Each weekend, an average of 180 families identify themselves as first-time guests across Gateway’s five campuses.
Enlist volunteers to greet, follow up with, and invite first-time guests. When a volunteer takes his or her time to follow up with a guest, it’s a completely different feel than a staffer doing it.
Stokes Collins, associate pastor of membership services, interviewed by Heather Schnese
You invite all your guests to a reception after services. What do your volunteers do there?
We have a team of about 10-12 volunteers per service, along with some staff, who are available for talking to people and answering questions. We train them to never depend on needing a pastor. We say, “You’re fully equipped to answer these questions because of the blood of Jesus. We believe in you. You’re empowered by our organization to do that.” So, we want them to make a solid introduction and then to really listen—don’t start with whatever area of ministry you’re passionate about. Find out what’s going on in their life. If they go to their 16-year-old daughter, go there—“Oh, that’s awesome, we have a ministry called Gateway Students. I’d love to get you a brochure for that. It meets on Wednesday nights at all of our campuses.” We go ministry specific in the person’s area of concern rather than something pre-prescribed.
We also train our volunteers to stay away from “first-time guest” language. People don’t want to be identified that way. If you walked in, someone would say “Hi, I’m Bob.” Then, “How long have you’ve been going to Gateway?” instead of “Is this your first time at Gateway?” We want to give people the opportunity to identify themselves whenever they’re ready.
How do your volunteers follow up with guests after they leave Gateway?
We have a team of 25 volunteers that makes phone calls to all of our first-time guests using a virtual call center. The volunteer response is really where we put our emphasis. We believe that if a volunteer takes his or her time to follow up with a guest, it’s a completely different feel than a staffer doing it. A staffer sees it as a task. A volunteer sees it as a ministry.
The volunteer will make an introduction, ask if they have any questions about Gateway, if there’s anything we can pray for them about. They can flag the call if I need to follow up on one. For example, if someone’s mom has stage 4 cancer, we can get a relational care team involved and actively pastor through the situation. That’s really powerful. Then, the volunteer will say, “if you feel like God’s called you here, then I want to invite you to ‘Catch the Vision,’”which is our membership class.