The phrase “closing the back door” is often used when addressing how to prevent members from leaving a church, but I think a better phrase is “leave no one behind.” For many people who stop attending church, it’s simply a matter of falling out of the habit. When someone from the church actively reaches out and invites the member to come back, that person is often more receptive and willing to return.
That’s where your Church Management Software (ChMS) can come in—helping identify these individuals and providing the information needed to reach out to them.
Track Relevant Data
When it comes to ministering to inactive members, it’s critical to have the right information at hand. There are three core types of data that should be tracked: people, attendance, and offerings.
The core functionality of any ChMS is to track church members and their contact information. A good ChMS also will track family relationships, important life events, and notes, as well as things that are unique to a church, such as membership status and participation.
This can be a big task to get started, but it’s even harder to maintain. Any time someone calls a church office or meets with a pastor, it’s an opportunity to validate that their contact information is still correct.
This can be a big task to get started and it’s even harder to maintain. Any time someone calls a church office or meets with a pastor, it’s an opportunity to validate that their contact information is still correct or determine if updates are needed.
Inactive members are identified by their lack of activity, which means their activity must be tracked to know when they’ve stopped participating. This is another example of the necessity and benefit of continued ChMS maintenance.
The most common way to identify activity is to track attendance at events. Many congregations track total attendance at Bible study and worship, but it can be quite the task to take individual attendance at worship. This is a key factor in identifying the inactive members of a congregation. While it may be a challenge, the results are worth it.
Offerings are important to track because members expect to receive giving statements at the end of the year. But a change in offering patterns could also indicate a spiritual concern or a change in lifestyle that might necessitate a pastoral visit. Someone who was a faithful giver but suddenly stopped giving may have lost their job and may be afraid to tell others. Someone who is faithfully giving but is no longer attending still may care for the mission of the church, but something may be keeping them from coming to worship.
Church workers need to be careful about sharing individual giving data with too many people (most pastors don’t wish to know). But knowing if and when a person gives is all that is necessary for providing care.
Identify Inactive Members
Now that the right data is in place, the next step is to use it to identify inactive members. There are three ways to use this data: dynamically, statically, or a hybrid of the two.
The best way to identify inactive members is to create lists of people based on the data entered. For example, if a church defines an inactive member as someone who has not attended worship in 60 days, a list can be set up in a ChMS based on that criteria. People can be added automatically to the list and removed when they return to active worship attendance.
Inactive members still can be identified in a ChMS without dynamic data by applying tags to those who are inactive. While there is more manual effort involved in identifying these individuals, it ensures that the right people are added to the list.
In the hybrid option, rather than manually identifying those who are inactive, the ChMS identifies those who might show up incorrectly on the dynamic list. This might include people who are hospitalized, are in long-term care, are unable to leave home, or live out of town during certain times of the year.
Share the List with the Right People
Once there is a list of inactive members, the next step is to share it with the people who will be doing the outreach. The most efficient way to share this information is by giving this team access to the ChMS. Through the appropriate use of logins and permissions, one can narrow their access to just what they need for ministering to inactive members.
If the church isn’t comfortable giving this access, someone can build reports based on the list of inactive members and regularly export them for the follow-up team.
Start Follow-Up Actions
Before the team begins follow-ups, they should identify a process to keep the experience consistent with inactive members.
The ChMS can be used to identify the individual’s preferred method of contact. This can save time and make the interaction more individualized. If the person prefers electronic information, they can be sent an email from their contact record. If they prefer letters, mailing labels can be printed from the ChMS. If a face-to-face visit is most appropriate, the ChMS can be used to find directions to their house once a meeting has been scheduled.
Log Activities to Keep Others Informed
Tracking the follow-up activities that are completed when someone has reached out to an inactive member is also essential maintenance. With the ChMS, this can be done quickly and consistently to allow everyone to see the ministry efforts that have been done with each individual and can track the effectiveness of similar efforts.
As activities are logged, relevant notes should be included that are appropriate to share with others. Remember, several people may read the notes, so each note should provide enough context for someone else to step in.
These same tools in the ChMS can be used to track follow-ups with visitors or find potential volunteers for VBS. ChMS is not just software for tracking offerings; it’s a tool church workers can use to provide better care to their church’s members.
Ready to start working on these steps? Download our free reference sheet for using a ChMS to reach out to your church’s inactive members.