Follow-Up: From Decisions to Lifestyle
By Ryan Pfeiffer & Bryan Enderle
In Matthew 28:19-20, we are not just called to help people to make decisions about following Jesus, although making decisions are important. We are called to make disciples. Following up on decisions of faith made at an event is essential to faithful Kingdom Work. It’s a part of making disciples. There are times when perhaps following up on decisions is not possible, but where possible, it is paramount.
BENEFITS OF FOLLOW UP
Increases likelihood that a faith decision will translate into a new kingdom lifestyle.
Helps clarify what kind of decisions people are making. The truth is, no matter how clear the call to faith is, there are going to be mixed reasons for why people are responding.
Helps increase the likelihood that the responders are going to integrate into the broader community of faith.
When students follow up with the responding students, it increases the ownership of the students in the conversion-discipleship process. Follow-up helps increase the spiritual leadership of students in the lives of the responding students.
Holds a witnessing community accountable to discipleship beyond the call to faith. It can be all too easy to just settle for a decision.
Follow up helps respondents to process their faith decision. Often times people are not totally sure, explicitly, why they responded. Follow-up helps respondents clarify for themselves why they responded.
When following up with someone who has made a response to a call to faith, the first question to ask is “What did [standing, raising your hand, filling out the card] mean for you spiritually?”
Asking this question helps the respondent process their decision further.
It prevents assumptions on the part of the person following up regarding what the respondent meant by their response.
Having the respondent self-identify is a clear way to determine if a faith-decision was made. Refrain from trying to count conversions by evaluating the respondent’s heart because only God can do that.
Large Group Follow-up: Invite people to make a public response. While they are standing or responding in any other visible way and before they sit down, invite all the respondents to meet a person in the fellowship (e.g., student leader, prayer team member or possibly speaker, staff) to start the follow-up right there.
When they come up, the follow-up person will be holding a follow-up card and will ask the following questions and fill it out for the respondent. Suggested questions are here:
They will ask them what kind of faith decision they made. What did your response mean for you spiritually?
We would like to support you and help you grow in your new found faith. Could we setup an appointment to meet next week? [If the student leader will do the follow up, then a meeting should be set at this time.]
After asking question 2ai (above), the respondent may reveal confusion about the gospel or their decision. At this point, clarify the gospel by restating it in its entirety. For more assistance in sharing the gospel, refer to the Big Story diagram.
Use follow up cards that reinforce the call to commitment the speaker is offering.
Include boxes a respondent can check, which are in line with the call of the speaker. There are three typical categories for respondents.
Those who want to become a Christian for the first time. Example statement: “I made a first-time decision to follow Christ”
Those who are recommitting, renewing their faith, or making an adult decision. Example statement: “I am recommitting my life to Christ”
Christians who want make an active response to the message. Example statements vary widely depending on the call of the speaker.
Make sure the speaker is familiar with the card beforehand so s/he knows what is on it and can make appropriate edits.
With regards to the follow up team and this document, only 3ai and 3aii are considered “decisions.” More details about a “decision” will be explained in a later section of this document.
Follow up cards allow people who will not make a public response the opportunity to make a faith decision.
It is not uncommon for the amount of faith decisions to double as a result of using both a public call to faith as well as using the decision card.
Typically the emcee can close out the night and follow up the call to faith with a line like, “If you didn’t feel comfortable standing or raising your hand, but you want to make a faith decision tonight, please fill out the card. And also, if you stood tonight, please fill out the card so we can reach out to you with further resources.”
It is extremely important to create a thoughtful way to collect follow up cards so that it feels like it fits in the flow of the evening or event and does not feel like an afterthought. Making it easy and natural for people to turn in follow up cards is an important part of the process. Here are some examples:
Pass buckets around during a song similar to a church offering time.
Station greeters with buckets at the exits to collect as people leave.
Hold a raffle which encourages students to turn in their follow up cards.
Follow up cards give you the needed information to get in touch with people after the event.
Student Initiative: Coach student leaders and staff to look around the room when a public call to faith is being offered. When they see someone respond, coach them to walk up to those individuals and say something like, “Hey, my name is [Ryan], and I saw you respond tonight. That is so awesome! What did that response mean for you?” They can end with “Would you be up for me taking you to coffee and telling me more about your spiritual journey?”
Whenever possible, if someone is taking someone out to coffee, men should follow up men and women should follow up women. Being invited out to coffee could be misconstrued as a date. We do not want respondents to confuse their new faith decision with potential romantic feelings.
