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Step-by-step guide with proven ideas to get first-time guests to return to your church.

Outreach events can be a lot of work, but they’re worth it when done right. Children’s ministers agree that it’s great to have lots of people attend. But if it doesn’t result in new children and families returning to your church, is it really worth the time?

People returning to your church after an outreach event isn’t a given. At Christian Life Center in Portland, Oregon, Pastor Werner Rienas states that “20 percent of those who visit a church visit again, another 20 percent will never return—no matter what follow-up is done. However, 60 percent of guests need nurture and follow-up if they are to return.”

We want your outreach events to be wildly successful—and we want your church to grow! So we beat the bushes to discover the five key steps to a fantastic follow-up strategy. Follow our step-by-step guide with proven ideas to get first-time guests to return to your church.

1. VISITOR-FRIENDLY EVENTS

Great follow-up isn’t just the actions you take after an event occurs; it also includes taking care of visitor-friendly details that ensure your event is well attended and welcoming from start to finish.

Experience of a Lifetime

Consider these critical things that’ll get your guests wanting more.

• Great Beginnings — From the moment families enter your parking lot, welcoming faces and clear signage must direct them to your entryway. Staff your parking lot with volunteers to direct traffic for easy and quick parking—even if you think your church is too small for this. Then have uniformed attendants who can direct people to your event entrance (a uniform can be a simple vest or fun hat). Also, post greeters at your entryway who can smile and answer guests’ questions.
• First-Class Event — Put on an event that your community can’t wait to attend. Use welcoming publicity that invites your community, not just people from your church. Train your volunteers to be friendly and attentive to children and families. Recruit floaters to ensure restrooms are cleaned and stocked and garbage cans are regularly emptied. Make sure all elements are fun, welcoming and worthy of buzz as families leave your event.
• Exit Strategies — Stage volunteers at your exits to ensure people feel just as welcomed when they leave as when they came. As families leave, train volunteers to thank them for coming and tell them they hope they had fun or ask a question about what their favorite part of the event was. Hang posters as people exit with information about your service times, next event or large photos of kids with quotes about why they love your ministry.

Be My Guest

More than 40 percent of the unchurched said they’d return if a friend or acquaintance invited them. Encourage people to make a personal invitation and keep in touch afterward with those they invited.

• Kid-to-Kid — Encourage kids to invite their friends, classmates and neighbors. Give them a fun way to invite kids. For example, give them two rubber wristbands with the information about your event. They keep one and give one away. To order rubber wristbands, go to 24hourwristbands.com.
• Adult-to-Kid — Encourage adults to invite kids they already know with a fun, customizable invitation for any event. Simply cut the opening and place a sucker in it. Go to Web Exclusives at childrensministry.com to download the template. Encourage adults to offer to pick up the children if they need a ride the day of your event.
• Family-to-Family — Create a polished “ticket” to your event that your church members can give out. Encourage families to share with others the one thing they’re looking forward to most at the event and then tell their prospective guests how much they’d enjoy going to the event with them. Go to Web Exclusives at childrensministry.com for a customizable ticket for any event.

2. FIRST CONTACT
Making an initial contact within 48 hours is critical after your outreach event. “Follow up within two days of their visit,” advises Dale Hudson, co-author of Turbocharged! “If you wait more than two days, you’re diminishing the chances for return.”

Proven Retention Strategy

Use these techniques to make the most of every opportunity and retain your guests.
• Capture Information — You can use a direct route by having everyone register for the event at the door. Or get creative by inviting everyone to register for a door prize. Also, you could take a photo of every family, then get their contact information to send the photo to them.
• Call the parents. Thank the parents for attending your event or for allowing their child to attend. Explain who you are and what your role is at the church. Ask if they have any questions about your church.
• Call the child. Always ask the parent for permission to speak with a child. When speaking with children, identify them by name and introduce yourself and your role at the church. Keep your conversation simple.
• Invite the family to return. If you sense the family isn’t interested in attending church, let them know about a nonthreatening opportunity to return to your church, such as a family barbecue or a playgroup for moms with small children. If you sense they’re interested in attending church, then invite them to your weekend service and provide information.

Once you’ve established an initial phone contact, follow up that week with an e-mail, postcard or letter in the mail.

I Got You Kits

Have your church families “adopt” all your guests. Make a kit with each child’s vital statistics: birthday, age, likes, interests, address, phone number, parents’ e-mail address and family information. Then connect each child with a church family. Families can use the kits to get to know their adopted guests throughout the year and encourage them to come to church and Sunday school.

Children's Ministry Magazine, a division of Group Publishing, is passionate about helping you make a difference in the lives of children. Group Publishing provides ministry resources and services for Christian churches worldwide. Learn more from Children's Ministry Magazine at Group's new Kidmin Conference held Oct. 7-10 in Chicago: www.ChildrensMinistry.com/kidmin-conference This article was reprinted by permission, Children's Ministry Magazine, Copyright 2009, Group Publishing Inc., Box 481, Loveland, CO 80539

More from Children's Ministry Magazine or visit Children's Ministry at http://childrensministry.com

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