This is the final post in the series, “Is it too early to start planning for Christmas? Or is it too late.” Feel free to start here. Or, go back to the beginning of the series.
In the final post of this series on getting ready for Christmas, I am going to write about the most often skipped step in Christmas outreach: follow-up.
We’ve planned, invited, prepared, and welcomed new people. If we did everything right, with the help of the Holy Spirit, there are people who had an experience that will make them think about coming back for more.
But most of them won’t. Why? Because it is not part of their routine. Sunday is going to roll around, and most people will do whatever it is they usually do on Sunday. It is not enough to invite them back at the end of the Christmas Eve worship service (Though you need to do that!). We need to follow up.
To get this right, we need to back up to our planning, preparing, and welcoming phases. We need to ask the question, “How will we collect contact information from our new guests?”
The three most common answers to this question are:
1. What do you mean?
2. We have pew pads.
3. We have Connect Cards.
Pew/Attendance pads were the gold standard for registering attendance for a long time. Over the past decade, more and more churches have moved to different options for registering attendance and requesting contact information from guests. I don’t have any statistics, but a large percentage of churches have moved to connection cards, bulletin tear-offs, and other stand-alone pieces.
If you are still using attendance pads, I recommend that you put them away on Christmas Eve and use some type of connect card to collect information from guests.
Here’s why you should consider using connect cards on Christmas Eve:
1. Everyone will get one.
The success of the pew pad depends on the members in the row passing it down. That might work well when most of the people in the pews are members or regular guests. On Christmas Eve, you may (I hope) have whole rows full of guests. They may not even find it, let alone feel comfortable passing it along. Don’t count on verbal instructions from the front to help. There is a lot going on. People are in a strange new place. They may have kids crawling around. People also tend to come in late on Christmas Eve. They might not have a chance to fill anything out before worship starts.
2. It offers a clear invitation to provide information and time to process.
Unless you can count on members to pass it along while inviting people to fill it out, most guests will just keep passing. The card can explain what you are asking for and why you are asking. Many guests will still wish to remain anonymous. However, if you design the card right, and support it with verbal announcements, some will feel comfortable sharing.
3. It allows you to ask everyone to fill it out at the same time.
If you want to to get as many responses as possible, dedicate time in the service to ask people to fill out the card. I will talk more about that in a moment.
If you haven’t used connect cards and are wondering where to start, check out this post from Church Marketing Sucks.
Once you have decided if you are going to use connect cards, there are three more steps: create the card, ask for the information, and follow up.
Create the Card
There are some different approaches to connection cards. The first thing you need to think about is what information you want to collect. My advice on that is “as little as possible.” If you want people to fill it out, don’t make it look like a 1040 form. Only ask for what you are going to use. If you are only going to followup via email, name and email will do it. If you are going to mail something or visit, you will need a physical address. If you are going to call, you need their phone number. If you are going to text, you will need a mobile number.
ProChurchTools has a great piece about connection cards. They cover cards for a couple of different purposes. The guest followup examples are excellent.
There are templates available online to help you create cards. They can be created in Photoshop, Indesign, Publisher, and even Word.
Ask for the information
It is one thing to get those cards in peoples’ hands. It is another to get them to fill them out. The ask should be on the card and given from the front. I recommend dedicating time in the service to ask everyone to fill out their card. Ask everyone to fill it out, members and guests alike and give them a reason.
Here is the script I used for about 10 Christmas Eves in a row:
On your way in this evening, you received a card that looks like this (hold up card). I invite you to take a moment to fill that out. Whether you have been coming here forever or this is your first time, we would love to know a little bit about you, and we would like the chance to send you some more information about our church. Let’s take a moment to fill those out right now. You can place them in the plate during our offering in just a few minutes.
This is usually followed by about 90 seconds of instrumental music as people fill out their cards.
Not everyone is going to fill out the cards. Some people just don’t feel comfortable, and that is okay. But a clear ask and some time to fill them out will increase the number of responses you get.
Want to get even more responses? Give people a better reason. I have heard of churches offering to donate $5 to the food bank for every first-time guest who filled out a card.
Now Follow Up!
Once you have collected information about your new guests, you need to do something with it. Don’t wait until the week after Christmas to make a plan! Making the plan now will help ensure you are asking for the right information on the cards. Also, if you have the detailed plan worked out, you are more likely to get it done!
How will you follow up? There are some options. How you choose to follow up will depend on your context, your available resources, and your insight into what you think will work. Here are three resources that can help you think through a followup plan.
One last tip as I close this series.
You don’t have to get everything right this year. I think some churches fail at Christmas follow-up because they get so caught up in the details that they fail to initiate the plan. Do your best and go for it! Reread the first post in the series that invites you to start planning for next year in January. Whatever you do this year, talk about how well it worked and make plans to make next year even better!