Church growth depends on follow-up and community outreach. Wise leaders assume interest when people provide their contact information.
Rule Number One for follow-up is: Assume the person who gave you contact information has a desire to connect.
In the Late-Christian era (the second half of the twentieth century) people were reluctant to give out their contact information. They were reluctant for many reasons, but the main reason was the fear of losing control of their information.
It was common practice for marketers and list compilers to sell the information they collected, but that is not as much the case in the twenty-first century. There are do-not-call lists; unsubscribe and blocking options; and spam filters. On top of that, there are real consequences for people who exploit these digital channels of communication.
In fact, the only place left over which we have no control is our mailbox. Anybody who wants to spend their money on postage and printing are legally allowed to mail us whatever they want.
In the twenty-first century, people wouldn’t have given you their contact information if they didn’t want to receive follow-up.
In the Post-Christian era, there is no perceived moral obligation to step inside a church door, and plenty of perceived reasons to stay away. The people who visited your church today went because they wanted to go. They are looking for something, and they are expecting the church to put its best foot forward and reach out.
Many times, they are looking for change. Something in their life has become unsatisfying to the point that they are willing to take action, and going to church seemed like the right thing to do today.
Maybe they know someone who goes to church, and they want a life like someone they know who attends your church or someone else’s church. They walk through your doors, thinking, “Somewhere in here is the key to what I am looking for.”
We know that Jesus is the answer, and it is the job of your communications and outreach teams to connect them to people who will show them the way, the truth, and the life.
Consider a Drip Campaign.
One of the churches we work with was taking their follow-up campaign very seriously. We worked with them to develop a six-part drip campaign — meaning that the new person got some type of communication from the church every week for six weeks with a goal of meeting that person’s individual needs to provide the opportunity to connect in a more meaningful way; and, as a result, have the visitor return.
In that church, as invariably happens, one person argued against sending “so much” communication. This person insisted the communication wouldn’t work and why. This is how it went:
Him: Visitors are going to feel like we’re hounding them.
Me: They gave us their name because they want us to connect with them. If they don’t want us to connect, they can just unsubscribe.
Him: They’ll all delete it.
Me: If everyone deletes it, why does our average campaign have a forty percent open rate?
Him: So then sixty percent don’t open it!
Me: That would only be correct if you assume that the same forty percent open all six. That’s an assumption I don’t make.
Him: Well, I delete everything I get like that.
Me: “You” are not “them.”
This simple conversation represents one of the most dangerous precepts left over from Late-Christian era thinking. There are still people in the twenty-first century who are well churched and know what they are looking for in their faith lives. But today, most people don’t.
The assumption that people visiting churches are well churched, know what they want, and will let us know when they are ready to connect is a precept that is separating the church from the neighborhoods and communities with which Christ commanded us to connect.
Your church will probably not grow if this twentieth-century precept still prevails in your congregation. It’s a church killer.
Avoid the Fatal Flaws.
There are three fatal flaws in communications that are exhibited when this precept reigns supreme.
- First fatal communications flaw: When these conversations happen, it’s generally because the person speaking is saying what they think or feel, not what the data shows.
In my book, Minding His Business, I taught the important marketing principle, “You are not them.” It’s impossible to overstate the fatal flaw of thinking that others are like us.
We are not able to peek inside their brains or see their choices or have the perspective of their background. We do not know why they came. We are not them.
- Second fatal communications flaw: We cannot assume that a visitor has no desire to learn more about what the church has to offer. They attended!
We asked for their contact info, and they gave it to us. Further, for many of these people, we asked for their information only if they wanted us to follow-up with them.
We made a spoken covenant to find out together what God has for their lives. We made a promise to see what the Holy Spirit would do through our connection.
For all those reasons, at the very least, we have a moral obligation to contact those who give us their information and make our very best effort to connect them to people in our church.
- Third fatal communications flaw: We cannot assume that the community — the people for whom we have contact information — do not see the church as something they need more of in their lives.
Many people are struggling to get up every day to face the problems that drove them to your church. They want our answers, which is why they’ve agreed on some level to “give church a try.” If they were not interested, they would have unsubscribed.
These assumptions were birthed in the Late-Christian era and are generally carried into the present day by well-meaning, well churched people from that era who attend church because they have convictions or traditions, not because they just feel like it. This kind of person doesn’t have to look at a brochure on the “Seven Steps of Salvation” because they already know them. Or at least without even reading it, they could give a good guess.
As our communications pave the way for connection to take place and the disciple-making process to begin, some people will connect for a while. Some will never connect. But some will connect and grow. Some will commit their lives to Christ.
In this Post-Christian twenty-first century digital world, if visitors really did not want you to communicate with them, they would not give you their e-mail addresses or cell phone numbers. They would unsubscribe or block the church’s communication. Most don’t. We need to assume desire.
In all our communications, assume that people want to have something you have. Assume that if you have their contact information, they want to hear from you. Assume desire.