Imagine a family that’s new to town. They soon start the process of visiting churches to find a church home. A few days after a Sunday visit, they receive a letter with a handwritten note and a gift card to the coffee shop on the church’s campus. This is a fairly common first-time guest gift that churches send to express appreciation and encourage people to come back.

While free coffee is always appreciated, few people will rush back for a second visit solely for free coffee. So, what is the purpose of a gift anyhow? A gift is something of value given to show honor to the recipient. In essence, what you choose to give shows what you believe is valuable. Unfortunately, a gift of coffee doesn’t always convey what the church values, thinks, or believes.

So, what kind of gift does communicate your church’s values and beliefs? One solution is to provide a list of charities for your guest to choose from and make a donation in his or her honor. That’s it, you can close your browser now. But before you overhaul the first-time guest gifts at your church, take a moment to learn why you might want to give this gift and how to best implement it.

Let’s Start by Asking a Few Questions:

Does Your Gift Provide Value to Your Guest?

It doesn’t matter “how simple and easy the first move is, people still need a reason to make it. Incentive is everything.” – Alex G. (Pastor

Alex G. is a Clearstream customer and uses texting to follow up with first-time guests. However, the ease of using a church texting service alone is not the key to getting guests to text in and connect. Alex adds that the key is inviting guests to “text our keyword so that we can make a donation in their honor to one of our non-profit partners. People are more willing to say YES to texting the keyword because it gives them the chance to do good in their community.”

The desire to do social good continues to permeate our culture. Additionally, Jesus calls us to care for the least of us in Matthew 25:35-40. Therefore, a donation in a guest’s honor is a simple way to invite them to join in advancing your church’s global and local service missions.

Most churches focus on making it easy for guests to share their information. However, an incentive is a stronger motivator than the ease or difficulty of filling out a connect card, texting into a phone number, or scanning a QR code. The why behind guests sharing their phone number and email matters more than how easy  it is to provide this information.

Does Your Guest Feel Involved in the Gift?

When guests enter a church for the first time there is a lot going on — music, new people, announcements, and excitement. Guests may feel that all of the decisions in the church are being made for them. To an extent, this is true. That’s why giving them a gift they get to choose is an opportunity for a big win. By providing them options of where the gift goes, you’re showing them you value their attendance, concerns, and perspective.

Search the belief and value pages of countless churches and you’ll find statements such as helping you make a difference, find your purpose, and empower your calling. A first-time guest gift of a donation in their honor provides proof of this mission statement. Immediately show your guests that your beliefs and values are not just things you say but ideals you live out. You’re actively showing them you believe they can make a difference in the community and you want to start equipping them to do so on day one.

Does Your Gift Help you Connect With Your Guests?

When someone receives a note and a coffee gift card, they know the church wants them to come back. Ideally, this includes coffee, conversation with the barista, and developing a relationship with the people at their church.

But for this interaction to take place, they must come back. This gift is only as good as their second attendance, which is a big challenge for church leaders — getting someone to come back a second time.

A donation in your guest’s honor is a next-level connection with your guest in three ways:

  • You immediately know what your guest cares about and have a strong talking point. Your team can connect with your guest when they come back to the welcome table or text your church to get connected. You can share about the charity they chose, the difference it is making, and ask why they chose that one to get to know them on a deeper level.
  • Whether the guest becomes a second attendee or not, after a few months you have a good reason to follow up with the guest. You can let them know how his or her gift made a difference in a project or in someone’s life. There is a residual effect that they are making in the world and you can keep them in the loop regarding the impact their gift has made.
  • Depending on the charity, you could ask if they are interested in getting more involved. The best way to start a conversation is to ask about someone else, not talking about yourself. You can keep your guests in the loop about the impact of their donation. Additionally, you can see if they want to get more involved by joining a volunteer project or giving another gift. You may want to tread softly in regards to this opportunity. However, if you have been able to build a relationship with this guest, this is a great way to reconnect with them and continue building the relationship.

Your first-time guest gift has the opportunity to be an expression of your church’s beliefs and values. Use it wisely. Don’t underestimate what you’re saying through this non-verbal aspect of your first-time guest follow-up. At Clearstream, we want to help make connecting with first-time guests, and donating in their honor, as easy as possible — through texting.

If you’re interested in using texting in your church visit clearstream.io and mention this post to get 10% off any plan.

Below is a list of articles we’ve published in the past on this topic:

6 Simple Ways Texting Can Impact Your Church

9 Tips to Keep Your Church Connected with Text Messaging

What to Include in the Church Email Newsletter

3 Reasons the Church Should Use Text Marketing