Following up is one of the biggest missed opportunities in churches. Without a clear follow-up strategy and process, first-time guests don’t feel welcome or get connected, new givers don’t know the impact their donation has and might not feel compelled to give again, and new believers don’t get a clear path for growth. Just like you don’t communicate with your 14-year-old nephew and your 80-year-old grandmother the same way, you’ll use many different methods to follow up with different groups in your church. But there are a few defining characteristics of a great follow-up process that are important for every follow up process you have.
#1 – Punctuality
Imagine if you met someone new and sent them a text message two months later saying, “It was so nice meeting you!” They might not believe you. Timeliness in following up with guests is critical. Research has shown that your guest retention rate is highest when you follow up within 48 hours. In 1987, statistics from Herb Miller reported how many guests will return depending on how quickly someone from the church visits their home.
85% of guests return if visited in 36 hours
60% of guests return if visited in 72 hours
15% of guests return if visited in 7 days
We can replace “visited” with “called,” “emailed,” “texted,” etc. in today’s follow-up strategies, but the point remains strong: following up quickly makes your guests feel seen and valued, which makes them more likely to visit your church again.
#2 – Personalization
Many churches have a follow-up process that includes one automated email with a generic message about coming back soon and listing the service times. If that’s your church, you have a big opportunity to improve your process by personalizing it. Emails are still effective, but make them more personal with an introduction letter from the pastor and their family, answering frequently asked questions, linking to previous sermons they might find helpful, or a list of ways they and their children can get involved. The follow-up process is also a great way to involve volunteers. Volunteers can write handwritten notes to first-time guests and givers, make phone calls, or send texts. There’s a place for automation (and, as we mentioned above, a way to make automation feel less automated), but there’s nothing like a personal touch.
#3 – Intentionality
It’s time to get serious about following up. A follow-up process that makes guests feel cared for and helps them get connected in your church doesn’t happen by accident. Those you’re following up with can tell when your efforts are rushed and uncoordinated, so it’s worth taking the time to focus on how your church can intentionally follow up with people. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Start simple by putting a system in place to follow up within 48 hours. Assign parts of the process to different members of your team and ask them to report on how many follow-up postcards, emails, etc. were sent each week. Download our free Follow-Up Checklist to start evaluating the most important parts of your follow-up processes and establish clarity in ownership, effectiveness, and more.
#4 – Clarity
Your follow-up process should answer the “Now What?” question. It’s up to you and your team to define what the next steps are so you can clearly communicate them when you follow up.
“Thank you for giving to our church. Please pray about our upcoming opportunity to reach our community, which your donation will allow us to do in the following ways.”
“We’re so glad you accepted Andrea’s invitation to visit our church. We saw that you live in the Fulton County area, and Jennifer leads an awesome group of women there. I’d love to connect you two.”
“It’s awesome to see you building your new relationship with Jesus. I’d recommend starting with this Study Bible and devotional.”
Clear and simple next steps give a purpose to your process and give people a path to follow. Once you’ve defined that process, that brings us to the next important part of it…
#5 – Documentation
Don’t assume that everyone on your team knows how to follow up, that guests know what’s next, or that givers know how much you appreciate their giving. Write it down. Put it on the calendar. Present it to your staff. Documentation takes the guess-work out of what’s next when someone takes an action at your church (visiting, joining a small group, becoming a believer, etc.). It’s hard to follow a process you can’t see, but when your process is documented, your church has an official plan for following up—one of the most important actions a church can take. To make sure you have everything you need to implement your follow-up process, we created the Follow-Up Checklist to help you get started. This free resource will help you…
Evaluate the key pieces of your follow-up process
Ask the right who, what, and how questions
Establish clarity in ownership, effectiveness, and more
Download it for free below to start improving your church’s follow-up process today.
Your church staff needs to be made up of more than warm bodies.
As a church leader, if you hire someone to do a job, then you need to not only hold that person accountable, but you should aim to serve that person to become the best he or she can be.
