Why Retaining Easter Visitors Starts Before Easter Sunday
February 20, 2020 |
Everyone knows that Easter isn’t your typical Sunday service. Churches all around the world almost always see one of their biggest spikes in visitors on Easter Sunday.
The spiritual significance of this holiday, our culturally ingrained desire to spend it with family and friends, and nostalgia, all combine to make this one of the days when people are most open to attending church—even if they never have before.
So while your church probably already has a strategy for bringing visitors back and guiding them into greater participation in your community, it’s worth making special preparations for Easter. With regular visitors throughout the year, you probably don’t know what all they experienced and heard when they showed up. With Easter visitors, you have an opportunity to build a retention program around their shared experience and the things you talked about during the service they attended.
Chances are, Easter preparations are already well underway. Sermons are being written, reviewed, practiced, and prayed over. Volunteers are being recruited to handle the extra attendance. Arrangements are being made to accommodate increased traffic and parking. But in the scramble to get ready for busy services, the visitor follow-up plan can often fall by the wayside.
Here’s why you also need to start getting ready now to retain Easter visitors:
YOU NEED TO TELL THEM WHAT TO DO DURING THE SERVICE
It might be tempting to just worry about following up with visitors after the busyness of Easter season wanes, but you’re going to retain a lot more visitors if you already have a plan for them when they walk through the door. You probably already know what’s most likely to bring visitors back, but it’s important that you specifically identify the next step you want visitors to take and make that step highly visible during the service.
Maybe you just want Easter visitors to fill out your contact card so you can send a series of relevant emails. Maybe you want them to go to an information booth, where a staff person can make an introduction, give them a gift, and invite them to another opportunity. Or perhaps you simply want to tell them about an upcoming event or service you’d like them to attend. You might even have a unique Easter giving campaign for a cause visitors can rally behind.
Whatever your best next step is for visitors, you need time to create a strategy for leading them to that step in your bulletin, on your screens, in your announcements, and through your staff and volunteers, so that your entire service works together to lead them toward the same objective. If you’re planning follow-up communication, you should be able to tell visitors when they should expect to hear from you.
YOUR FOLLOW-UP STRATEGY NEEDS TO BE READY BEFORE THEY ARRIVE
When people visit your church, you have a window for follow-up. Since they’ve just attended your church and presumably had a positive experience there, you have some momentum to continue the relationship. But if you wait too long to communicate with visitors, that momentum fades.
Your follow-up has to happen while your church is still fresh on your visitors’ minds or a lot of them will simply move on and slide back into the groove of their usual routines. In order for your follow-up plan to go off without a hitch, it needs to be ready to launch before your Easter service starts.
Here are 5 follow-up tactics:
1. SURPRISE THEM WITH A PHONE CALL
No one is expecting a phone call. So call them. Gather all the in-app or physical connect cards you received during your Easter services and have your volunteers call to follow up with those guests. Keep things casual. Thank the person for showing up and spending Easter with your church family and let them know their presence was not taken for granted. Ask them if they’d be interested in joining for another upcoming service and let them know what the sermon topic will be to get them extra excited in returning.
Overall, though your volunteers’ goal is to encourage a repeat visit or get the first-time guest connected to a newcomer’s small group, make sure they keep the conversation light and casual. And if someone is unreachable by phone, feel free to leave a quick message and call back a few times within the next two weeks. Send a short, personal email if the person’s email address is known. Those personal touches go a long way in encouraging repeat visits and helping newcomers feel more invested in the church. Be sure volunteers are trained by senior staff before getting on the phone with people. If tough topics arise on the phone, it’s important that volunteers know to connect that person with senior staff if necessary.
2. SOCIAL INVITATION STRATEGY
Invite people back with social media.
Having a social invitation mindset means being targeted and strategic when using social platforms to reach and engage with people. Don’t just post about upcoming sermons, post images and short videos highlighting the leaders, staff, volunteers, and attendees at your ministry. Humanize your church and make it more relatable to outsiders, so don’t overthink it. Release content that makes people want to follow your church’s social platforms and hear more from your ministry.
And don’t forget ads.
