Although all guests want to feel welcomed at church on Easter, not all guests want to be aggressively pursued afterward. Let’s consider a few simple ways to roll out the “welcome back” mat for our Easter prospects without running them off.
1. WELCOME GUESTS ON AND OFF STAGE
An initial connection with the lead pastor is an important factor in their decision to return. Since most of your guests will be with their families on Easter, do not be disappointed if they do not come to your guest reception that Sunday. Instead, shoot for an initial pastoral connection that is more convenient for them.
- A guest card within reach of every seat. Personally greet guests from the stage, and say that you want to know more about them.
- Stand with your wife at exits as they leave. Slip out during the closing prayer so that you and others can position yourselves in their path. The guests will be the first to bolt after the “amen.”
- Invite them to a special reception the following week. Whatever your next steps are, make them obvious.
2. CONTACT GUESTS PERSONALLY
Regardless of who does the official welcome on Easter, you should let guests know that you want to know more about them. Tell them you will read their guest cards and pray for them. Give them a choice whether to leave them in an offering plate or on the pew.
Your first impression may be on Easter Sunday, but your best impression will come within the 48 hours afterward. Good equippers will give away their ministry most of the time, but this is NOT that time! Unchurched people do not want to talk to total strangers. Even if you have not personally met them yet, you will have made a connection by feeding them spiritually and by greeting them from the stage.
Here is the simple approach I have used to go after shepherdless sheep:
- A hand-written note
- A short phone call
- A personal email
3. CONNECT GUESTS WITH A GROUP
The sobering truth for any pastors reading this is that our preaching and personality are not good enough to keep people from leaving our church. While our worship and website may be awesome, they won’t turn guests into members as well as a small group of loving friends will.
The real win is for our guests to connect to Christ and His Church, so use your initial influence as a bridge to these relationships. We have not been called to gather followers but to make disciples. This happens best within small groups of people who know our names and needs.
This stage of follow up is best implemented by trusted group leaders, deacons, elders or staff. These leaders can use this opportunity to train future leaders on how to follow up well.
- Train them to focus on the Groom more than the Bride. Teach your leaders how to share the gospel without selling it. Also caution them about over-selling your church to the unchurched, which can be counterproductive and somewhat obnoxious.
- Lead with relational equity instead of gifts. Gifts with your church logo and/or mission statement are appropriate for first-time guests, as well as new members. However, if you have given them a gift already at Easter, lead with relational equity instead on your next visit.
Every church has a unique personality and setting, so customize your follow-up strategy accordingly. Remember that it is the Holy Spirit’s job to draw people to our Savior and our church. It is our job to make sure they are loved and discipled well.