But how do you know if someone is doing a great job?
Is it their promptness?
Do they have a jovial personality?
Is there a way you can know if their work is furthering the mission of your church?
In short, yes, you can know how well someone is performing and if his or her work is supporting your church’s mission and vision. Before digging into how this is possible. Let’s take a moment to talk about why you must conduct staff evaluations.
3 reasons you should conduct staff evaluations
There’s way more to conducting church staff evaluations than adding another to-do on your checklist.
Providing evaluations is one big way you can create a healthy church culture (LINK).
Before we dig into the details, let’s take a look at 3 reasons why you must conduct staff evaluations.
#1 – Feedback is a part of servant leadership
Are you in a position of leadership?
Do people report to you (staff) or do people look to you for direction (volunteers)?
If you answered yes to either one of these questions, then you are called (by God) to serve those you lead. This is exactly what Jesus was getting at when he said:
“The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves” (Luke 22:25–26).
This doesn’t mean that you’re always washing someone’s feet or letting your staff or volunteers get by with whatever they choose. Far from it.
As a servant leader, your goal is to help your staff members live and love like Jesus and to do everything for the glory of God (1 Cor 10:31), which means your church staff will need feedback.
I know this sounds like a tall order.
But hear me out:
God calls you to serve your staff.
Your church staff needs you.
They are in a position to receive the vision God is giving your church.
They desire to do the best they possibly can.
They need you to lead them to fulfill God’s call upon their life.
Heed God’s call in your position by providing your staff with helpful feedback.
#2 – The science of practicality is on your side
Not only are you called by God to serve your staff.
According to research, providing your staff with clear expectations and opportunities to learn and grow are essential to leading your team well.
We will dig into this a bit more below. But when you hire someone, be sure to provide him or her with a clear job description and well-defined expectations.
When your staff knows what’s expected and they have the tools and training they need to get the job done, then they are much more likely to perform well in their position.
Know what else?
When you provide a clear job description, you’ll make your job a whole lot easier when it comes to evaluations.
Think about it.
If your staff members don’t clearly know what they need to do, and you start evaluations, then they’re going to be really nervous because they won’t know if they’re hitting their performance goals or not.
More on this in a bit.
#3 – Feedback builds leaders
Feedback is essential for any type of work.
It’s the one thing that can help anyone improve in anything.
This is true for most things, including:
And more …
Regardless of the work your church staff is performing, feedback is critical to helping them know if they’re doing well or if there’s room for improvement.
By not providing any feedback, you’re leaving your staff guessing and stressing. They won’t know if they’re on the right track, performing well in their work, or what in the world you think about them, which can cause a tremendous amount of anxiety.
Don’t let your team walk around blindly in the dark.
Instead, provide them with the feedback they need to progress in their work.
Below, we’re going to dig into church staff evaluations. But at this point, it’s important to highlight the importance of providing ongoing feedback.
As a church leader, you can serve your staff well by setting them up for success and providing consistent support.
Here are two big ways you can accomplish this goal:
Integrate staff goals into the church’s goals
Conduct one-on-one meetings
The first thing you want to do is integrate church staff goals into your church’s goals. The easiest way to do this is to ensure that the work of the person who’s on your team is woven into the very fabric of your church’s vision and mission.
For example, the work of your staff needs to be tied directly into the work of the church. Sure, there will be miscellaneous tasks and projects that don’t necessarily “move the ball down the field” for your church’s mission. But, overall, the work your staff does should directly support the work of your church’s mission.
What is more, you need to be prepared to conductone-on-onemeetings.
Depending on your church’s context, these meetings can take place weekly or bi-monthly. During these meetings, the goal is to connect on a personal level with each staff member, see how his or her work is progressing, and to ask how you can help him or her accomplish his or her goals.
Now, I understand it’s difficult to have these types of meetings during busy seasons (e.g., Christmas and Easter). However, the influence these meetings will have on the life of your staff is well worth the time investment from your schedule.
