3 smart ways to follow up with holiday visitors

The holiday season brings plenty of fresh faces to church, with Christmas Eve and Christmas Day containing some of the most attended church services of the year. After the holidays you want to let these visitors know they are always welcome, ideally throughout the year, but at the very least on notable holidays to celebrate and enjoy fellowship.

What can you do to get holiday visitors to return again to your church? Here are the three simple ideas churches of any size can implement now:

Follow up promptly

Many churches have people fill out guest cards when visiting. Don't just let that valuable information sit in a pile or database. Reach out to people now while their experience is still fresh in their minds.

Consider sending a postcard first, with a brief introduction about the church. A postcard doesn't have to be opened so it is more likely to be seen. Vivid imagery is important to postcards, so include colorful lifestyle pictures whenever possible.

The next week or so, follow up with a handwritten thank-you note from a pastor, leader or outreach committee member. Personalize this letter to the recipient and be sincere in your gratitude that they attended over the holidays. This is not the time for mass-produced copy. This is when you want to convey genuine care and really let the heart of the church shine through.

Finally, a few weeks later, a text, email or phone call is appropriate. Younger people tend to prefer electronic communication while older people may still appreciate a good old-fashioned phone call. However, always respect their communication preference as indicated on the guest card that was filled out.

Use social media

Digital outreach is a wonderful way to reach guests and curious community members alike. Post pictures of your holiday celebrations and videos of sermons, if available. Encourage people to interact with the content by commenting on their favorite holiday traditions or why they love your church.

To encourage new people to engage, host contests and special events online. To boost your likes or online membership, consider tying them to a fundraising effort. Millennials in particular are motivated by efforts that benefit the greater good, so it's a wonderful way to build a relationship with younger audiences.

Now that you have more social media followers and they are engaging with your content, make sure to post regularly and publish invitations to come to church again. Amp up these posts around the big church holidays. The next one for many people is Easter, so start planning now.

Host a fellowship event

What better way to entice holiday guests back to your church than by hosting a targeted fellowship event? This is a wonderful opportunity for existing members to mix with new people and show them what your community is really about.

When it comes to fellowship events, the sky is the limit. A classic afternoon barbecue or dinner is a great option. You might add in entertainment like a band, speaker or magician, depending on who you are hoping to come. Events like carnivals are fun as well, especially if you want to reach families. Another great option is hosting a Lifetouch Church Photography event to honor the new decade and celebrate new families. Invite holiday visitors back to participate in the event and they receive a complementary session and an 8x10 photograph just for coming!

Consider working with your outreach committee to come up with ideas that might appeal to new members, especially the guests that come just once or twice a year at the holidays. Is there a seasonal event that would really stand out and get people to come more often, like a chili cookout or fun run? Can you host a movie night with a recent release and all the traditional snacks and candy? Is there something that people have to travel to do, but you could host right in your community?

Be proactive

Remember, taking the proactive approach with church guests is always a smart idea because it shows you care while providing regular reminders that they are always welcome with open arms. When the holidays roll around again, send out additional invitations to make sure they come back. Even if you just see them once or twice a year, it's an important opportunity to connect and spread the good word. If they come more often, it would be that much more of a blessing.