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Building a Nurture Email Sequence for Better Holiday Follow-up

merry christmas and happy new year

Every holiday season, churches have a great opportunity to reach new people and incorporate them into the life of the church. However, reaching out just once often isn’t enough to build a long-term relationship.

A nurture email sequence is a valuable, non-threatening tool that can help.

Businesses use these nurture emails all the time to turn browsers (people who visit their website) into buyers (individuals who make a purchase). Churches can use a similar system to convert people who have expressed interest in the church to those who are incorporated into the life of the church. 

In this blog post, you’ll learn:

  • The elements of a nurture sequence
  • How to define your sequence’s goal
  • How to plan your sequence
  • How to segment your emails for a better response
  • How to craft effective nurture emails

What is a Nurture Email Sequence?

A nurture email sequence is an automated series of messages you send as a follow-up to those you reached at Christmas. They’re called “nurture” emails because they nurture your relationship with guests.

Your guests likely know little about your church when they first attend a holiday event. It’s like they are on a first date. They are still getting to know you. Something about you has piqued their interest, but they don’t quite trust you. Nurture emails are a way for you to build trust in the people you’re engaging with over time. 

Because these emails are automated, you won’t need to remember to keep up with the sending schedule either. Specific date milestones (which we’ll share more about later) will trigger the sending of the emails.

Defining Your Nurture Sequence Goals

Your nurturing emails to holiday guests should help people take the next step in engaging with your church. But what those next steps are will depend upon several factors.

  • What kind of event did your guest attend? You might send follow-up emails to people who attended a specific outreach event (like a concert), someone whom you served during a service project, or people who visited your Christmas service. You would have slightly different goals for each of those guests.
  • What is your discipleship strategy? Every church does discipleship a bit differently. Some churches want to get people into a specific class or series of classes. Others want to get guests into small groups. Still, others are trying to encourage ministry involvement or worship service attendance. Your church’s strategy needs to inform the overall goal of your nurture emails.
  • What are your audience’s needs? Communication is always a two-way endeavor! You need to consider your guest’s perspective as you develop these emails. You want your guests to become disciples. You want to involve them in the life of your church. It’s likely (at least at first) that your guests don’t share those same goals. Think about what they want out of these emails and this digital relationship with you.

Now put these three factors together and determine a specific goal for these emails.

Planning Your Sequence

Now, it’s time to figure out how many emails you’ll send and when you’ll send them (that’s your email content calendar).

You’ll want to determine the number of emails you send by considering two contrasting factors. First, aim to send as few emails as possible. You send too many emails, and you risk guests relegating your emails to their junk folder. If you send too few, you can’t properly build enough of a relationship to encourage your guests to take their next step. You need to stop somewhere between these extremes. Finding the right balance often requires some trial and error.

Once you’ve figured out how many emails you send, you need to put them on a calendar. To do that, you need a clear idea of other emails your church plans to send out. If your guests are on other lists, you want to make sure your guest sequence isn’t added to a bunch of other emails. 

Particularly around this time of year, you need to understand the school, community, and holiday calendar. Be careful emailing people heavily during the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day. Many people are out of town during this time and likely aren’t checking emails as regularly. Obviously, avoid Christmas and New Year’s Day.

Usually, you’ll want to limit your total emails to one or two a week. (So think of your nurture campaign as happening over multiple weeks.)

Once you determine the dates for your email sends, you want to pencil in topics. Your overall nurture sequence has a goal, such as encouraging your guests to visit a worship service or trying out a small group. But you’ll also have a specific topic for each email. Think of them as signposts along the way to your eventual goal. 

For example, say your goal is to get them to attend a worship service. You’re going to send five emails over five weeks. 

  • Email #1: A simple thank you for however they engaged with your church.
  • Email #2: An invitation to church.
  • Email #3: Frequently asked questions about your church’s worship services. (What should I wear? Where do my children go when I attend? Where do I park?)
  • Email #4: A testimonial about the impact further involvement in your church had on a person’s life.
  • Email #5: Upcoming sermon series calendar

Each of those helps guests better consider attending one of your worship services. You could do something similar with other goals, such as small-group involvement and ministry participation. 

Segmenting Your Emails

Your nurture emails will be more effective if you tailor them toward the people you’re engaging. Even if you’re just writing to holiday guests, it’s a diverse group of people who will likely have different motivations for connecting further with your ministry. 

For example, if you had both a single dad and an older adult couple attending one of your holiday outreach events, each might have an interest in getting more involved in your church, but they may not have an interest in the same activities. The single dad is looking for ways to connect with other single adults and opportunities to get his kids involved. The senior couple wants to know about your activities for older people. 

Think about your goal. What subset of people may need different content to make a better decision about what you want them to do? You don’t have to change the entire nurture package to be effective (although you can). Just ask yourself which emails might need to be different for your various audiences.

Crafting Your Messages

Now it’s time to write your emails. As you’re crafting your emails, focus first on three elements: 

  • Subject line: Aim for under 50 characters. Make sure it’s catchy enough that people want to open the email.
  • Pre-header text: This is the summary text that follows the subject line. Complement your subject line with information that encourages people to open the email.
  • Your call to action: Every email needs a specific action you want them to take. As mentioned earlier, your email will have a specific topic that leads to your overall goal. That topic must relate to your CTA. Maybe it’s visiting a website to read your frequently asked questions. Or maybe it’s a link to a video invitation by your pastor. However, it’s crucial that this involves a clear action.

Think of your body content as a bridge between your engaging subject line and your CTA. You want copy that takes readers to what you want them to do in the most direct way possible. 

Keep the people you’re writing to in mind as you write the emails. In most contexts, you’ll want to be as conversational as possible. Keep your tone friendly and positive. Give it a last look before sending your email. 

While nurture emails are powerful, they shouldn’t be your church’s only follow-up method. Think of them as a partner, not your whole plan. A personal call from someone on your team and/or a hand-written card are other good additions to your strategy. 

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