A short guide to conducting staff evaluations
Convinced you need to evaluate your staff?
Here are 5 steps you should take.
#1 – Create clear job descriptions
You know what’s impossible to do?
Provide an honest, objective, or helpful evaluation without a clear job description.
Without clear metrics to measure, it can be a Herculean task to provide a helpful evaluation.
Think about it.
Without a specific task, responsibilities, or goals established, what are you going to evaluate? Whether or not they were on time every day? How many days they took off? Whether or not they looked busy?
When you’ve clarified your staffs’ roles and responsibilities, you’ll be in a much better position to know how well they are (or are not) performing.
Know what else?
Clear job descriptions are also uber helpful for your staff too.
As I mentioned above, job descriptions provide clear marching orders for your church staff. It gives them clarity in their work, helping them to determine what they need to do daily and how best to prioritize their work.
#2 – Clarify your values
Have you nailed down your church’s values?
Are you clear on your church’s mission and vision?
If so, then you must evaluate your staff based on these core pieces of your church.
If you haven’t clarified this part of the life of your church, then check out these resources before moving forward:
After you’ve clarified your church’s values, you’ll need to be prepared to evaluate your staff based on these values. As you live out these values and hold your staff accountable to do the same, you will move your church staff and entire church family toward living out these values. In a big way, as you and your team exemplify these values, you’ll influence the rest of your church to do the same.
Let me show you how this works.
Let’s say one of your values is to “live and love like Jesus.”
To see how your staff lives out this value among your team and with your entire church, you could ask these two questions:
“What is one way you’ve expressed your love for Christ in the way you serve your colleagues?”
“How have you lived and loved like Jesus among our church family? What’s one example that comes to mind?”
When you ask questions pertaining to your values, it’s also a good idea to be prepared to provide your own observations. In sharing these observations, tell your staff ways you’ve seen them living out your church’s values and perhaps ways you can see them better reflect your church’s values.
By helping your staff live out your church’s values, you will—in time—create a healthy church culture, which is the foundation to fulfilling God’s call upon your church.
#3 – Set specific goals
For your staff, you must provide goals.
There are two types of goals you want to help them set:
Personal growth goals
Let’s take a look at job goals first.
When you provide annual and quarterly objectives,, you create tremendous clarity for your staff by helping them to prioritize their work around the goals you agree upon.
Now, the ministry goals you set shouldn't be excessive. For instance, you don’t want to set a dozen goals for your staff to accomplish at once. Instead, you want to provide focus for your team by limiting the number of big goals they need to accomplish within specific periods of time.
When it comes to staff evaluations, provide your team with 1–3 goals they should aim to accomplish before their next evaluation. The goals you set together will serve as the guiding force for your staff members—to help them determine their priorities.
When it comes time to talk about goals, here are some questions you can ask:
Are you happy with the progress you made toward your goals?
Do you have everything you need to accomplish your goals?
Are there any hurdles within the church (e.g., culture, staff, or resources) that inhibit you from accomplishing your goals?
What can I do to help you accomplish your goals in the next quarter?
As you end your evaluation, it’s essential to discuss and agree on goals with your staff. This way, as you check in with them, you can get regular updates, see how they’re progressing, and ask how you can help them accomplish their goals.
These personal goals should be aimed toward professional development. These goals will need to either help your staff members improve in their current position or help them train to take on new roles or responsibilities. For example, when helping someone on your staff to improve in a specific area, agree upon resources he or she should digest.
Practically speaking, here’s what you need to do:
Identify 1–3 personal growth goals
Pick educational resources
Identify a mentor or coach
For these goals, the level of accountability you offer is different from job goals. The point of these goals is to help your team members improve—not to discourage them from growing at any level
It’s easy to get excited about conducting church staff evaluations.
You want to help your team improve.
You’re working toward creating a healthy church culture.
