At CV Outreach we are all about connecting people with the Church. All of our Church Partners are set up to receive emails from people who are searching for hope online. After talking with some of our pastors I decided to put together a few tips and tricks they use when responding back to these emails.
Believe it or not people don’t always respond back to email. It’s fairly common for our partnering churches to receive an email response, write back to the sender, and never get anything back. Don’t be afraid to check in again. You can ask if they are still facing the problem they initially wrote about or simply let them know you prayed for them that day. People like to be pursued, and following up a second or third time might be what it takes for them to realize you actually want to have a conversation with them.
When a visitor of a church fills out a connection card they are 87% less likely to return if you respond of Friday instead of Monday. Using that same logic you can bet that people who aren't even interested in church are going to be losing interest if they don't get a response in a timely manner.
A while ago we saw one of our partners put this into practice. The sender had asked a tougher question that would require a fairly long response. It would be easy to take the next few hours, or even days, to craft the perfect response chocked full of strong biblical references, but by then most likely our seeker will have moved on and may not be interested in that question anymore.
Instead the Pastor responded quickly with a very simple email. He wrote something like this,
“Hey! Thank you so much for your question. I promise I will answer it, but this is a tough one and it will take a little more time to write out a complete answer. In the meantime, I wanted to introduce myself to you and let you know I’m looking forward to getting to know you. Just so you know I am a real person so I may get busy from time to time. If I don’t respond right away I haven’t forgotten about you.
Thanks so much for your and question, I’m looking forward to answering it. Also I would be interested to know why you were wondering about that?”
What I love about this response is that he let the person on the other end know that he even though he couldn’t answer the question right away he would be getting back to them. We have seen that the faster our pastors are able to get back in touch with people the more likely they are to engage in a conversation. The last thing I like about this email also happens to be my next point which is to
3.Ask Open Ended Question’s
At some point in your life you have probably been stuck in a conversation that just isn’t going anywhere. It my have been at the church family picnic, or your last family reunion. No matter what you ask the other person will never give you any thing to work with until you finally give up and awkwardly excuse yourself to get refill on your drink.
Don’t be that guy in your email! Give the seeker a reason to continue talking with you. The best way to do this is end all of your correspondence with an open ended question. It can be as simple as “what do you think about that” or “why do you ask”. It is impossible to answer these kind of questions with a simple yes or no, and helps shed light on the motivation behind the question. This will provide you as the pastor more insight in to where to direct the conversation.
4.Don’t Invite them to your church
At least not in your first response. Even though you might have an awesome program or study that exactly addresses their question don’t lead with that right off the bat. The goal for your first few emails should be to build trust and between you and the person on the other side of the computer. Even after a thread of emails back and forth be sure to really fell out the situation before you ask them to visit your church.
Many of the people who visit our landing pages tend to be disconnected from the church, and to visit on a Sunday might be a daunting task for them. You are asking them to step into a strange place, filled with people they have never met, and you may or may not be able to greet them when they first arrive.
Instead, if the conversation is moving in a direction where you can move to an offline space try suggesting a neutral location where you could meet them. For example, a pastor received an email the other day that asked about the best kind a study bible. A great way to respond might be something like this:
“I really enjoy this study bible, and I’ve got a few extra in my office. Would you be interested in meeting up for coffee nearby, and I can walk you through how I use It?”
These are all suggestions of ways to try responding, but the one thing you can always do is pray over your response. We believe that if we keep asking God to connect the right people to your church using CV Outreach then he will be faithful. In the same way as you stay faithful in responding we believe fruit will come of this effort.
Thank you so much for your partnership with CV Outreach and your faithfulness in responding to these online seekers. We are excited to see how God continues to use CV Outreach and our Church partners to grow His Kingdom.