I recently read that a congregation should be following up with guest for six weeks. That is a long time. I have seen some churches that connect with guests for three weeks, but six weeks is the longest follow-up that I have seen. It makes sense, though.
Imagine being a first-time guest at a church. Perhaps you have been to church before, but maybe you have only gone to churches for weddings and funerals. It could be that you have memories of being shushed by well meaning adults while wearing uncomfortable clothes. Perhaps you remember the formality of weddings or the grief of death. No matter what the memories, it takes courage to visit a church for the first time.
Before you even walk into the building, there are decisions to be made. What will you wear? You don’t want to be overdressed, but it would be worse to be under-dressed. Maybe you are not someone who is comfortable in a suit or high heels. Will it matter? Finally you decide on the outfit. You see that the service starts at a specific time. You don’t want to walk in late, but you have to decide what time to arrive. Where should you park?
Finally, you make it into the building. Hopefully someone welcomes you. They have a program, so you can have a clue about what is going on in the service. You find a seat. Did you sit in someone else’s seat. Maybe you have heard that some chuch folks always sit in the same seat, like in school. You sit in an aisle seat because you want to be able to make a quick exit. You never know if things are going to get weird. (Maybe you have seen some documentaries on snake handling churches. You don’t think this is like that, but you want to be able to leave if neccessary.)
The service starts. There may be a pastor leading it. There may be a worship leader. There may be a kid who comes in to light candles. There is music, and there is a good chance that you don’t know the music. There is someone reading from the Bible. It is starting to get interesting. Hopefully the sermon or message from the pastor connects with your life, but there may be things you don’t understand. Everyone else seems to know when to stand or sit.
Maybe the service is something that you enjoy, but you are not sure if it is for you. You have plans the next week for brunch.
The church sends you a gift. That is nice. You decide to go the next week, but you over sleep. The following weekend you go visit family for the weekend. You have to work the next weekend. You wonder if they will notice how long you have been gone. You don’t go because you cannot decide what to wear.
They are still inviting you. They do care and want you there. You make your second visit.
Six weeks is not that long when you are following up with guests, especially if their decision has eternal effects.