You want to make strides toward reaching your community for Christ.
In your excitement, it’s easy to double-check your job descriptions, conduct one evaluation, and forget to have another one—again.
Well, that’s not too helpful. 🙂
When it comes to church staff evaluations, it’s best to do the following:
Set an annual evaluation
Schedule a semi-annual evaluation
Host regular check-in meetings
At a minimum, you want to conduct an annual and semi-annual evaluation.
Only providing one annual evaluation is too infrequent. It’s way too easy for anyone to get derailed from their goals and get stuck in the proverbial rut. Semi-annual goals tend to work best for most church calendars. This is just enough time to set a six-month goal, have regular check-ins, and reconnect for an official review halfway through the year.
#5 – Get peer feedback
Your church staff members are not robots.
Their work influences more than whatever they’re working on.
Like you, your staff is a member of the body of Christ—a team member, manager, or employee. In other words, their life and work directly influences the people all around them.
During your church staff evaluations, it’s also important to consider inviting peer reviews. These reviews can be anonymous, and they’ll provide a more robust evaluation of the staff member you’re evaluating.
Peer feedback is especially important for larger staffs or if you have a decentralized leadership team. If you lack regular contact with your team, it’ll be difficult for you to get an accurate assessment on whomever you’re evaluating.
Evaluating your staff
Evaluating your staff can feel daunting—especially if you’re just getting started.
If you feel overwhelmed, start with placing evaluations on your calendar. Once you make a commitment to evaluate your staff, you’ll be in a much better position to prepare yourself and your team.
It’s a part of who you are (identity) and what you do (calling).
As a church leader, you’re an under-shepherd of Jesus.
Said another way, Jesus is the head of the Church—not you.
I don’t mean for this to sound brazen. Instead, I want to emphasize that Jesus is the leader of his Church and that he takes care of his people through you. Practically speaking, you (church leader) are to care for your church in a way that reflects Jesus’ care.
Not only are you an under-shepherd. But God has called you to shepherd his people (1 Pet 5:2). God personally etched this responsibility directly into your job description.
But here’s the deal:
It’s impossible for one person to provide all of the congregational care.
The Bible doesn’t support this belief, and it’s practically impossible for any single human being to provide care to a large group of people.
Think about it.
Let’s say you have 75 church members.
To tend to your people, let’s say you decide to spend 30 minutes with everyone—every week. In this example, this means you’ll spend 37.5 hours per week keeping in touch with your church members, hearing what’s going on in their lives, and helping them to live and love like Jesus.
Add this on top of your other duties, and you have a recipe for a 100-hour workweek.
Sure, you might be able to maintain this for a few weeks. Or, if you’re really a go-getter, you might be able to keep up with this pace for several months without burning out.
Or you may be thinking, “Well, that’s not necessary to spend that much time with everyone in my church.”
If so, I understand where you’re coming from. But that’s not the point I’m trying to make. What I’d love for you to take away is that you should care for your people—but not entirely by yourself.
As a pastor, you’ll always be in a position to provide care. But as you aim to tend to the needs of your church, you’ll need to focus on building a congregational care ministry.
Before we get into the practical details, let’s take a moment to explore this point since it informs the practical strategy.
There are three groups of people who can provide care for your church:
First, you have to know your church members to take care of them. In other words, when you offer church membership, you provide a way for people to be a part of your church, and for you to know who’s a member of your church (Acts 20:28).
Does this mean you can only care for your church members?
That’s not the case at all.
In writing to the Church at Galatia, Paul said:
“So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Gal 6:10).
Yes, you want to help as many people as you can. But you’re also called to “especially” care for the “household of faith”—your church members.
Not only do you want to know your church members, but you also want to empower your church members to care for one another.
This is far from a practical matter—this advice is loaded with dozens of commands from the Bible.
