Skip to main content

following up with new people

Nelson Searcy is the lead pastor at Journey Church in New York City and was on staff at Saddleback Church.  Here’s his take on how to follow up with newcomers to your church.

Since we already email and call (and possibly send a form letter to) all of our first time guests, do I really need to write a handwritten note to each of them?


The handwritten note is MORE important and impactful than either the email or the calls.

The handwritten note shows that you took some actual time writing out a personalized note, rather than simply plugging their name into a database and pressing “send”. On top of that, the handwritten note is more likely to be opened than a form letter (see my ABC Mail video for more about this).

And don’t forget to include a free gift of some sort – a $5.00 gas card or similar is what I recommend in most areas.

A Word of Caution on Phone Calls

If you’re currently calling your church’s guests, I am not sure the calls should come from someone other than the pastor – you might want to find out what kind of response your current callers are getting.

What I hear over and over is that the volunteer caller ’so wants to please the pastor’ that they fail to tell you how awkward the calls feel or the weird, quick or snippy responses they get from the people they’re calling.

If you really want to test the value of your follow-up phone calls, I would personally take 10 – 12 people over the next month and call them – then decide if you want to continue or not.

Here’s why: In 90% of the areas of the country I work in, phone calls are more likely to ‘push people away’ rather than draw them back – the only exception we’ve found is senior adult communities in Florida, Arizona or California. Unchurched people find it particularly intruding.

That said, if you do call, the best hope is that you get the voice mail – that can work for you if the voice mail is well done, scripted and personal.

If you want to improve first time guest follow-up at your church this week, I suggest you send a brief, handwritten note to each of them with a $5 gas card included. It’s a proven “wow” that goes a long way with new people!

And let me know how it goes.