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What Can Your Church Do to be Better at Follow-up?

  • Veronica Neffinger

    Veronica Neffinger wrote her first poem at age seven and went on to study English in college, focusing on 18th century literature. When she is not listening to baseball games, enjoying the…

  • Updated Mar 16, 2016
We all like to know what we are doing, to have done something enough times that we no longer need to devote as much mental energy to it. We like to feel at ease and comfortable in our tasks and responsibilities and the things we do on a daily basis.
This can even apply to churches.
Once a church has been established for a certain period of time, it can be easy for pastor, elders, worship team members, ministry leaders, and members to fall into a routine pattern every week. Of course, having an order of worship and a structured way of conducting the church service is generally a positive thing, but when we become so attached to the normal patterns of how a church service plays out every week, we can miss ministry opportunities that may be hidden in plain sight: specifically, ministry to visitors, those who are not used to the normal order of how things work in our church.
In a blog post titled “Six Reasons Why Most Churches are Lousy at Follow-up” Thom S. Rainer discusses why many churches, though being visited by many new people, are gaining few new regular attendees.
Rainer gives examples of a number of churches. One, he says, has a regular attendance of 225 people. One Sunday, 75 guests joined the service. How many of those guests came back and joined the church? Only two, says Rainer. The other examples play out similarly. 
Rainer says this is because the churches had no follow-up ministry in place.
Before reading Rainer’s six reasons for why churches generally are not good at following up with visitors, it is relevant to realize a distressing trend in church attendance: less people--even those who are already church members--are attending church on a consistent basis.
In a article titled “The Most Distrubing Trend Happening in Your Church in 2015,” John UpChurch writes that this trend is that a church’s “most committed people will attend worship services less frequently than ever in 2015.”
If churches are already struggling with attendance, even from committed members, shouldn’t they make a priority of welcoming and ministering to new attendees?
Rainer thinks so, and gives six reasons why churches often fail at gaining new members, which can be turned into six ways that churches can successfully minister to visitors and new attendees:
1. A church must be intentional about following up with visitors. This ministry should be viewed as a part of the Great Commission.
2. Many times, following up with new members will involve interacting with them outside of church, which some may find uncomfortable. Ministry leaders may need to cultivate the skill of being outwardly-focused, rather than being comfortable in the cliques that may have developed in their church, as Rainer notes in another article on 
3. Those following up with new attendees may need to be reminded that it is not a ministry that will likely bring outward recognition, but nevertheless, it is a very important ministry: it is bringing others into the community of God’s people.
4. Follow-up ministry can be discouraging; therefore, try to focus on the one or two people who respond positively, rather than dwelling on those who seem uninterested or apathetic.
5. Follow-up ministry is important, even if it is not recognized by church leadership. It’s often not as glamorous as worship ministry or other ministries that can be seen by everyone.
6. Churches may want to think about specifically designating follow-up ministry as a ministry, which it is not in many churches.
What does your church do to follow up with visitors? What more can they do to bring people into community with God’s people?
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Publication date: March 16, 2016
Veronica Neffinger is the editor of