The Most Underestimated Advantage for Church Growth

These are comments you never want to hear as a leader in your church.

  • “I visited your church and checked a box on a card, but I never heard back from anyone.”
  • “I spoke with a staff member, and they said they would call me, but I never got a call.”
  • “I attended a training meeting and volunteered to help, but no one followed up with my next steps.”

When I hear statements like these, I cringe inside. Not because I think churches and people are required to be perfect (no organization is flawless), but because 99% of the time the slip-up was avoidable.

It’s the little things in your ministry that make a huge difference, because they show that you care.

It’s the personal touch, the second-mile effort and the keeping of system-based promises that make you and your church stand out, and encourage people to engage.

Your various forms of in-bound communication with church attendees constitute a system. One of the most common and effective tools is simply using a respond by text format. For example: “Text Growth Track to 377842.” Other methods still work like a tear-off card in your bulletin, registration using a tool like Wufoo, or your ChMS. The key is to keep your promise.

An implied system-based promise is that when a church attendee reaches out or responds to your request or invite using your system, that you will in fact respond. To say it another way, the very presence of your system is a promise that you will respond. 

The larger your church becomes, the more difficult this is to accomplish, but the greater the potential impact.

People need to know you care, and the only way they know you care is if you are willing to follow through on even the smallest of details, that communicates each person matters.

It’s both tougher and easier for smaller churches. The number of people to keep up with is not as overwhelming, but a higher level of personal touch is expected.

Once you have a system set up, the process of follow up isn’t that complicated. The key is consistency and keeping it personal.

When people know you care and that they matter, the likelihood they will continue to attend and engage more fully is exponentially increased.

One of the best practical ways to make a sincere and lasting impact, and to advance engagement, is to make that phone call, send the text, or respond to the request that’s been waiting for you in whatever way is most appropriate.

When it comes to people, follow up is not ultimately about details and systems, it’s all about creating and maintaining trust. The details and systems are just a tool for engagement and relationship based on trust.

Five teaching points to train your teams:

1) Follow-up is a demonstration of integrity.
When you do what you say you will do, people learn that they can count on you.

2) Follow-up is an expression of your brand promise.

3) Follow-up is often the beginning of something new and special.
It’s amazing to discover the surprises God brings from our faithfulness in the small things.

4) Follow-up communicates that you value someone.
It lets them know they matter to you, and that you care.

5) Follow-up is often the door to a person’s spiritual growth.
The connection creates a relationship and fosters engagement. It gives you the opportunity to help someone mature in their faith.

Five practical tips for consistent follow-up:

1) Don’t build a church system you can’t sustain.

One of the biggest mistakes I see in church follow up processes and systems is that they are too complicated. Your system should serve you, not you serve the system.

One good rule of thumb is that if it takes you longer to deal with the system than to do the actual follow up, your system is too complicated. Teams won’t commit to complicated systems.

  • Think people, not systems.
  • Use systems, not people.

2) Develop a personal practice that works for you.

Not every aspect of follow-up is system-based. There is a great deal that is personal. This is about you and your people connections each week.

For example, what is your personal phone call return practice? Within in 24 hours? 48 hours? If you don’t have a standard, your follow-up will breakdown every time.

If you are buried, people understand, but you need to communicate. For example, if it’s Monday, and there is no way you can follow-up that day, let them know! Send a quick text or email that you received their call, email or text and that you will get back to them, (for example), on Thursday. The most important thing now, is that you must follow up on Thursday.

3) Designate a leader to be responsible for the system.

Regardless of the size of your church, someone must take responsibility for each system.

In a small church, it might be a volunteer for the first-time visitor follow up or prayer requests. In a large church, it might be a spiritual formation staff member at each campus who follows up on requests for a variety of things from baptism to next steps toward engagement.

The key question is, who owns each system?

Most churches are better at creating events than following up, but which one is closer to your real purpose of deeper engagement?

4) Delegate to volunteers if your staff can’t keep up.

If your church is experiencing rapid growth and your staff can’t keep up with all the people follow up, volunteers can do an excellent job helping you. In fact, sometimes they are even better.

It’s important to make sure the volunteers are trained well, have the tools they need and understand the expectations. And of course, as always, express genuine gratitude and appreciation.

5) Design a way to measure and track your system.

This sounds like you following up on your follow up. That’s exactly right! If you don’t keep track of your results, you will never know how well you are doing, or how you need to improve.

Establish a simple way to record and measure your results. You can design your own simple measurement process and there are sophisticated church management systems to assist you.

Strong and consistent follow up will make an amazing difference in your church!

8 thoughts on “The Most Underestimated Advantage for Church Growth”

  1. Accountability is “missing” in most churches. It occurs like a bad word, yet scripture is chock full of it. It is integrity- do what we say and say what we do.

  2. Many years ago a friend told me, “People know you by the little things you do.”

    One of the greatest things I learned in seminary was to hear one of my professors say “I don’t know.” I am deeply indebted to him for what he taught us in class, and especially for the man he was. He was the director of the doctoral program and I had the privilege of hearing him preach a few times at a church that had him as their interim pastor. The first time I attended the church a lady came up to my wife and I to greet us. During our conversation she mentioned how much the church had grown, and how much they had learned. When I asked him what he did each day, he told me about the little things he did. He was growing little by little each day that had made him into who he was. When I asked him how long it took for him to write a sermon I was shocked and realized it came from the little things he did daily to grow.

  3. Thank you for your timely and insightful post as usual.

    “When it comes to people, follow up is not ultimately about details and systems, it’s all about creating and maintaining trust.”

    Church is all about relationships, relationships are built on trust and there could be no trust without integrity and faithfulness.

  4. Thank you for post. I am older person, and I feel guilty sometimes when I cannot keep up with events and happenings in the church.. I haven’t got the energy at times. I feel we miss the point of the simple things of life, nature and all its beauty and time to just be.

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