Most Churches Neglect This Vital Outreach Practice

Seventy-six percent of churches are missing a simple opportunity to increase their outreach impact.

I went in for a job interview. I remembered to smile, sit up straight and not give canned answers. After the interview they said I’d definitely hear from them soon. They never contacted me.

I had a nice evening out with a friend of a friend. I gave my phone number, but never received a call.

My family attended a new church and loved it! The church asked us to fill out a connect card so that we could stay in touch with what was happening at the church and hopefully get connected. It’s been months … and still no contact.

What do these three scenarios have in common? Rejection.

Over the years, we’ve noticed in our research that churches weren’t being diligent in following up with guests. This past year, we decided to see if our anecdotal fears of the church not following up with people were factually based. In our study of the first-time guest experience, we concentrated specifically on guests that left their contact information with the church and tracked whether they received follow up.


What’s the takeaway?

A meager 24 percent follow-up rate tells us that churches are neglecting the opportunity they have in connecting with guests. The message it sends to a guest is that the church doesn’t care and that they don’t matter.

Why aren’t churches following up?

In many of our conversations with church leaders, we learned that most do want to follow up—they just don’t have a well-thought-out process for doing so. There is often confusion on who should follow up and when. For those churches that have established a process, there is little to no accountability to ensure follow-up is happening. Many pastors would like to do the follow-up themselves, but they lack the time and instead hope those appointed to do so are doing it.

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Why It Matters

First things first: If someone gives you their contact information that means they WANT to hear from you. A set plan needs to be in place for following up quickly and consistently. Guest follow-up is a ministry, and just like any other ministry in your church, it needs attention. If you don’t have relevant programming and volunteers to staff your children’s ministry, do you think it will grow? Probably not. If you don’t put forth that same effort in reaching out to guests, your church probably isn’t going to grow, either.

What You Can Do

Don’t wait. This is something your church can start doing today and it costs very little, if anything at all. Whether it’s making a phone call, sending an email or dropping a postcard in the mail—contact should be made. Contacting guests after they visit shows them they are a priority, that they matter. Regardless of how you do it … do it. The worst kind of church follow-up is no follow-up at all.

About the Research
This research was conducted by Faith Perceptions using an online survey with a sample size of 1,341 adults who attended worship services at churches throughout the United States. The surveys were completed from October 2015 to September 2016. First-time guests visited different churches of different sizes and denominations and, after being asked by the church to leave their contact information, 504 voluntarily chose to do so. After a period of 30 days following their visit to the church, Faith Perceptions followed up with each respondent to learn if the church had contacted them in any way. We found that only 119 (24 percent) of 504 respondents received follow up from the church. Of the 504 adults that took part in this research, 359 were unchurched or dechurched.

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About Faith Perceptions
Faith Perceptions is a market research firm that provides churches and faith-based organizations with research about their target group. We send mystery guests into churches across the country each week to report back to us on what their experiences are like. We use this information to help churches improve the way they welcome and connect with the very people they are trying to reach. Faith Perceptions has been evaluating the first-time guest experience since 2008.

Faith Perceptions partners with Outreach magazine by submitting a bimonthly “Mystery Visitor” church review. Read the most recent Mystery Visitor reviews »