In the New Testament, dozens of verses emphasize this point in what’s known as the “one another” verses. For example, we read:
“Be at peace with one another” (Mark 9:50)
“Bear with and forgive one another” (Col 3:13)
“Love one another” (John 13:34)
“Serve one another” (Gal 5:13)
“Pray for one another” (Jas 5:16)
From a sermon series on this topic to Bible studies about taking care of one another, there are several ways you can encourage your church to serve “one another.” This is one part of cultivating a healthy church culture.
In short, your church—the body of Christ—was created by God to be just that—a body, a family of brothers and sisters in Christ who encourage and support one another to live and love like Jesus. What is more, the Bible does not say that only pastors can take care of people.
The second group of people who are called out to care for the Church are elders.
Now, I understand there are differences between church traditions in how you define the role of elders in your church, and that’s all good. Regardless if you have a board, session, or deacons who serve in some sort of leadership capacity in your church, the essence of church leadership is about serving.
In serving your church, your church’s leadership will exemplify serving, and they can also provide oversight for your care ministry. As we’ll see below, you’ll need to delegate responsibility to oversee the care of your church members to ensure everyone is taken care of. So, you’ll need to rely upon your church’s leadership to help you care for your church.
The third group of people who can help you care for your church members is small groups.
A small group ministry is a great way you, your staff, or your church’s leadership can learn about the needs of your church community.
In many ways, a small group that regularly meets is arguably one of the best ways to place your church members in a position to love “one another.” After spending time together throughout the week, sharing meals, and discussing life and faith, it’s natural to anticipate things to come up during this time.
Depending on the situation, your small group can care for the individual member of your church. Or, if the situation requires additional help (counseling, financial support, etc.), then your small group leader can share this with your church’s leadership.
Build a team for congregational care
Your church is a peculiar organization.
It’s a combination of flesh (people) and bones (organization).
As you build a church culture that emphasizes taking care of “one another,” you’ll naturally see your church members helping out. People will serve without being asked, and others will volunteer to provide support. Even though this is the case, you’ll still need to put a structure in place to ensure that everyone in your church is cared for.
This isn’t something you want to overlook.
Lack of structure was a problem that plagued the early church.
In recounting the history of the church, Luke shared:
“In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenistic Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, ‘It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to themand will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word’” (Acts 6:1–4, emphasis mine).
What we observe here is a simple trajectory:
The church grew
People in the church were overlooked
The church acknowledged the problem and their limitations
The church reorganized itself to take care of its people
In the same way, as your church grows, it’ll be easy f to overlook the needs of your people. I’m not saying you’re a terrible person or that your church will do this on purpose. As your church grows, you’ll become busier and busier, and when you have more people to shepherd, it’s hard to know who’s who and what’s going on unless you have a team and structure in place.
Thankfully, organizing your care ministry isn’t too complicated.
Depending upon your church’s leadership structure (elders, deacons, board) and size, the structure of your congregational care may look something like this:
Assistant/associate pastor, volunteer leader, or team of leaders
Support staff or volunteers
To tend to everyone, your senior pastor (maybe you?) will need to be relieved of the administrative duties of congregational care. He or she can and should continue to provide pastoral care. But it doesn’t necessarily have to be their job to take care of all of the details.
In this scenario, hire an additional staff member or identify a volunteer leader who can help oversee the care of your congregation. The role of this person or team is to provide oversight and leadership for congregational care.
Finally, you’ll need additional staff or volunteers to help provide care for your church members. Again, the size and needs of your church will determine how many people you’ll need to recruit to provide support when needed.
To help you think through the details a bit more, let’s take a look at the type of care you’ll need to prepare to provide.
Know the care you’ll need to provide
In the life of your church, there are two types of care you’ll need to provide:
Support and encouragement
I’ll be the first to admit that everything doesn’t fit that nice and neat into these two categories. But to help you practically think through empowering your church to provide care, you’ll find these two categories helpful.
Here’s how to differentiate between these two categories:
Emergencies are entirely unplanned situations. From accidents to the sudden death of a church member, these are things you cannot plan for in advance.
