Don't Wait to Connect With Guests

Immediate follow-up with visitors while they're at your campus helps retain them.

The Church: Experience Life, Lubbock, Texas
The Challenge: Help people connect with the mission of the church.
One Key Idea: Provide an easy, immediate way for guests to plug into the life of the church before their first visit ends.

Outreach spoke to Operations Pastor Clayton Walker, who says follow up immediately and cast a vision for what’s next.

At Experience Life, you call your first-time guests VIPs, and you encourage them to visit the “VIP Center” after worship. What happens there?

At the center, our VIPs can turn in a connection card. Then we give them an Experience Life T-shirt, thank them for coming, invite them back next week, and give them our website and Facebook page to find out more about us. But we also want to talk to them about what their next step is at Experience Life—evaluate where they’re at on the spot. Then, ideally, we can immediately send them next door to our Next Steps Center, where they can connect with one of our Next Steps volunteers. We don’t want to wait for another week or two to go by, or a follow-up phone call, to get them plugged into the life of the church.

So how does getting plugged in happen?

If someone, for example, talks to our VIP Center volunteer about getting baptized, they only walk a few steps to our Next Steps Center, where they can sign up for the next baptism celebration; they get the exact date and time of that service. We give them a reminder card, and they’ll receive a follow-up phone call. We’ve worked hard to streamline the process, having simple, Web-based sign-ups right there at the center.

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We do the same thing for the other “next steps”—volunteering, tithing, getting involved in a small group, attending a prayer gathering. So we capitalize on the moment. They’re at Experience Life; they’ve had a great experience; we’ve evaluated where they’re at; we’ve made a personal connection; and then we’re immediately helping them take that next step without waiting.

After the first step, how are you helping people take another step?

Every time someone takes a step, we’re helping them evaluate where they are at Experience Life. If someone gets baptized, then we’re talking to them about what’s next. At the baptism orientation, we pass out cards with information about our small groups. If someone shows up for volunteering, then we’re asking him or her if they’re interested in coming to our weekly prayer gatherings because we want to be like the early Christian in Acts 2, coming together for prayer on a regular basis. With every step, we’re always casting a vision for what’s next.

How effective has this proved to be?

In 2012 so far, we’ve had more than 1,100 commitments to Christ—about two-thirds of those are first-time guests telling us on their connection card that they’ve committed their hearts to Christ. We’ve also had nearly 400 baptisms, and about 600 people attend our weekly prayer gatherings.

Are you seeing individual lives changed?

A few months ago, Adam and Kathy Wilkins visited. They had to park across the street because our lot was so packed. But they were greeted right away by our parking lot volunteers and then guided to our building. They felt so welcomed and said the atmosphere was refreshing and exciting. In fact, Adam said they already knew they were coming back before they got inside the building. They ended up committing their life to Christ that day, and by the time they left, they were signed up to get baptized at our next baptism celebration and to start volunteering. Within two weeks they were greeting others! We have a lot of stories like that.

Launched: 2007
Weekend Attendance: 3,299
A 2012 Outreach 100 Church: No. 26 Fastest-Growing
Key Connection Points: Nine services across three campuses; about 150 connection cards collected each week at VIP Centers

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This article originally appeared in the November/December 2012 issue of Outreach magazine.