Follow Up 101: Helping Strangers Become Friends

Following up on contacts that we have made through an event, a contact card, or social media is a critical aspect of any growing ministry, especially during new student outreach (NSO). We communicate care to those we follow up with and we have the opportunity to welcome new people into our spiritual community!

This article will give you an overview to some of our best thinking around follow up and some strategies for how to coach your leaders in follow up.

Note: This article was written before the COVID-19 Pandemic and may not apply to current campus realities, but still could be helpful to understand some of principles of follow up.

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What is effective follow up?

Follow Up Is About Building Relationships

Great follow up goes beyond a flyer or an invitation to another event. Great follow up is about building relationships, because it is often in the context of relationships where people experience God. Consider Jesus’ exhortation in Luke 10:7 to “go and stay!” as you follow up and invest deeply into the people God brings your way.

Follow up often starts with an interested person sharing their contact information. Once we have their info, we can begin building a relationship in three easy steps:

  1. Face to Face Connection
    After we have received a student’s contact information, we want to contact them and meet with them in person. This is an opportunity to get to know them better and share about yourself as well.
    • ​​Ask open-ended questions that will give your new friend an opportunity to share. Here are some good ones:
      • Tell me how you became a student at ________.
      • What’s your experience at [school] been like so far?
      • What is your spiritual background?
    • Share more about InterVarsity and be prepared for questions about why you are involved in InterVarsity and the difference it has made in your life.
    • Invite yourself back or set up another time to meet.
  2. Two More Times of Connection
    Once you have met once, you want to continue to build the relationship by connecting two more times. Why? If we meet someone three times, it communicates genuine interest and allows us the time needed to really get to know one another.
  3. Web A Community
    We don’t want to be the only person who gets to know a new student. We want them to have a deeper experience of community. Invite new students into your world – your community. No matter where the new student is on their spiritual journey, it’s beneficial to have a community to support you. 

Follow Up Sample Activities

1. Face to Face Connction
2. Two More Times of Connection
3. Web A Community
  • Grab a meal
  • Ask good questions
  • Cast vision about InterVarsity
  • Invite them to the gym
  • Go grocery shopping together
  • Study together
  • Host a party to watch the big game
  • Invite everyone over to play board games
  • Invite them to your small group

Additional Tips

  • Understand Your Context
    For residential schools, the first face-to-face meeting will happen ideally within 48 hours. For commuter schools, it may take a bit longer, but follow up with a phone call, email, or text message within 48 hours to set a time to meet.
  • Pray Before You Call, Text, or Visit
    We trust that those we encounter at an event or an information table are people that God has brought our way for a purpose. Pray that God would use our follow up as a way to communicate God’s love for this student in tangible ways and for supernatural insight into how we can be a blessing to those with whom we meet.

Coaches Corner

Here are some tips for coaching your leaders in follow up*:

  • Cast vision
    Share the vision for follow up and share stories from your own experience.
  • Acknowledge that follow up can feel awkward
    Name the awkwardness, but also emphasize the impact we can have and our need for: continued initiative, courage and persistence.
  • Give space for people to express negative emotions
    There will fears, concerns, negative emotions around follow up. Don't be afraid to give space.
  • Group Follow Up Nights
    Here's a simple structure: Gather, Share Quick Vision, Pray, Go do follow up, Return and debrief (ideally over food), Pray for folks they met, Make plans for the next time they will go out in pairs.
  • Role play
    Have everyone practice take turns role playing a new student or a leader. Here are some common scenarios:
    • The Interested Christian: The goal is that the students would think to invite this person to go around and meet some other people in the dorm right there on the stop.
    • The Uninterested Person: Quiet and shy, but says you can come back. Semi interested. This is MOST people at first it seems.
    • The Roommate: You knock on the door and the person you are looking for is not there. The goal would be that they get in a conversation with the roommate.
  • Regular check ins on progress
    Follow up is a discipline that requires regular check ins. Are they doing follow up? Is it working? What would it take for us to meet our goals? (We change strategies, not our goals.)
  • Share testimonies at Large Group and Small Group about Follow Up
    Build ownership for follow up by inviting key students to share about how God has been working through follow up.

Download this Article as a PDF

*Coaching tips adapted from Adam Croft, "Best Practices of Team Ownership of Follow Up"


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Andy Kim serves as the Multiethnic Resource Director for InterVarsity Multiethnic Initiatives and Associate Director for InterVarsity Creative Labs.