How To Re-Engage Church Members in 6 Steps
For the church leaders saying they need to figure out how to re-engage church members who haven’t been heard from in a while, this post is for you. How do you get people to come back to gathering together, whether in-person, online or a mix of both? When you know people have slipped away because the numbers are down everywhere, it’s time to do something different. It’s time to reach out to as many people individually as you can.
Yes, individually. And you’ll get the reason why in a bit. The numbers trending down are a symptom, not the problem. Let’s put to work all you know about ministry + communications for the spiritual wellbeing of so many who have dropped off. Here are the 6 steps you should take to reconnect, guide people to re-engage with you, and listen for how to serve.
But first, let’s look at the reason behind this approach.
To re-engage church members, connect individually. Here’s why.
Digital technology and marketing has grown and evolved. Now, your congregation faces 2020 and lives shifted to more time at home, on Zoom calls, and not seeing people like before. Broadly distributed communications on social, email and websites don’t have the same effect they did back in March and April.
Sure, some people have stayed connected and you’re likely seeing some successes. You can keep using your digital communications channels that are working well for you and serving your church. Keep providing encouragement, any necessary updates, and encouraging them to serve.
However, those who you know have dropped off, or who you aren’t sure about, they’ll want to hear a voice. In a recent series on leadership, Pastor Andy Stanley said, “Your voice carries more weight than your words.” (Right around the 15:00 mark). A phone call – even one that goes to voicemail – will mean more than a text message or an email.
Now is the time to gather your leaders and put a plan into motion to re-engage church members you haven’t seen or heard from in a while.
Gather leaders to update and cast vision
No one person will know everything that’s going on. That’s why you have leaders on staff and in your volunteer base! Pull together those who serve as small group leaders, oversee discipleship, missions, etc. You may need to break it up to accommodate schedules, and that’s ok.
After opening with prayer, you’ll want to focus the meeting by stating the goal: to reconnect, to guide people to re-engage, and to listen for how to serve. If you have supporting numbers, share those to provide context.
Prepare resource list
Some of your leaders will know specific situations people are going through. Job loss, mental health issues, juggling kids and work, etc. are all common right now. Some problems you’ll be aware of from other resources, such as the news, public health reports, etc.
Brainstorm up a list of all of the possible resources people may need. These can be through your church or community partners. Most important will be the physical needs of food, shelter, safety, transportation, electricity, and water. Next will be the physical and mental health needs. Your group will likely think of others. You don’t have to have a resource for everything, but having a list helps equip the group for later.
For each resource, have all the necessary contact information someone may need. Have one or two people verify the information before you set your plan into motion. Every resource may not be needed, but should someone need help. You can serve them well by making sure the information provided doesn’t create additional stress in their lives by being correct.
Start making contact lists
Now is the time to divide and conquer – the list, that is. Now, for larger churches, this may take some time. Typically, we’d be all about the automation and other times savers.
For the task of re-engaging church members, this is not one of those times. But that doesn’t mean you don’t have to go about this in an organized way.
If your list is long, prioritize in a way that makes the most sense for you. You can focus on recent attendance, involvement with ministries at your church, etc.
Plan to have individuals personally contacted, from about high school age on up. Every person has dealt with this year in different ways. One person in the household may be doing poorly while another is doing well (all things considered). As much as possible, have someone who knows that person be the one to make the call.
Call – and be ready to listen
For the sake of community and support, have a set block of time where people can make phone calls together. Use a large room or have people throughout the building – following your local health guidelines, of course. There will be praises to share and circumstances to prayer over together. Providing that sense of church community for those making the calls sets this endeavor up for success.
Offer a script to get people started. Some people won’t need it due to their gifts and talents. Some need to have words to get started with until they feel more comfortable. Here’s an opening you can use:
Hi, [person’s name]. This is [caller’s name] from [your church]. I hadn’t talked with you in a while with everything that’s been going on and wanted to see how you are dealing with all of this.
And then listen. If the person wants to talk, let them talk. If they don’t say much, ask about their life. Work, school, friends, etc. What can the church do to help this person? Is there a way the church can connect with them in a meaningful way during this time? You’ll be ready with your resource list should anything come up. Offer to pray with or for them before saying goodbye.
Have different events planned, like outdoor worship, house churches, or other small group gatherings that follow local guidelines? If they want to be with people, this is a great time to let them know what’s coming up!
When it goes to voicemail
Of course, the call may go to voicemail. More than likely, it will as most adults age 40 or younger won’t pick up the phone unless they know the number (and even then, they may not).
Usually, we’d say to reach out to these adults through email, text, or any other means. For this instance, hearing a VOICE will carry more emotional weight.
While they may respond in a myriad of ways, by delivering the words vocally, your message will resonate. Voice can break through where words on a screen cannot because it provides what many of us lack right now: human connection. Those called will hear your words, along with tone, and the emotion all personally conveyed in a message just for them.
Should it go to voicemail, your message can follow this script:
Hi, [person’s name]. This is [caller’s name] from [your church.] I hadn’t talked with you in a while with everything that’s been going on and wanted to see how you are dealing with all of this. I’m here if you want to talk, or you can [text/email/message] me at [contact info]. Know that I’m praying for you, along with the leaders at [your church]. I hope to hear from you soon.
Keep in touch, and keep going
Re-engaging people will be a valuable investment of time. Have a plan in place to keep in contact. After that first phone call, you can incorporate text and email – with personal phone calls or handwritten notes sprinkled in as well.
Along the way, you’ll have breakthroughs as you work to re-engage church members who need a kind word – and maybe more. Someone is waiting for a phone call from you. Gather your leaders and be the ones to make the call.