Social ads are cheap, easy to create, and effective at getting your message across to people within your community—whether it’s inviting them to a newcomer brunch next Sunday, a connections class, or just for another worship service.
Facebook is a great place to start. Run Facebook ads to surrounding neighborhoods inviting people to attend again. With a strong message and real-life images from your church, you’re sure to get people within your community reaching out to your staff or going to your website for more information about your next service.
Not sure where to start? We created 211 Facebook ad templates to take the guesswork out of ad creation. Explore the free ebook, 211 Plug-And-Play Facebook Ad templates That will Grow Your Church, today.
3. GIVE GOOD GIFTS
Maybe your church has a typical package or gift that gets passed out to newcomers. Don’t just stop there. Create a small token like a gift card and notepad with your church’s logo on it. You can even hand out physical resources like a CD of songs from the worship team prefaced by a welcome message by the campus pastor. Be sure to include a personal, hand-written letter thanking the newcomer for joining in your Easter celebration and offer a list of next steps like small group leaders’ contact info or volunteer opportunities.
Get volunteers together to put these packets together and write out the notes. Then hand them out during the next few worship services to people who invited guests and for returning guests. Have your members hand out these gifts to their first-time guests to encourage return visitors. Gauge how many gifts to put together based on how many newcomers you’ve had at previous Easter services, then go from there! Be sure to explain your vision and heart for newcomers during your worship services so congregants know why you’re doing it and are empowered to do the good work of bringing back their friends and family.
4. USE RICH PUSH NOTIFICATIONS
Your congregants probably did a stellar job of inviting guests in for Easter. Now take it a step further by using your church app. Send out push notifications periodically in the weeks following Easter to encourage congregants to invite their guests back. It’s relatively easy for someone to invite back someone who showed up for a special worship service, but many people simply forget to follow up with a second invitation.
Make it easier for your community to make those invitations by reminding them relatively often. Rich notifications in the Pushpay custom church app allow ministries to send custom notifications to app users and even include engaging images and videos to encourage engagement. Once someone opens the push notification, lead them to a video message from the pastor that encourages visitors to come back and have your members share this video with their friends and family. Or have push notifications open to a church blog filled with simple tips for asking first-time guests to come back. Get creative. Push notifications are a simple and effective way to nurture engagement with your congregation and ask them to reach out to their friends and family on behalf of the wider church.
5. MINISTRY FAIR
A post-Easter ministry fair is an excellent way to bring newcomers back. These can be as elaborate as a “Brunch And Connect” event at a local stomping ground, or a short event the Sunday after Easter where ministry leaders have booths displaying information about the various ways people can get connected at the church.
Show off your community programs, in-church volunteer opportunities, classes, retreats, and small groups. Your church has a lot to offer. Bring that to the fore in a casual setting. Play some music in the background, offer sweet treats and coffee, and have your congregants invite back their newcomers. Cut your normal services back by 15 minutes and encourage people, especially newcomers, to check out the fair and discover at least one way they can get involved at the church.
Once someone is involved, even in a monthly family meal at a staff member’s home, they’re more likely to experience, first-hand, the beauty and collaborative spirit of the Biblical community. As others continue to support them and work alongside them during volunteer stints or checks in on them after small group meetings, visitors are likely to become more invested in the church as a whole. And they’re more likely to keep attending.
IT’S NEVER TOO EARLY TO PRAY ABOUT VISITOR RETENTION
As you start praying for the people who will eventually show up on Easter weekend, asking God to speak through your church’s message and immerse people in his presence, remember to lift up your follow-up efforts in prayer too. Ask God to work in people’s hearts and make them receptive to your invitations to come back.
No matter how well-planned your follow-up strategy is, if you haven’t taken it to God in prayer, you’re not ready yet.
STILL WORKING ON YOUR FOLLOW-UP PLAN? LET US HELP.
Easter is coming up fast, but there’s still time to put together an effective Easter follow-up strategy. Whether you’re still getting started on yours or you’re ahead of the game, we’ve got a free ebook to help you make sure your Easter follow-up goes smoothly this year. In Retaining Easter Guests: The Follow-up Cheatsheet for the Biggest Service of the Year, we’ll show you what an effective plan looks like, how other churches do this well, and how mobile solutions can support your plan.