It is a great way for new students or respondants to feel seen and valued and cared for in a small group or large group or larger event context.
Start a New to Faith team. It is a leadership team where student leaders take the lead in following up on the faith decisions from week to week.
The New to Faith team hosts GIGs for the faith decisions where it’s clear people haven’t really yet come to faith but are in process.
The new to faith team do group discipleship groups around meals (e.g., pizza) and growing your new found faith. They are short and an hour or less in content with opportunity for social connecting added as well.
Faith decisions in small groups: When there is a call to faith in small group, we ask that the leader, or co-leader or mature believer in the small group ask the respondent out to lunch to hear more about their faith decision.
KEEPING TRACK OF FAITH DECISIONS
Keep a List: Keep a running list of names and “type of faith decision” and “date of decision” and “where they made a decision: small group, large group, event, one-on-one” and “where they found Christian community whether in InterVarsity or elsewhere.”
Keep a list of names and decisions.
Use this list to celebrate what God is doing in the chapter.
This process helps students see that evangelism is more than just number counting.
Remember to count decisions, not conversions. Conversions are a matter of the heart and difficult for humans to truly discern. Decisions are an active response to a movement of God in one’s heart, which are much easier for a staff or student leader to evaluate. Likewise, Acts 2:41 records baptism, not conversion, which is a response to a faith decision.
A first-time faith decision can be as impactful and transformational as a rededication/renewal/recommitment/adult-decision. Remember to count both of these decisions because they are equally valuable and significant. It is too easy to devalue those make a recommitment to the faith.
In Scripture, the Book of Life that has every name written in it (Phil. 4:3, Rev. 3:5, 13:8, 17:8, 20:12, 15, 21:27). It shows that recording names is a way of valuing the individual and mirroring God’s value for the individual amidst a plethora of decisions.
Add to the List: Add to the list by taking inventory of known faith decisions at the end of a term. (New to Faith team, or staff interns or volunteers can help with this).
At leadership meetings, ask students to write on Post-Its, both their own name and the names of everyone they know who have come to faith or made a recommitment.
The paper could have a biblical illustration like a big net illustrating the big catch of Luke 5, etc.
Compare the names on the post-its with the main list of faith decisions and incorporate new names
Confirm with the student leader who wrote the Post-It.
CHALLENGES TO FOLLOW UP
It is not uncommon for 50% of the respondents to either decline any further follow-up support or to not respond to our texts or calls. However, this does not mean the response was invalid or that we should not count these decisions.
This can discourage or demoralize student leaders. Empathize. If relevant, you can also tell stories where decisions did lead to a transformation of someone’s life. We can do everything rightly, and still people may walk away from their faith. Praying for people after they make their faith decision is crucial, but the results are still up to God. We are called to be faithful.
They need help interpreting this loss. Use the parable of the soils, because it recognizes that the seed is good, but not every heart or soil is receptive. Our job is to serve those who are ready and receptive.
Following up takes time. People are busy and it’s easier to just ignore the follow up rather than try and make time to incorporate the time to follow up in an already impacted schedule.
Following up requires some boldness and grit from those following up.
Following up requires the same kind of boldness, grit, and sensitivity that the initial stages of evangelism requires.
Ideally, follow-up requires approximately 3 weeks, with more time investment the first week (3 hours), less the second week (1.5 hours), and little the third week (30 minutes) as you integrate someone into community. Knowing the timeline helps it seem less intimidating and more manageable when you have multiple people to follow up with.
Pray with someone to respond at large group, small group, or an outreach event.
The following day after the event, send the respondent a text message (or phone call) seeing how they are doing and set up a meeting for the following week.
Meet with the new believer and ask how the week has been going.
Ask if any questions have come up for them.
Bring them to your small group, or go with them to a small group that is appropriate for them (e.g., dorm group or new believers group).
Debrief the small group experience with them for 10-15 minutes afterwards.
Check in with them to see how their week has been via text/call.
Go with them again to the small group, making sure to tag in the small group leader or another member of the group to continue follow up.
Check in to see how the group has been going for them.
Let them know you are available if they have more questions to reach out to you.
Consider the words reflected here as wisdom based on experience, our current culture, and strategy. Whatever we can do to help usher others into clarifying their relationship with Christ and starting to follow Him is worth it. It is clear, however, that faith decisions are extremely important, life-changing decisions of great importance for any person (Lk 15:10, Col 1:13-14). With good follow-up, we can help people beyond the infant-stages of discipleship with them. We can help them become disciples.