SOUTH LEBANON, Ohio (BP) — It is an old saying but nevertheless true: You never get a second chance to make a first impression.
It is especially true in the work of the church. How Sunday School classes and small groups receive their guests is critical to their success in reaching new people.
Another critical factor in keeping the guests coming back is follow-up. It is exciting to have a big week like Vacation Bible School and see the potential of a church full of children, but how we follow up with these kids and their families often determines if we will ever see them again.
Here are five facts to consider:
1. Follow-up demonstrates biblical hospitality.
The Bible says, “Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another … given to hospitality” (Romans 12:10-13). Good follow-up is simply a good, hospitable way of treating your guests.
2. Follow-up with guests is a good ministry strategy.
There is no better prospect than the one who visited last week. She has already demonstrated a level of interest by attending. If she can get connected and build friendships with others, there is a good chance she’ll be back. If she gets a call or visit from the teacher or group leader, it is even more impressive.
3. The most successful follow-up happens outside the church.
We can invite our guests to fellowships and ministry projects. We can visit in their home to see if they have questions about the church. We can send a thank you card for their visit. We can call and find out if there are any special prayer needs and pray over the phone with the prospect. We can invite them over for pizza and a movie. All these things are living demonstrations to your guests that you care about them.
4. The more people involved in follow-up, the better.
People are living and working with others every day but often without making a single friend. People in our culture long for the happy friendships they see on the sitcoms, yet find themselves lonely and isolated. They want meaningful relationships with others outside their own homes. The Sunday School class or small group offers the perfect opportunity for such relationships. The potential for these relationships grows as more of your members are involved in the follow-up process.
5. Sooner or later it boils down to someone doing the work.
No teacher or group leader can do all the follow-up that is needed, so have an assistant or enlist an evangelism leader to help you with follow-up. Each class should keep a record of the guests who attend. The evangelism leader keeps that information and assigns or makes contacts on a regular basis.
One teacher I heard of made a list of prospects who had visited over time and asked for four volunteers willing to make phone calls and write letters. The teacher divided the list by four and assigned the names to the four volunteers. Each volunteer contacted the people on his or her list that week. Then the teacher switched the lists for the second week and so on. Every prospect was contacted four weeks in a row by four different people. It wasn’t long before the people on the prospect list became enrollees and regular attendees. The follow-up project took very little time, but it produced amazing results.
The Nike shoe company uses the slogan, “Just Do It.” It is simple and to the point. When it comes to contacting absentees and prospects, we, also, need to prioritize and just do it — to bring lost and empty souls into fellowship with Jesus and His people.