Have you ever had guests visit your church, maybe even return for another visit, but when you look up six weeks or six months later they’re nowhere to be found?

It’s one of the most frustrating parts of pastoring—trying to retain guests. There are many great resources available to help you attract and keep more guests, but this tutorial will help you create a step by step assimilation process using Planning Center’s FREE software “People.”

When I say free, I mean 100% FREE. Planning Center gives away their app “People” to entice you to pay for and use the other suite of apps (which are all great by the way) but whether you use them or not “People” is 100% free and has unlimited storage for the number of people you can add to the system. I don’t work for Planning Center, nor am I affiliated with them, I’m just a happy customer since my church started using their apps this year.

Whether you want to use “People” to manage your complete church database or to simply track and assimilate guests, PCO gives you everything you need to create an effective assimilation process.

Every church wants to “close the back door.” We’re all trying to figure out how to convert visitors into active members.  This step by step tutorial will show you how to setup a “workflow” to record, follow up, track, and communicate with every visitor to walk you through your door, and like I said it’s free.

We’re going to create a step by step assimilation plan using a “Workflow.”  Workflows are a powerful tool built into PC (Planning Center) to help you accomplish and track anything, in this case, everyone who walks through the doors of your church. Think of it as a preplanned process that any staff member or volunteer can execute so no more guests fall through the cracks. If you’re ready to connect more guests and grow your church you will love this tutorial and the “People” software.

Before we get started I want to let you know that I’ve created a premium guide that takes what you learn in this tutorial and adds

  • How to use Planning Center “Lists” tool
  • How to automate emails to guests that send while you sleep
  • How to send text messages through PCO
  • 5 scripts to copy and paste in emails & texts to retain more guests

I Want The Premium Guide

1. Create Account

To get started you will need to create a free account with Planning Center. If you already use Planning Center Services to organize your order of worship, you can use the same login and add “People” as a service. (Planning Center offers several fantastic apps to help your church, but they have a monthly cost.)

Click here to sign up for your free “People” Account

2. Create a Person

If you already use PCO, and have records in your system go ahead and skip to step #3. If this is your first time using PCO you will need to create a record (person) in order to setup your workflow.

To create a person click the “People” tab in the top menu.

Next, Click the “add person” button in top right part of the page

PC will ask you to search for someone, in order to prevent duplicate persons from being entered in the future, for now, type in the name of the person you want to add and click “Create A New Person”

When the profile box appears you can fill in as much information as you like, but for the purpose of this tutorial I recommend at least adding an email address.

After you complete the profile information, click “save.”

3. Create A Workflow

Now that we have a record in the system (if not go back to step #2) we are ready to set up a workflow.

Click “Workflows” in the top menu.

Next, click “New workflow” in the top right of the screen

You can decide what workflow you want to create for your church. For the purpose of this tutorial we will create a workflow for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd time guests. In other words, we want to make sure a systematic process happens each time someone fills out a guest connect card. So let’s name our first workflow, “First Time Guests.”

4. Add A Step

Now that you have created a workflow called “1st Time Guests” we need to add steps to the process. A step is an action that needs to be done in sequential order.

Click the “add step” button

The first thing we want to happen when someone is entered as a guest in the system is to send them an email saying “Thanks for visiting our church.” To create a step we will need to add a step name, description, and assignee.

  • Let’s name the first step, “First Time Guest Email”
  • The Description is pretty self-explanatory, just write an explanation that future workers will understand.
  • For now, make sure the assignee is you.
  • Make sure “Auto Snooze” is unchecked.

After you have entered all the information click the “create step” button.

That’s it! You’ve created the first step in your workflow. If all you want to do is send a guest an email you can stop, but we want to do A LOT more than that, so let’s create some more steps.

5. Add Another Step

The second step of our follow up system for guests is to send a hand written postcard. (In order to mail a postcard you will have to have the mailing address for the guest) So let’s create another step called “Send Postcard”

To create another step, click the “add step” button on the left side of the screen, underneath the first step we just created. Since you’ve already created one step, I won’t type out all the details.

Once you have added all the information and created your step, you should see 2 steps listed on the left side of the screen.

We’re going to create two more steps for First Time Guests.

