Easter is Christianity’s oldest and most important holiday, and for many churches, it’s a bit like the religious “Super Bowl” – full of anticipation, preparation and celebration for huge numbers of people who may not have shown interest throughout the rest of the year.
Google searches for “church” peak during the Easter season, according to a Pew Research Center report, and attendance rates correlate. It’s a reminder that while many people identify with a church, only about half of them are compelled to attend regularly.
On Easter and, to a lesser extent, during Lent, your regular congregants will sit alongside visitors and church members who participate infrequently. Your ministry team has the opportunity to welcome and inspire them, as well as to follow up with compelling reasons for them to return.
Connect quickly, directly and personally
Engaging or re-engaging visitors and infrequent members begins with a message that says you’re glad they’re in worship with you and that you genuinely want to meet their needs. The more personally and quickly you can connect with them, the higher the likelihood they will become long-standing members of your church. Nearly 90% of church visitors will return if someone follows up with them that same day, and 60% will come back even if it takes a day or two longer, according to this blog.
To engage visitors immediately, use email. Speedy follow-up communicates that you care they attended and you want to make the church a place they’ll return to on a regular basis. That begs the question: Are you collecting emails on your attendance sheets or visitor cards? If not, you’ll want to modify them so your outreach can begin without delay.
Notes and invitations are great, but consider a survey instead
A nicely designed thank-you note or an invitation to attend the next worship service and other upcoming activities are great ideas for follow-up via email. According to modern marketing practices, if you want to both reach out to visitors and gain information to help you serve them more effectively, consider sending a short digital poll or survey.
The introduction can be simple and focused:
“During this holy season that brings so many of us together to worship, we want you to know how special you are to us. We want this church to be a place where you always feel welcome. Please take a moment to let us know what you want most from your church home.”
The survey itself should be just as straightforward. The questions should get to the heart of why people came, why they have hesitated to come before and how you can make them a welcome and valued part of your church family. Respect their time – the questions should be few and easy so the individual can answer without much consideration.
The point is to work personally and quickly to show people that you genuinely want them to join your church. By starting the outreach process immediately and taking the extra step to get their feedback, you show that your church is one that embraces, listens to and cares about connecting with members and visitors.
The unique introspection that characterizes Lent offers a natural opportunity for your church to engage with visitors and infrequent attendees. If people have used the season to reflect on the quality of their spiritual lives, as many do, they may be hungry for an invitation. The faster and more personally you can let them know you care, the better the chance that those Easter visitors will still be with you for months and years to come.