you do what you say you will do, people learn that they can count on you.

2) Follow-up is an expression of your brand promise.

3) Follow-up is often the beginning of something new and special.
It’s amazing to discover the surprises God brings from our faithfulness in the small things.

4) Follow-up communicates that you value someone.
It lets them know they matter to you, and that you care.

5) Follow-up is often the door to a person’s spiritual growth.
The connection creates a relationship and fosters engagement. It gives you the opportunity to help someone mature in their faith.

Five practical tips for consistent follow-up:

1) Don’t build a church system you can’t sustain.

One of the biggest mistakes I see in follow up processes and systems is that they are too complicated. Your system should serve you, not you serve the system.

One good rule of thumb is that if it takes you longer to deal with the system than to do the actual follow up, your system is too complicated. Teams won’t commit to complicated systems.

  • Think people, not systems.
  • Use systems, not people.

2) Develop a personal practice that works for you.

Not every aspect of follow-up is system-based. There is a great deal that is personal. This is about you and your people connections each week.

For example, what is your personal phone call return practice? Within in 24 hours? 48 hours? If you don’t have a standard, your follow-up will suffer every time.

If you are buried, people understand, but you have to communicate. For example, if it’s Monday, and there is no way you can follow-up that day, let them know! Send a quick text or email that you received their call, email or text and that you will get back to them, (for example), on Thursday. The most important thing now, is that you must follow up on Thursday.

3) Designate a leader to be responsible for the system.

Regardless of the size of your church, someone must take responsibility for each system.

In a small church, it might be a volunteer for the first-time visitor follow up or prayer requests. In a large church, it might be a spiritual formation staff member at each campus who follows up on requests for a variety of things from baptism to next steps toward engagement.

The key question is, who owns each system?

4) Delegate to volunteers if your staff can’t keep up.

If your church is experiencing rapid growth and your staff can’t keep up with all the people follow up, volunteers can do an excellent job helping you.

You might be surprised how much can be accomplished, for example, by just 3-4 people coming into the office for a few hours a week.

5) Design a way to measure and track your system.

This sounds like you following up on your follow up. That’s exactly right! If you don’t keep track of your results, you will never know how well you are doing, or how you need to improve.

Establish a simple way to record and measure your results.

Strong and consistent follow up will make an amazing difference in your church!

6 thoughts on “The Most Underestimated Advantage for Church Growth”

  1. The system gets complicated with multiple campuses; there probably is no one owner and the owner may change from week to week, each would need a process.

    But no matter what it all starts where the card was dropped off, it could be the inbox of an admin, the collection basket, the booth, the lobby, perhaps even on the floor. What to do with the card needs to be communicated to all teams (in case they find one or is handed one), not just the collection team. The team which may come in between services to do some quick clean up would need to look at each they find to see if something checked or filled in.

    1. Great and helpful comments Ken. This IS a complicated topic, that’s why I’m writing about it. 🙂 My post isn’t THE answer of course, but hopefully a helpful prompt to help us all move in the right direction.

    2. Your point about “all teams” is huge. One of the biggest wins I’ve seen is when the entire church, from greeters to cafe’ to kids ministry, understands the value of that connection card. They may not know what happens with it once someone turns it in, but if they find one and know what to do with it, or have a conversation with someone and push them to fill a card out, that’s a win for the entire church.

      Our church has developed a trust with our follow-up that’s created buy in from people who know that the card is the way to get connected, and if someone fills that card out, they will hear from us quickly, so our people know they can trust our church with their neighbors and friends who want to get connected.

  2. Ken, complicated is right but with empowering and enabling volunteers it CAN be accomplished. I am the office manager of a church with approximately 2500 each week and we have 80+ volunteers on our office volunteer team. They serve on Sundays adding data to our system, a follow up team comes in Monday mornings to finish adding data, then we have two after hours teams that come in for 2-3 hours on Tuesdays and Wednesdays! This allows our staff to be able to see the people they need to follow up with promptly! Thank you Dan for a great blog!

      1. Hey Dan, I am at the amazing Ransom Church in Sioux Falls, SD. I am also the ministry lead for Safe Families for Children, which is one of the best ways to serve the lost in my opinion. Thanks for the blogs Dan! Have a great week!

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