“Look at it this way. If someone has a hundred sheep and one of them wanders off, doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine and go after the one? And if he finds it, doesn’t he make far more over it than over the ninety-nine who stay put? Your Father in heaven feels the same way. He doesn’t want to lose even one of these simple believers.” - Matthew 18:12
If this is the heart of the Father Himself then how much more should we not make it our mission to look after church members who we may not have seen recently at church? At times it may mean "going after" the inactive church member to check in and see how they are really doing.
But how do you keep track of the health of your church if you have a church of hundreds? How do you find a "sheep" you didn’t even realize was lost? Thanks to Church Management Software (ChMS) this has become a much easier task and the success rate of involving and keeping members engaged has dramatically increased.
By identifying the right individuals and finding the correct information you can now reach out to inactive members to make sure they feel loved and nurtured along their faith journey.
Track the relevant data
There are 3 core types of data that should be tracked when it comes to reaching out to your inactive members and ensuring that you have the right information at hand.
The main function of ChMS is to track church members and their contact details. A good ChMS will track people’s personal information, family members, life events, notes, and things that are unique to the church like their membership status or the activities they participate in.
Anytime someone comes for a pastoral visit or contacts the church office, it is an opportunity to double-check that the information is still correct and updated. It is a role that you have to fulfil with intentionality.
Each time a member shows up to an event or service the ChMS will track their attendance. Inactive members are identified by their lack of activity. A ChMS like Elvanto keeps record of people’s attendance individually and within the congregation.
Tracking each member’s participation in activities individually it is crucial in identifying who has become an inactive member and in which areas they have stopped participating.
Giving is a sign of great commitment, and regular tithes and offerings can be tracked by ChMS. Knowing who gives and when they give is important for you as a leader to discern whether someone has become inactive. A person who has always given on a regular basis but suddenly stopped points to a spiritual concern or change in their lifestyle which might necessitate a pastoral visit.
Such people may still care for the mission of the church but due to circumstances like losing a job or running into financial difficulty could have attributed to them not being able to come to church.
Identify Inactive Member
Now it is time to identify your inactive members. The best way to do this is by creating a process and defining what factors would determine whether they are inactive or not.
For example if someone who has not been to a church service in the last 60 days is the criteria for being inactive, a list can be set up in a ChMS where people who fall under that category are added automatically or removed when they start actively attending again. On the other hand you can also manually tag them as inactive to ensure that you add the right people to the list.
So once you've determined a process of finding inactive members what are you doing about it to make sure they are connected again?
1. Facilitate the outreach
Once you have your list of inactive members, the next step is to share it with the people assigned to reach out to them. The most efficient way to do so is by giving the relevant leaders permission to access the ChMS and request that they make some form of contact with your inactive member.
2. Start your follow-ups
Before following up, make sure that you have a process in place to ensure that you are able to stay consistent in reaching out to your inactive members.
The ChMS can be used to identify the members’ preferred method of contact. If they prefer electronic communication you can send out an email. If they prefer letters, mailing labels can be printed using the ChMS. If face-to-face meetings are more appropriate you can use the software to find the directions to their address once you’ve scheduled a meeting.
With all this said though, the most important thing to remember when reaching out and connecting with people is to be genuine and to build relationships.
You can be a faithful shepherd who takes care of his sheep using a ChMS to find those who may need reconnecting, but we also need to remember these are real people with real feelings, and being genuine and encouraging real connections should always be the main reason for looking after your sheep.