What we just learned could change everything.
What we learned at our last Christmas services could double the amount of guests who make themselves known to you this Easter. It could also double the amount of guests we ultimately connect with through our assimilation strategy.
Believe it or not, it already has!
We had almost 20,000 people come to our 18 Christmas services, but here's the kicker: we had almost 20,000 come last year too. Then how is it that with only 2.2% growth in Christmas attendance we over doubled the amount of guests we followed up on (a 114% increase over last year) and doubled the amount graduating Next Steps in this last ministry season?
The answer will speak to your church weather you had 100 for Christmas or 100,000. This is so simple, I want to slap myself as I write these words...
Lesson #1 The Gift Matters: Change it up.
We give away cool, Eastside branded orange insulated cups with homemade cookies in them to our guests after services. We give them in exchange for their contact info. We have done that for 5 years and it has worked well for us. This Christmas we gave out 1000 stainless steel thermal mugs and ran out of them with 2 services left to go (we had to breakout the orange cups again for the last 2 biggest services).
So why change it up?
I wish I could say that I changed it with the strategic intention for attracting more guests. The truth is I fell into this new giveaway for another reason: I wanted to give our cookie baking team a break for the holidays. 1000 cups meant 2000 cookies that had to be stuffed before each services so they would be fresh. We could not pull that off over the holidays so we opted for the thermal mugs, putting a packet of hot cocoa and 2 candy canes in each one well in advance. Here is another kicker: the perceived value of the gift was so increased that we had guests wandering around and asking for them, something that has never happened before...and it cost almost 20 cents per unit less than the orange cup! Click here to email Lori and find out how to order them yourself.
I recently read about a church that went from getting contact info from 3500 guests per year to over 5000 by simply changing the gift. Perceived value is the driver here. Even investing in a more expensive gift for just your high traffic Christmas type outreach services could make a huge difference. It made a 114% difference for us.
Lesson #2 Christmas Guests are not like other Guests: follow up on them differently.
Our connection strategies are built around the average guest who attends our church during the 48 ordinary weekends we experiencing each year. These guests have researched your church on line and have come due to a need/desire in their life to connect with God, or a friend invited them.
Not so with Christmas, Easter, Mother's Day or the like. These guests come as part of a family tradition or celebration, regardless of their spiritual openness or hunger. So we crafted a strategy for follow up that looked like this:
- We reserved a room for volunteers during every Christmas service and invited 2 groups of them to enjoy a free dinner in that room to help us serve guests: A data entry team and a notecard writing team.
- Data from the cards at Guest Central were brought in real time to this room and entered during each service from the previous service, though no emails telling them about the church or inviting them to Next Steps were sent out for another 10 days. Christmas guests are not in a church shopping mood, especially during the week between Christmas and New Years. Entering the data just meant we were ready to go by the week after New Years since our office is closed that week to give staff and volunteers a needed break.
- Our card writing team wrote around 1000 handwritten and addressed notes to each guests and included a gift card to our Compassion Cafe on campus to use on their next visit. It mentioned nothing about our church. Just a personal note saying how great it was to have them share Christmas with us. That kind of note received during the holiday with a free gift resonates much more than an infomercial about your church.
- After 10 days we sent them an email from our Senior Pastor, which included info about our church now that their schedules have resumed. But in addition, I added an email with 1 minute video attached, filmed on my iphone as the Christmas staging was being torn down in the background. I shared how special it was to have them and now that Christmas and New Years were over, if they had any New Year's resolutions that involved their pursuit of God for the New Year, I knew perfect resource to get it going: Next Steps!
The result was our second biggest Next Steps ever in January.
Look for a post coming soon on how to sell your Lead Pastor or Executive Team on developing a church-wide assimilation strategy if your church lacks one.
In the mean time, share this post with your team and discuss the questions below as fellow Sherpas who help guests reach the summit of full-connection at your church. Easter and Mother's day opportunities await!
- How do you think Holiday guests to your church differ from the average guest? Explore emotional, mental and spiritual factors in your analysis.
- Is there something special or unique you could give away at your next holiday service that could double the amount of guests who make themselves known to you?
- Is there a different strategy for follow up that could be used for these type of guests that could result in greater participation in your assimilation process? Does that follow up process respect that volunteers and staff during their holidays in a specific way?