I was on the planning committee for a big outreach event. We had spent months planning. And then we had the key realisation – we hadn't thought about follow-up!
- How would people be encouraged to respond on the night?
- Who would they speak with? Where?
- What forms would they fill out? Who would collect them?
- How would new believers be cared for?
We had been so focused on making the event happen, that we had forgotten to prepare for how the event, by God's grace, would impact people. Thankfully we realised before it was too late – and it's not too late to think through follow-up for this year's Christmas services.
It's too easy to plan and promote the service, and not prepare for how to care for the people who turn up to church, and help them take the next step.
Here's 6 tips to help people take the next step:
- Make use of the slides to inform. New people often come early and don't have anyone to speak to, so this is a good opportunity to let people know how they can respond before the service starts. We'll have a loop of very simple images that rotate through before and after the service in ProPresenter. You can see an example of our ‘Christianity Explored' promo slide below.
- Provide people with different steps to take. Let's keep praying for it, but the response of every unbeliever probably won't be “I want to start following Jesus today!”. So give people a number of different steps to choose from – speaking with someone, reading the Bible, doing a course. You don't want to overwhelm people with choices, but it's good to recognise that people will come to church at different stages, and ready to respond in different ways.
- Call people to respond in the sermon. Tie in the sermon with the steps described above, and ensure these are connected to the response card/form you're using. Don't just call people to “start following Jesus this Christmas” – outline how they can make a next step, and commit to this step using the card provided. Let people know that they can speak with you after the service (see point 5 below).
- Remove all removable obstacles to responding. There's no point calling people to respond if they don't have a form to fill in, or the pens or pencils to write with. We've recently started experimenting with an iPad too – with the same information as the response slip. Not only do people need to have the equipment, they need to know what to do with the form too – when or where do they hand it in?
- Make sure there are people available to chat. At some churches, the minister is available in the same spot each week for 15 minutes to specifically speak with new people – church members know this isn't the time to speak with the minister about swapping weeks on the creche roster! I like this idea – but however it works, it's important for the minister (or other people) to be available after church to speak with anyone who is keen to ask questions or learn more.
- Follow up with people soon after! If people indicate that they want to start following Jesus, read the Bible, or attend Christianity Explored – praise God – and then promptly help them to do this!
Do you have any other tips for helping people take the next step at Christmas services?
By the way, this is a great post to read before Christmas: “It's always someone's first Sunday at church“.
As mentioned above, this is the (very simple) slide we'll be using in our loop to promote Christianity Explored: