Guest Follow-Up: Why It Matters and Why It’s Not Happening

Published in INSIGHT - Fall 2016
By Melanie Smollen

I went for a job interview. I remembered to smile, sit up straight, and not give canned answers. After the interview they said I’d definitely hear from them soon. They never contacted me.

I had a nice evening out with a friend of a friend. I gave my phone number, but never received a call. 

My family attended a new church and loved it! The church asked us to fill out a connect card so that we could stay in touch with what was happening at the church and hopefully get connected. It has been months…and still no contact. 

What do these three scenarios have in common? Rejection. 

Over the years, we have noticed in our research that churches were not being diligent in following up with guests. This past year, we decided to see if our anecdotal fears of the church not following up with people were factually based. In our study of the first-time guest experience, we concentrated specifically on guests that left their contact information with the church and tracked whether they received follow up. 

About the Research
This research was conducted using an online survey with a sample size of 1,341 adults who attended worship services at churches throughout the United States. The surveys were completed from October 2015 to September 2016.  First-time guests visited different churches of different sizes and denominations and, after being asked by the church to leave their contact information, 504 voluntarily chose to do so. After a period of 30 days following their visit to the church, Faith Perceptions followed up with all respondents to learn if the church had contacted them in any way. We found that only 119 (24%) of 504 respondents received follow-up from the church.  Of the 504 adults that took part in this research, 359 were unchurched or dechurched.

What is the takeaway? A meager 24% follow-up rate tells us that churches are neglecting the opportunity they have in connecting with guests. The message it sends to a guest is that the church does not care and that they don’t matter. 

Why are churches not following up? In many of our conversations with church leaders, we learned that most do want to follow up, but do not have a well-thought-out process for doing so. There is often confusion on who should follow up and when. For those that have established a process, there is little to no accountability to ensure follow-up is happening. Many pastors would like to do the follow-up themselves, but lack the time and instead hope those appointed to do so are doing it. 

Why it matters. First things first, if someone gives you his contact information that means he WANTS to hear from you. A set plan needs to be in place for following up quickly and consistently. Guest follow-up is a ministry, and just like any other ministry in your church, it needs attention. If you do not have relevant programming and volunteers to staff your children’s ministry, do you think it will grow? Probably not. If you do not put forth that same effort in reaching out to guests, your church probably is not going to grow, either. 

What you can do. Do not wait. This is something your church can start doing today and it costs very little, if anything at all. Whether it is making a phone call, sending an email, or dropping a postcard in the mail – contact should be made. Contacting guests after they visit shows them they are a priority…that they matter. Regardless of how you do it…do it. The worst kind of church follow-up is no follow-up at all. 

Melanie Smollen is the president of Faith Perceptions, a market research firm that provides churches and faith-based organizations with research about their target group. She can be reached at