If we are honest, we would have to admit that many churches in the U.S. are not growing from conversions but from transfers from other churches. I’ll admit that there are some valid reasons for a Christian to leave one church to attend another, but the Great Commission isn’t about shuffling believers from one church to another. There are many things a church can do to bolster its outreach, but one that is consistently missed in the vast majority of churches today is evangelistic visitation. What is that you ask? Keep reading and I’ll explain.
Every Saturday for many years there were at least two people from Grace Baptist Church that would go out to share the gospel with our community—myself and one of our deacons named Everett. Some Saturdays there were others that would join us, but many times it was just the two of us. Everett and I shared Christ with gang members, homeless people in the park, people in half-way houses, and everyday people that look like you and me.
We had dogs chase us, people scream at us, a couple of doors slammed in our faces, and even a few people that I am convinced were demon possessed. Although we visited door to door in order to hopefully share Christ with our neighbors, we found that this method wasn’t too successful. Instead we found that evangelistic visitation was far more productive.
Whenever a person visited our church, they would receive a bulletin and a small visitor’s card that we asked them to fill out as a record of their visit. These cards were placed in the offering plate when the offering was received. When the deacons counted the offering, they would take out these cards and give them to me for follow up.
In my discussions with many pastors and church leaders, many churches don’t do anything to record visitors anymore. I’m not sure why, but they don’t seem to even collect a card to record visitors. In my many visits to different churches, most didn’t request a card to be filled out, and of those that I have filled out, only one has ever done something with it.
On Tuesday when I came into the office, I would send out a welcome letter thanking the visitor for coming. If they wrote the name of who invited them on their visitor card, I would include that as well. Sometimes I would call the friend of our visitor and ask them some questions to find out more about what brought them to our church.
But my follow up didn’t stop there. On the following Saturday, Everett and I would take that card and drive over to the visitor’s house to pay them a visit. Yes, you read that right! We actually showed up at their front door! When we did this, we followed a few rules that worked for us:
1. We only visited on Saturdays from 10am-12pm. This is because before 10 some people were sleeping in and after noon they would be leaving for the day. Three day holidays were almost worthless as far as visiting goes.
2. We took a church flyer or business card with us to leave if they didn’t answer the door. We wanted our visitor to know we came by and missed them. A quick note on a church invite flyer or the back of my business card was slipped in the door jamb for the visitor to find when they returned home.
3. We didn’t call to make an appointment. We found that when we made arrangements we would often find nobody home. It was better to surprise our visitors. Even so, the vast majority were happy to see us.
4. We thanked them for their visit and asked if they had any questions about what they heard. Their visit showed us that they had some interest in church and the Bible. Our conversation helped us determine if the visitors were Christians or needed to hear the gospel.
5. We made sure to express that we were there because we had an important message that we wanted them to hear. We assumed God had sent us as His messengers and we were not ashamed, but bold ambassadors for Christ.
6. We invited them to come back Sunday (the next day). Many people were shocked that the man that preached the sermon had taken the time to personally visit them. This impression made them more open to come back, and it showed them in a tangible way that we truly cared for them.
Having successfully visited our visitor, we usually asked them if we could pray for them and if they had any special prayer needs. The visit often ended with smiles, laughs, and a new relationship begun. Of all the people that returned a second time, many were those that had been visited by someone in our church.
When you think about what connected you to your church, what sticks out the most? What were the things that turned you off about visiting a new church?