Step #3 is named “1st Time Text Message”

NOTE: Text Messaging is not a native feature of Planning Center, and requires a 3rd party add on service that is NOT free. I highly recommend using text messaging with PCO to communicate more effectively with your people, but you will need to decide if it’s a service you want to pay for. My premium guide shows you exactly how to set up text messages with PCO.

  • How to use Planning Center “Lists” tool
  • How to automate emails to guests that send while you sleep
  • How to send text messages through PCO
  • 5 scripts to copy and paste in emails & texts to retain more guests

I Want The Premium Guide

Step #4 is named “1 Month Follow Up”

This step is created to check on the progress of our guest 1 month after their first visit. In 1 month, whoever you assign responsibility, will get a notification reminder to check on (name of guest.)

Once you have created all 4 steps you will see them listed in order on the left side of the screen.

If you only want to track 1st Time Guests” your done creating workflows, but we want to track 1st, 2nd, and 3rd time guests. So we need to create 2 more workflows. The process is exactly the same as the “1st time guest workflow” so I won’t type it out, but you can see the screenshots below.

Create a new workflow “2nd Time Guests” and add 3 steps

  • 2nd Time Guest Email
  • 2nd Time Guest Text Message
  • 1 Month Follow Up (Make sure to select “auto snooze” for 1 month on this step.)

Create another workflow “3rd Time Guests.” and add 4 steps

  • 3rd Time Guest Email
  • Phone Call from Pastor
  • Membership Class Invite
  • 1 Month Follow Up (Make sure to select “auto snooze” for 1 month on this step.)

Before we go any further stop for a moment and consider the importance of what just happened. You created a step by step process for recording, communicating, and tracking every guest that walks through your church. Sure, someone still has to do the work (unless you want to automate the emails, if so check out my premium step by step guide) but at least now you know the system, can train volunteers to know how, when, and what to do to help connect people to your church.

6. Add Person To Workflow

Now that all of our workflows and steps have been created we need to add a person to the workflow.

Click on “workflows” in the top menu.

Click on “1st Time Guests” from your list of workflows.

Click “Add someone to workflow” on the left of the screen, above your steps.

Search for the name of the person you want to add to the workflow. In this case, it will be the record I created at the beginning of this tutorial, but you can add anyone you want. Once you have created the record of your guest in the system, simply type and click on their name.

Planning Center will give you a chance to assign the person to a particular volunteer or staff member. If you want to assign responsibility to someone specific, click “reassign card” and type in the name of the person you want to complete this step.

If you have selected the correct guest, and assigned responsibility to the right worker, click “add person.”

Now, as long as responsibility is assigned to you, you will see the name of the guest you just assigned to step 1, “1st Time Guest Email”

Click on the name (Johnny Doe) and Planning Center will show you all the information they have on the person and process. Once you have sent the email to the guest you can click “complete step”

NOTE: You will have to type each email by hand unless you set up an automated email system which Planning Center does not do natively. I can show you how to do that in my premium step by step guide. I provide instructions for setting up automated email that automatically sends an email to a guest, along with 5 scripts you can copy and paste to send the perfect email to your guests. If you want to purchase the premium guide, click here.

I Want The Premium Guide

Once you click “complete step” Johnny Doe gets moved to step 2 “Send Postcard”. Once the person responsible for sending the postcard puts it in the mail, they can click on Johnny Doe’s name and click, “Complete Step.” That will move “Johnny Doe” to step #3 “1st Time Guest Text Message.” And so on…. I think you get the point.

This is an incredible free tool that allows you to create a system, add a guest, assign responsibility to a volunteer or staff member, and track progress.

In 30 days you will get a notification to check on the progress of Johnny Doe and see if he has returned to church, has gotten involved, or needs to be contacted.

The options are endless. You can create workflows for new salvations, first time givers, new volunteer signups, just to name a few. Did I mention it’s free! Of course Planning Center gives away their “People” service to introduce you other apps that aren’t free, but whether you sign up for other services or not, you can use “People” to create and execute an efficient follow up system for your church.

We’ve just scratched the service of what’s possible with “People” if you’re interested in setting up automated emails that work while you sleep, or send text messages, check out my premium step by step guide. It also includes 5 scripts you can copy and paste to retain more of your guests and close the backdoor.

I Want The Premium Guide

Good luck getting your workflow setup. If you have any questions hit me up on Facebook.

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Jason Isaacs