Support and encouragement care is the type of thing you can plan for in your church. This includes visiting shut-ins, providing financial help, counseling, weddings, prayer, or births.
Regardless of how you classify congregational care in your church, the biggest takeaway is to be prepared to handle both emergencies and expected caring situations. The best way to do this is to create a process, which leads us to the next point.
Congregational care process and tools
Creating processes for providing congregational care is essential.
Processes help to ensure your church members receive care, and they make it a whole lot easier to empower volunteers to provide support too.
Here are a couple of ways you can create a process around the different types of congregational care you’ll provide, and a few tools to help you along the way.
As a church leader, you have to prepare for emergencies. This is an unfortunate reality you have to embrace to serve your church well.
Instead of getting caught off guard, it’s best to prepare how you’ll handle emergencies when—not if—they happen.
Here are three things you must have in place:
Accessible contact information
Let’s explore these in detail.
#1 – Accessible contact information
Do your church members know how to get in touch with your church’s leadership when there’s an emergency?
Can they directly contact the pastor?
Do they contact their small group leader?
Can they find the information online?
In some situations, there’s a good chance someone in the midst of an emergency will reach out to a friend in the church, who will then contact your church to ask for help.
Regardless of the situation, make sure your church members know how to contact you during an emergency situation, which will require this information to be easily accessible.
So, for your church, this may involve including a number and email address online, as well as your church’s bulletin. If you go this route, you don’t have to provide your personal contact information. Instead, you can use a service like Google Voice to create a phone number you can share with the public that’ll forward to a different number to protect your identity.
What is more, you can use a tool like this to change what number it forwards to when you have a team in place to help out with providing pastoral care.
Why stress this point?
In an emergency, timeliness is vitally important. As a church leader, you want your church to be accessible and present for your church members in any emergency situation to provide comfort and support during times of need.
#2 – Teamwork
Let me reemphasize this point:
You’ll need a team of people to help you provide care.
For emergency situations, it’s best to create a schedule for people to follow. By creating a schedule, you can protect one pastor, staff member, or volunteer from getting burned out.
As you develop a process to provide emergency care, revisit the organization you developed in the previous step, and create a plan to delegate responsibility for who’s “on call” to handle emergency situations.
#3 – Follow-up
The final component you need to create in your emergency care plan is how you’ll follow up. For this process, identify “common” emergency situations, and create a general follow-up process to follow for each.
Here are some ideas you can include:
Before making a public announcement, be sure whomever is in the midst of an emergency is okay with you making such an announcement to your church.
In the end, for the follow-up process, it’s best to work through whomever is serving as the point person to identify the best way to care for the individual and his or her family during and after their emergency situation.
Support and encouragement care
The process for providing support and encouragement care is fairly similar to emergency care. But there’s one tool you can use to make this process a whole lot easier: church-management software.
For example, many church-management software tools allow you to create forms you can publish on your website, and after someone completes the form, it can be sent to a member of your congregational care team for processing.
Here are common care-request forms you can create:
With church-management software, you can create whatever form you need to help you gather the necessary information to serve your church members well.
After you gather this initial information, then a member of your congregational care team can review the request, identify the follow-up process (for example, does a pastor need to be involved?), and follow through with providing the care someone needs.
The last form suggestion, “care,” can serve as a catchall. For example, if someone is on your website and they’re not sure what form they should submit, then they can click on this form to provide a general request for support or encouragement.
So, for this form, it’s a good idea to gather information like:
Relationship to your church—e.g., member, regular attendee, or visitor
Name of his or her small group leader
Reason for contact (this can be an open-ended question)
Providing food will be one practical and ongoing way you can support and encourage your church members. For people in emergency situations or for those experiencing illness or for those welcoming a new baby, this ministry is a tremendous blessing.
To schedule meals for people, you may be able to use certain features within a church-management software, or you can use one of several online tools, such as: