Fri. Feb 26th, 2021

NEW CONVERT CARE: SAMPLE CHURCHES & HOW THEY DO IT
JOEL HECK

How do congregations that are effective in assimilating new members actually go about making their new members feel welcome? How do efforts in assimilation ministry fit into the total ministry of the church? In the pages that follow, you will read about seven Christian congregations that have been effective in this area of ministry.

Briarwood Presbyterian Church, Birmingham, Ala., is a church of 2,800 members, served by a staff of 11 ministers and 62 other support staff, in addition to those who work at its school and seminary. Founded in 1960, the church is known for the teaching and preaching ministry of Rev. Frank Barker, whose messages are broadcast over radio and television. Emphases in evangelism, missions, Christian education, discipleship, and small-group ministry complement various specialty ministries (e.g., to the medical profession, to young business executives, etc.). The congregation belongs to the Presbyterian Church of America.

Church of the Savior, Cleveland, Ohio, is served by senior minister J. Ellsworth Kalas, a second pastor, a full-time business administrator, an administrative assistant, and three part-time individuals. One part-time person is youth director David Kalas, who works with a strong youth program. Dave and Donna Wilkinson, the other two part-time people, work with an effective small-group ministry. The congregation is located in a center of diminishing population, but it is enjoying recent growth and its largest membership ever, approximately 2,040. The congregation belongs to the United Methodist Church.

Elmbrook Church is located west of the city of Milwaukee in Waukesha, Wis. Served by senior pastor D. Stuart Briscoe, 12 additional pastors, and 20 support staff, the congregation has seen steady growth throughout the 28 years of its existence. It is an interdenominational fellowship with an average worship attendance of 5,500 people. Stuart Briscoe carries on an international speaking ministry, in part through the church’s radio ministry. The congregation also supports a local television ministry.

New Hope Community Church, Cucamonga, Calif., averages 280 people in attendance at weekend services. Begun in October, 1986, the congregation is growing rapidly, particularly since the addition of a Friday evening service. It is served by three full-time ministers and several volunteer staff. Rev. Byron Spradlin, also the executive director of Artists in Christian Testimony (ACT) and chairman of the board of Jews for Jesus, is senior pastor of New Hope. The congregation is best known for its caring community of believers, its association with ACT, and its involvement in church planting. It is a Conservative Baptist congregation.

Northern Valley Evangelical Free Church, Cresskill, N.J., is served by Dr. Robert G. Zimmer, a second full-time minister, and one part-time secretary. The church is 270 members strong, with an average attendance of 310 in worship and 150 in Sunday school. Northern Valley is strong in education, youth and young adult ministry, and outreach. Begun in 1951, it is a congregation of the Evangelical Free Church.

Park Place Baptist Church, Houston, Tex., has recently been revitalized after a period of decline. It is known especially for its strong Sunday school and its four mission congregations among Koreans, Romanians, Hispanics, and Cambodians. Each of these language groups has its own pastor. A pastoral staff of five and support staff of nine serve this Southern Baptist congregation of 2,200 members.

St. Paul Lutheran Church, Trenton, Mich., is known for a strong church growth emphasis, its spiritual gifts ministry, its dynamic evangelism program, and its singles ministry. Some 800 people from approximately 300 churches in the U.S. and Canada have attended its annual Church Growth Seminar over the past four years. In the past 10 years more than 1,700 members have joined this congregation of 1,900 souls (1,400 communicants). Its full-time and part time staff has grown from 2 to 12 during this period. Served by senior pastor Wayne A. Pohl, the congregation belongs to The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.

Briarwood Presbyterian Church
Birmingham, Ala.
Rev. Frank Barker, pastor
By Chuck Morgan. . .

Briarwood Church, which began with 90 members meeting in an old storefront, today has over 2,800 members. Currently meeting in two locations to accommodate the crowds, Briarwood is in the midst of a construction program that will see the congregation move to a new 3,000-seat sanctuary this year. Also relocating will be the kindergarten through junior high portion of the 1,100-student Christian school. The new expansion program and the numbers of new people that will soon be coming their way underscore even more significantly the importance of an effective assimilation program for the church.

Because of the myriad of ministry opportunities available at Briarwood, most members are very actively involved in the life of the church. However, this does not happen automatically. Assimilation is an ongoing ministry both for old and new members. The entire assimilation process is under the purview of the Member Assimilation Committee of the ruling body called the Session. Under the leadership of elders and the direct supervision of the director of discipleship, three distinct subgroups make up this committee: New Member Assimilation, Uninvolved Member Assimilation, and Member Volunteerism.

New Member Assimilation

The assimilation process actually begins with an eight-week orientation program for new members. In 1 1/2-hour sessions new members learn the meaning of the commitment they will be asked to affirm at their induction into membership at a Sunday night service. The following are the topics covered each week: (1) commitment to the church; (2) worship and work of the church; (3) peace and purity of the church; (4) personal testimony with elders; (5) stewardship; (6) opportunities for service; (7) church government and discipline; (8) spiritual gifts and discipleship. During these classes, which begin every four weeks, the new members receive permanent name tags. . . .

A significant ministry in the church is an under-shepherding program called the Area Presbyter Ministry. Each under-shepherd is responsible for meeting the needs of approximately eight family units. In the fifth week of the class a special luncheon is held on Sunday, at which the new member family is introduced to the under-shepherd and his family, who will be responsible to help assimilate these new members. A good under-shepherd will make regular calls and will have the new member family over to his home. The under-shepherd will also meet the new members again at the end of the eighth class and will introduce them to the congregation.

A full-time staff member, the member assimilation coordinator, is also charged with the responsibility of helping new members find a place in the church. In the sixth week of the class the coordinator meets with the new members. At this time she introduces the subject of spiritual gifts and gives out audio tapes on the subject to each family unit. The new members are expected to listen to the tapes and then fill out a spiritual gifts questionnaire. The top three spiritual gifts are then entered into the computer-maintained member information file for future reference.

At the eighth class the coordinator schedules a personal interview with all the new members to answer any questions and to help them focus on their spiritual gift(s), so that they can quickly become involved in an appropriate ministry of service. She will also use the time to encourage them to participate in a Sunday school class, a small group such as a K-Group (Bible study and fellowship), a discipleship group, or one of several other types of small groups in the church. The coordinator will send a memo to the appropriate ministry head, advising him of the new member’s interest in that ministry. She also follows up to insure that contact has been made.

At the three-month mark, all new members are invited to a covered dish dinner at the home of the senior pastor, where, through games, singing, and sharing, they are encouraged to more active participation.

The new members are encouraged to attend four basic Sunday school classes the first year. The topics are Basic Christianity, Christian Living, Romans, and The Reformation. This gives them a basic foundation in Briarwood’s Evangelical and Reformed perspective.

The new members’ participation in the life of the church is monitored on a regular basis throughout the first year. In addition to reviewing participation through a computer-generated tracking and monitoring report, the coordinator makes personal telephone calls to new members at the six-month and one-year mark to see how their assimilation is progressing. During the last reporting cycle, 95% of the new members were involved in at least two activity units each.

Inactive Member Involvement

The larger a church becomes, the more difficult it is to incorporate new members and to see that they stay that way. And so it is with Briarwood. Great difficulty lies not only in reactivating the old members, it also lies in identifying quickly enough which members are headed toward inactivity. Therefore, since the worship service is the one area in which all members are apt to participate, the church has defined an inactive as a member who has not attended a worship service for at least 16 consecutive weeks and who is not involved in some other activity of the church.

There are three principal ways an inactive member is identified:
1. The under-shepherds in the Area Presbyter Ministry are the first line of communication regarding the activity level of members. As they make their regular calls on their family units, they soon gain the sensitivity to determine which members are active and which are not. The under-shepherd communicates to the shepherding director when he believes someone is heading towards inactivity. In some cases the leader over the under-shepherd will make a personal call on the inactive to determine what barrier, if any, might be overcome and encourage the inactive to become involved once again.

2. The Ladies Telecare Ministry, through which each church member family is called once a quarter, will also help identify the uninvolved. The monthly report of these ladies is funneled to the member assimilation coordinator, who works with the director of discipleship and the appropriate elders to encourage the inactive back to involvement.

3. The most effective method of determining the identity of the inactive is the computerized tracking and monitoring system. Since everyone signs an attendance pad on Sunday morning, it was only a short step to design a software program in which the attendance of each member is recorded. The member assimilation coordinator, with the help of volunteers, enters attendance information on Monday morning. By that afternoon five reports are generated. The first indicates which members have not attended the worship service for four consecutive weeks.

There are also 6, 8, 12, and 16-week reports. After a preliminary screening by the shepherding coordinator (who knows which members are hospitalized and infirm), the director of discipleship, and the senior pastor, a letter is sent to those on the 4-week report, noting their absence and asking if any help is needed. If this same name appears two weeks later on the 6-week report, a card is sent. . . . If they miss eight consecutive weeks, members of the Inactive Member Committee make personal phone calls. . . . At this point a history is recorded. This history helps later, if that name appears on a 12- or 16-week list.

Once a quarter Rev. Barker has a dinner at his home for inactive members. Good mixer couples are also invited to help create an atmosphere of warmth and acceptance. This activity of reaching out in love stirs some to activity. Those who indicate no interest in resuming activities are eventually dropped from the church roll. As a result there are never more than 5% of the members in an inactive status.

Volunteerism

Once a year the church conducts its stewardship campaign. . . . A pledge card is designed to raise the awareness level of the congregation to its need to be involved in the life of the church, not just financially, but also through service. The member assimilation coordinator works with a committee of deacons to administer the program. . . . Throughout the year, as the coordinator meets with new members, they are encouraged to fill out a pledge card as well. . . .

Church of the Savior
Cleveland, Ohio
By Rev. J. Ellsworth Kalas, pastor

The assimilation of new members begins long before persons are received into membership. It starts, in fact, the first Sunday an individual or family visits our church, in the welcome and friendliness they find in the congregation and staff, and in the presence of God which they sense in the service of worship. These early perceptions help a potential member feel that here is a congregation that involves its people and where God is at work.

The process continues in their recruitment into membership. I make a personal call on each person who joins our church, including even those who are so earnest that they phone the church and say, “We’ve decided to join Church of the Savior. Here’s the address of our former congregation, so you can write for our letter of transfer, I want them to know me as a pastor who calls in their home (or, if they prefer, as single persons sometimes do, in my study) rather than as someone who simply stands in the lectern or pulpit. The pastor’s one-to-one involvement encourages a similar response from the new members.

Our training program for new members is relatively simple. It is not as heroic as my idealistic self wishes it were, but it fits the realities of a church in the kind of metropolitan center whose people are nearly all involved in demanding careers, and many social and community obligations, and for whom free evenings are therefore a scarce commodity.

We begin with an hour-and-a-half session on an evening prior to the Sunday of joining. A little more than half of this period is dedicated to a quick overview of our denominational (United Methodist) history and beliefs. Then, after a short break for refreshments, our associate minister takes the group into the sanctuary to explain and discuss the symbolism of our building.

Our architecture is l3th-century French Gothic, so virtually every element is instructive. This session thus accomplishes several purposes: It is a little lesson in visual theology, it enhances the future worship experiences of our people, and it helps people to get a little beyond the “Wow, this is quite a building!” attitude.

The group meets for another hour on the Sunday of joining. In this session their pictures are taken, by singles, couples, or families. These pictures are posted on the main bulletin board, each with an explanatory paragraph, so that our members can have opportunity to get faces and data in mind. After picture-taking, the class is visited by a number of the leaders of our congregation, who give brief talks about the life of our church: youth activities, Sunday school, women’s groups, the financial program, music, etc. I meet with the class for the final 15 minutes, to explain what the liturgical procedure will be, so they won’t be embarrassed by surprises or uncertainties. Our lay leader then escorts the group to the pews which have been reserved for them.

The liturgy of joining takes place following the sermon, at that point in the service where we customarily think of giving ourselves to God. Those who are joining are asked to come to the altar, where we present three basic questions: Do you acknowledge Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior? Do you accept the teachings of the Holy Scriptures, as found in the Old and New Testaments, as your rule of faith and conduct? And, as long as you are a member of this church, will you be faithful to it by your prayers, your attendance, your giving, and your service?

At the point of this third, nuts-and-bolts question, we do something which I think is unique to our congregation. I receive from each person a service inventory card and a financial pledge card. On the first card they have indicated areas of church life in which they would like to become involved; on the second, their pledge of giving for the year.

These cards have been explained in the orientation session in the previous hour, and they’ve been given time to fill them out prior to the worship service. I then lay the cards on the altar. While the associate and I lay hands on the cards, I offer a dedicatory prayer to God for these new members and their new commitment.

Several admirable goals are accomplished by this procedure. Most important, our new members are made to realize that their giving and their service in the church are divine acts of dedication. The pledge card is taken out of the business syndrome and elevated to an act of worship and spiritual dedication, where it belongs. So, too, with the inventory of talent.

Also, we get immediate action. When we simply asked new members to return pledge and service cards to the church, roughly half came back.

We felt that such a procedure unconsciously encouraged poor stewardship. We have used our present system with some 700 or 800 new members; no one has objected to our procedure, and only one has failed to present a card. We find that members who have joined in this fashion have a better record of continuing stewardship and involvement than those received in other ways.

I then proceed to introduce new members individually to the congregation, as the associate and I shake their hands. I give the kind of facts which are likely to evoke association with others in the congregation, in this fashion: “Mr. & Mrs. John Member-John and Sally-are joining our congregation by transfer from the First United Methodist Church in Green Bay, Wis. John is the regional manager for Videotech, Inc. Sally is a registered nurse by profession, but at present she is a full-time mother and homemaker.” I can be almost certain that someone in our present membership will seek out John and Sally during the coffee hour to relate to them via his work, her work, or the city from which they’ve come. These contacts add to the general mood of friendliness and strengthen ties to the new congregation. Incidentally, I make it a point to have all this information in my head, rather than on a file card, because it adds to the “importance” of the person joining and to the sense of personal worth. And on those occasions when I forget a detail or misspeak, the congregation enjoys laughing with me at my error.

The new members are then escorted to the parlor by the lay leader and his spouse, where they can be greeted by members during the coffee hour. Each is wearing an easy-to-read name tag.

During the next few days information about all these members and their interests is mailed to leaders in the several divisions of the life of the church. If they have volunteered interest in a committee, we try to induct them into the work of that committee immediately, before their time is claimed by other community interests. We also advise the seven adult Sunday school classes of those persons who are most likely to be interested in their age group or style of operation. And, of course, the basic data (that which I used in the Sunday morning introduction) is printed in our church paper in the next issue.

We also seek especially to involve these new members in some small group for continuing study, discussion, or devotional experience.

We have classes for new members each month except either July or August. In that way, classes are small enough to expedite effective assimilation. Also, it’s good for me to be under the pressure to produce a new class for membership each month.

Now that I have a larger staff, I am also introducing a follow-up activity which I used effectively in another church many years ago: an anniversary call. Sometime during the month of the first anniversary of their joining, the staff member makes a home call, saying something like this: “You may not realize it, but it was just a year ago this month that you joined Church of the Savior. I wanted to stop by to celebrate this first anniversary of membership.” The staff member then proceeds to see how the person feels about his or her life in the church, so we can remedy any points of error or neglect.

A final word. No system is perfect. Jesus’ parable of the sower reminds us that we are dealing not only with the skills of the sower (and assimilator), but with the complexity of the soil. I believe it is utterly inevitable that we will lose some. . . . But we search constantly for the best methods of recruitment and assimilation, so that the losses will be cut to the minimum, indeed, so that we can report to the Lord of harvest that we have been faithful, efficient, and attentive servants.

Elmbrook Church
Waukesha, Wis.
Rev. D. Stuart Briscoe, pastor
By Rev. David P. Seemath

Virgil, superintendent of schools in a Milwaukee suburb and deacon in previous churches, expressed himself very well at his first opportunity to sit down and chat with Stuart Briscoe, senior pastor at Elmbrook Church. After attending the church for several months, Virgil and his wife invited Stuart to have coffee with them.

“I want to tell you something,” Virgil abruptly added to the conversation in his slight Kentucky drawl. “Don’t you come around trying to recruit me for anything, because I have had it with church work.”

“That’s fine,” Stuart responded. “Sit back and learn, recharge yourself, but I want to tell you something. If you are not actively ministering within a year, would you please leave and give your seat to someone else?”

Is telling people to leave if they don’t get involved a way to mobilize the members of a congregation effectively? It is probably not a principle found in books on church growth, but in Virgil’s case it was appropriate. Virgil did get involved. After 12 years in various roles of leadership at the church, he was asked by the Council of Elders to leave his job as a school superintendent and become a member of the pastoral team.

Enthusiasm runs high in those involved in the nearly 70 ministries which operate under the umbrella of Elmbrook Church. These people are highly motivated in their service to Christ. Yet when asked how churches can motivate people for ministry, Stuart Briscoe is quick to point out, “The key to involving people who may be on the fringes of the church in terms of involvement is not motivation, but mobilization.” So how does Elmbrook Church mobilize its membership? The key lies (1) in providing adequate opportunities for involvement, and (2) in providing accessible entryways to involvement.

The first principle is so obvious that many churches miss it time and time again. The reason people do not exercise their abilities is that, in their eyes, there is nothing that needs doing. The 20% do a fine job handling 80% of the work. Therefore, jobs must be created.

Telling the truth is the media arm of Elmbrook Church. It now provides radio and television programs to stations around the world and sends out thousands of cassette tapes each year. It began primarily because people needed to be put to work. With a handful of workers the process of tape duplication was begun. Every pastor and church leader sees needs within a congregation. The task of the leader is to translate a need into a job and give help and instruction to the individual until he or she can not only do it but train others to do it. . .

Providing accessible entryways is the second principle worth noting. . . . A recent Sunday morning service reveals a good strategy.

During the summer months the 500 regular children’s Sunday school workers are replaced by summer workers. The need for workers was brought to the attention of the congregation through a segment in the worship service which featured singing by 50 preschool children, prayer by the pastor in charge of children’s ministries, and testimonies by Sunday school teachers. If people were interested in serving, they were directed to fill out a form inserted in their bulletins. After the service they turned in the form to the Sunday school staff, which was located at a table in the lobby. The results were very encouraging-nearly 200 people responded on that morning alone. The need was presented in a personal, specific, understandable, and interesting way. The response was immediate, specific, and attainable.

Accessible entryways are important even from the first day people enter the church as visitors. Their first impressions are often lasting impressions. To give visitors an appropriate welcome and introduction into the ministry of Elmbrook, church leaders are posted at a “Welcome Wagon,” a wooden cart adorned with a large, multicolored umbrella. Visitors are urged to sign in at the Welcome Wagon and obtain a ministries information brochure. These people are then sent welcome letters and are called to set up follow-up appointments, if they are interested. For many, this is their first step into church involvement.

Effective small-group ministries also are vital in channeling people into the mainstream of church ministry. Anonymity is easily maintained in a Sunday morning service, but accountability greatly increases when people involve themselves with 10 to 15 other individuals. Needs are met by individuals within the small group, allowing the caring ministry of the church to be a shared ministry. People are willing to get involved when concerns are shared personally within the context of a small group.

The small group allows for relatively quick dissemination of information regarding ministry opportunities as well. Within a matter of hours hundreds of people may be enlisted for help. A recent mission conference hosted by Elmbrook Church required dozens of people to house missionaries and serve meals. . . . The conference organizer called several different small-group leaders. These leaders contacted their groups, and the necessary people were found. The needs were presented personally, they were explained specifically, and they were responded to appropriately. Such networking is possible within the approximately 80 small groups at Elmbrook Church.

The small groups also provide for informal training of people for ministry. People who would never volunteer to teach a class on Sundays find it easy to try teaching a small group made up of people they know and love. People who would never volunteer to organize an evangelistic campaign would agree to coordinate a small-group activity. Others who would never consent to read Scripture during a worship service would do so at a neighborhood group, singles’ group, or young couples’ group. Gifts and talents are identified, skills are honed, and experience is given through these groups.

Perhaps more important, people are given the freedom to fail in an atmosphere of love and support. They either succeed or fail in a task which carries low risk. If they fail, they are encouraged to try again or to try some other responsibility. If they are successful, they are encouraged to continue and gain experience. It is a great training ground for future church leaders.

Another tool for the effective mobilization of the membership is the pre-membership class. Before anyone is allowed to join the church, he or she must first attend a class which examines the doctrine of the church, the constitution of the church, and the different ministries of the fellowship. At this time people become acquainted with areas of service. A part of their covenant with the church includes a promise to support these ministries with active, personal involvement. . .

New Hope Community Church
Cucamonga, Calif.
By Rev. Byron Spradlin, pastor

New Hope Church is located about 35 miles east of downtown Los Angeles in southern California, a community that is predominantly middle class. . . .

Senior pastor Rev. Byron Spradlin is an ordained Conservative Baptist minister with special gifts in creative missions strategies. His work as chairman of the board of Jews for Jesus involves him in new and innovative approaches to Christian witness. His founding of Artists in Christian Testimony has led to seminars on “The Role of Worship in Church Growth” and has involved him in mobilizing Christian communicators with a music/arts background for missions and ministry.

New Hope was founded as the daughter church of one of the faster-growing Conservative Baptist churches in the Southern California area, Community Baptist Church of Alta Loma, as part of a church planting strategy initiated in 1983-84 that seeks to plant 300 churches in the Southern California area within 10 years.

New Hope was established with three emphases: outreach to the unchurched community, creative and contemporary worship and Bible study, and a commitment to multiply churches-including non-English-speaking churches.

At New Hope, assimilation is defined as the responsibility to nurture people from wherever they are into responsible church membership. This involves both reaching the non-Christian with the Gospel and reaching the believer who is not presently worshiping regularly.

What a Church Needs in the Process of Assimilation

We see at least four basic needs in the assimilation process: (1) Clear goals; (2) Clear assumptions; (3) A clear assimilation strategy; (4) A practical plan.

Number One: We Need Clear Goals. How do you know when you’ve finished the job of assimilation? How do you know if your ministry programs are developing quality and depth in those people who are staying? The key rests in the church leadership coming to agree on some clear, observable behavior patterns that indicate an acceptable minimum level of spiritual health and commitment.

For us a “responsible church member” is one who is (a) in regular worship attendance, (b) in regular small-group involvement (where relationships are nurtured and where care more spontaneously and effectively occurs, and where questions about Biblical information and Christian life-style can be worked out in a more informal and non-threatening context), (c) serving in line with spiritual gifts and natural interests (which insures an increased sense of ownership and participation in the life and growth of our Christian community), and (d) involved in regular financial giving (which we see as a bottom line statement saying, “I really do feel this church is worth being a part of”).

For unbelievers, we look for a person to make a clear statement of salvation in Jesus demonstrated by baptism and the four criteria for responsible church members (whether or not they choose to request acceptance as a full voting church member).

For unchurched believers, we look for and work towards their demonstration of the four criteria for responsible church members.

If a person or family is operating in line with those minimum indicators of involvement, we clearly feel that we are seeing the Lord bring this person or this family to a place of incorporation into Christian community. It’s after they are demonstrating these four aspects of Christian living that we feel we have a base on which to approach them about the essential necessities of moving on to become maturing disciples.

Number Two: We Need Clear Assumptions. For good assimilation to be happening, several key assumptions are important to settle on at New Hope.

1. We assume that the evangelistic decision is part of the process of disciple-making. Therefore we see the need to press through the conversion experience (which is obviously different in manifestation for each believer). Our goal is to see that person incorporated into the body. . . .

2. We attempt to communicate clearly what it means to be a “responsible church member” (the four criteria). . . . Then we’re certain that the Lord will be nurturing such responsible members in their Christian life.

3. We also assume that the number of studies in recent years measuring healthy churches are, in general, correct. Therefore we assume that, for every 100 adults in attendance, 20 adults in ministry jobs and home groups means that we are a declining church, 40 adults means that we are plateaued, and 60 adults in groups and ministry probably means that we are growing.

4. We are praying that the Lord will give us from 10 to 20% of what we call “Phase Three Disciples” – reproducing disciples. These are people who are trained and able to work one-on- one with another believer and bring that second believer to a position where he/she is in turn working with and nurturing a third believer.

5. We are praying that the Lord will ” . . . make our homes the ministry centers.”

6. In order to effect No. 5 , we assume that central to the assimilation and growth process is the development of home Bible group leaders who are, in fact, able to initiate spontaneously and informally the functional pastoral care that is so important in seeing people’s spiritual needs met and spiritual growth effected.

7. In order to accomplish No. 6, we have been attempting to communicate the model ” . . . put the pastoral care in the hands of caring people.”

8. We assume-in line with the many more recent evaluations of healthy churches-that 75 to 90% of all responsible church members come through family and friend personal contacts. Therefore, though we do advertise and do some direct mail community contacts, to a large degree we place much of our focus on promoting presently incorporated church attenders to continue to involve their own network of family and friend contacts.

Number Three: We Need a Clear Strategy. At New Hope we are attempting to faciliate four dimensions of Christian growth at the same time: (a) celebrative worship, (b) small-group involvement, (c) a gift-oriented service involvement, (d) accountable care (increased care levels: crisis care, rehabilitative care, and nurture [often called discipleship] care).

If these four elements are occurring and newcomers are being processed into the system in one or more of these dimensions, there is hope that assimilation will occur.

It should be noted that even though all four of these areas may be functioning quite well as separate entities, if the organizational system that integrates them with one another is not functioning well, it is our experience that the assimilation process may still not function well. That is, if you have vital and celebrative worship in line with your constituency’s style and comfort zones, yet don’t have a good way by which all those coming to worship can learn about and enter into our home Bible group ministries, people will come to worship and meet with God but not meet anybody else, not make new Christian friends (that will bond them to church families), and therefore after six to nine months will drop away.

Likewise, if you have a good process for getting people into administrative jobs within the church family, but cannot help them link with the spiritual growth opportunities, they may serve for six months or a year (or more), but not grow in their attitudes, values, and practical beliefs as a Christian. They may feel they’re not getting anything vital out of their Christian life at your church and drop away. The vocational and volunteer staff will meet regularly. They will interact, evaluate, and reevaluate how to interact with those who are coming to know people through job placement efforts. Most team members will also need to be interacting with the worship staff, in order to develop places in the worship celebration context to inform people of what’s available. . . . Obviously-though not mentioned much thus far in this discussion-both the volunteer and vocational leaders need to spend time in prayer, asking that God with His Spirit would be merciful to superintend the developing of the divine dimension that is absolutely essential.

Number Four: We Need a Clear Plan (the Process). Let me explain New Hope’s system of contacting and tracking a newcomers towards the desired end that they practice all four manifestations of responsible church members.

We think it takes from six months to a year to see a person move through this process, establish relationships, and grow comfortable enough to be functioning at the level of a responsible church member.

Lifeline. We have named our church’s registration card The Lifeline. We have done this to emphasize the reality that in a suburban community, with many commuters, we need to have a “lifeline” between one another. During our announcement time we attempt to give plenty of time and positive reinforcement for newcomers to fill out those registration cards. The Lifeline is a perforated part of the bulletin, designed to be filled out and torn off. Worshipers give name, address, phone numbers, and ages and grades of children. They answer questions about whether they would like to join the next Pastor’s Class, whether they desire baptism or have recently become Christians, whether they would like a counseling referral, or would like an appointment to see the pastor.

These are filled out at each of the three worship services each weekend. On Monday morning Ila Nevins, pastoral care coordinator, goes through the Lifelines and records information from them onto the church computer.

The Sermon is the Service. Though we emphasize practical Bible teaching, we realize that the worship environment is the most powerfully impacting factor in seeing a newcomer return. If newcomers sense warmth and vitality in worship, if they feel they have met with God (wherever they might be in their spiritual pilgrimage), and if they have sensed a celebrative, but genuine, sense of the congregation worshiping and learning, the chances are that they will come back.

Then, too, even in the lecture section (traditionally called the sermon, which at New Hope is generally 30-40 minutes long), we are attempting to underscore the truth of our Bible teaching through the dynamics of storytelling, some drama, guided prayer, and some appropriate humor. In all this we are also attempting to affirmatively encourage the Biblical mandates of obedience to the Lord, the need for repentance, and the benefits of confession of our sins.

Newcomer Phone-Callers. Within the next five days each newcomer who has filled out a Lifeline will receive a welcome letter and a personal phone call from a member of our “newcomer phone contact team.” Through this phone call the contact team attempts to determine several things: (a) how or why the newcomer came to New Hope; (b) whether the newcomer knows anyone at New Hope already; (c) the spiritual condition of the newcomer; (d) any particular short-term needs that New Hope could meet.

This phone call is low-key and not pushy. If there are any needs or special interests on the part of the newcomer, this information is then linked to the appropriate department head. The information is kept in notebook form, and a tracking record is begun for this person or family.

Third-Timer Phone Contact Team. The third time a newcomer attends and fills out a Lifeline, a separate Third-Time Phone Contact Team touches base with this person and a third-time letter is sent, explaining the various kinds of activities, groups, and ministries that are available. The third-time phone caller attempts to determine more specific ways in which New Hope could be encouraging the spiritual growth or ministry involvement of the newcomer(s).

These people are also considered not only by the heads of the pastoral care, group life, and job placement teams, but these leaders pray and confer as to how these individuals can be encouraged and or placed in appropriate involvement opportunities.

If a person attends four times within eight weeks, they are put into the computer and included in our church directory. All attenders receive this directory.

Shepherding Phone Contact. Particularly after a person has attended three worship services, his or her attendance is monitored. If after six or seven visits to New Hope there is an absence of two or three weeks, someone from our Shepherding Phone Contact Team attempts to make a personal contact to determine further what kind of needs or circumstances have caused this shift. Information from this phone call is then fed back to the various ministry department teams, where further deliberation is made on how better to interact with the newcomer(s).

Pastor’s Class. The Pastor’s Class is probably the most effective assimilation and orientation system that New Hope operates. The Pastor’s Class is a seven-week, two-hour-per-week orientation for any people who would like to know more about the directions and assumptions of New Hope, meet the ministry staff more personally, make new friends, and discover how to know and use spiritual gifts. I often call this our functional, “in-house job placement system.”

This class is not exactly a new members class. Some churches in our area call it a “Newcomers Class.” You’ll have to decide what’s best for your own situation.

Because we draw many previously unchurched and unconvinced people into our midst, we have found that the Pastor’s Class is not always appropriate for the person who is just being introduced to the things of God, the Bible, and the Gospel. However, for most people this class is one of the best formal ways we have found to draw a person more intimately into the assimilation process.

We stress three things in the Pastor’s Class:
1. We want to state the goals, purposes, assumptions, and style of New Hope Church. We know that our church is not for everybody, and we don’t plan to change it for those who don’t like what we’re doing. We hope that people who like some of our things but not everything and would want to make an issue out of that will go to another church. We feel that it is extremely important that principles like our focus on outreach, our assumption that people do ministry, not professionals, are embraced by those who want to incorporate more intimately into our ministry.

2. We want to present the Gospel clearly for any who come to the Pastor’s Class and have not received Christ as their Savior and Lord and for those who are still struggling to know whether or not they have salvation in Jesus. Therefore we share the Gospel at three different points in this class. The emphasis on reaching out with the Gospel to people in our community is an absolutely essential criterion for a person to understand, if they are to bond with our church family.

3. For every believer who comes through the Pastor’s Class, our goal is to help them discover more directly their spiritual gift orientation and develop the realization that they will be healthier and happier as a believer by using those gifts in some area of ministry within or through the church family. Therefore it is our goal that as many as possible find a general area of service by the time they finish the Pastor’s Class. To do this we have a spiritual gift counseling program built into the Pastor’s Class (a program formally developed by Dr. Robert Logan, senior pastor, Community Baptist Church, Alta Loma, Calif., and available on video through the Fuller Evangelistic Association, Pasadena, Calif.).

Therefore, by the time a person finishes the Pastor’s Class, we are hoping to: (a) confirm that they do in fact believe in Jesus and are learning how to live in Him; (b) motivate them to see the health of being regularly involved in a home Bible group; (c) enable them to learn more about the spiritual gifts they possess and to utilize them in some avenue of service; (d) demonstrate the value of participating in the service of financial giving to the strategic community helping ministries of New Hope; (e) encourage them to follow obediently the Lord’s command for baptism (if they are a believer and have not yet publicly declared their faith in Him through baptism); (f) give every person an opportunity to request acceptance as a full voting member of the New Hope Church family.

We see a high percentage of the people who process through the Pastor’s Class request full church membership as well as proceed into a home Bible group and/or a ministry job opportunity. You can see from this why we feel that the Pastor’s Class program is a very important and basic building block in our assimilation strategy.

Learning to Care Through Becoming a “People Helper.” One other area that has begun to help our assimilation process is the development of our “People Helpers Class.” It is a seven-week basic skill development class, helping people learn how to pray, how to care for others and meet their needs, how to pray with other people, and how to converse at a basic level with other people about spiritual things. We also include how to pray with someone over the telephone, how to make a hospital call, how to share your faith, etc. These are things that are basic skills that a growing believer can use. We recruit for this program based on the assumption that “we want everybody to learn how to be a better people helper.” Though we do have a formal “People Helper Care Team,” most of the people who go through this class will not become full members of that team, but are encouraged to go through it as a beginning point for the development of maturing discipleship, attitudes, and skills.

Out of this class we begin to detect those people who are naturally gifted in the areas related to crisis care and rehabilitative care. This whole process ties into assimilation in that we are beginning to develop a group of people who handle all first-contact pastoral care requests. This reduces the load on the vocational pastoral and ministry staff and increases the opportunities for the volunteer or “lay” constituency in the church. Our goal is to have 10 functioning people (formally or informally) for every 100 adults in attendance. This gives our pastoral care department a road map that increases the kind of prayer discussion for individuals and their needs that the church is rarely able to generate if these needs are all funnelled through one or more “vocational ministry staff people.”

Group Life is Essential to Assimilation. We are trying to determine almost on a monthly basis the number of people we have involved in some kind of Bible learning or Christian nurture group and are attempting to develop strategies to train one leader for every 10 adults in worship attendance. We are attempting to develop strategies to anticipate the growth we will need for the next 12 months and have people in training who will be equipped by the time we reach those anticipated needs.

I feel strongly that the development of home Bible group leaders who will turn their homes into ministry centers is the ultimate essential ingredient for assimilation, as well as for evangelism and care.

In Summary

The process of assimilation must have the blessing and superintending of the divine working of the Lord Jesus in order to be effective. However, from a human standpoint, if we have clear goals, agreed-upon assumptions, a unified strategy, and a practical plan, we are better able to accomplish what we believe He wants us to do.

Northern Valley Evangelical Free Church
Cresskill, N. J.
By Dr. Robert G. Zimmer, pastor

Much of the assimilation process at Northern Valley Evangelical Free Church (NVEFC) is rooted in the evangelistic outreach of the church. For example, the SALT ministry (Sharing And Learning Together) is a women’s Bible study and handcraft ministry that meets weekly and involves approximately 150 women from the community. Through this ministry members of the congregation are able to share the love of Christ at the same time that they are getting acquainted with these women. When the women and, in many cases, their entire families join the church, relationships have already been established. Other outreach ministries have a similar relational focus.

Periodically the deacons of NVEFC schedule get-acquainted sessions for all newcomers who have attended the church for six months or less. When people request membership, they attend a four-week class that is also attended by the membership committee of two elders and two deacons. This enables both new members and some existing members to get acquainted.

During Class 1 we talk about the church, the body of Christ, and clearly present the plan of salvation in order to insure that each one knows the Lord. In Class 2 we invite each person to share a personal testimony. We also briefly cover the doctrines we hold in the Evangelical Free Church. Class 3 covers our church. We distribute copies of the constitution and bylaws, the annual report, and other materials. We explain how the church is organized and how it functions. In Class 4 we talk about their individual participation and involvement in the church. We distribute and collect a talent survey, called “Privilege and Responsibility Sheet,” in order to ascertain their gifts, talents, and areas of interest, e. g., children and youth, education, maintenance, missions, music, special services, and hobbies. We try to involve them in areas they have checked.

Four fellowship dinners are held bimonthly throughout the year, beginning each September. Participating couples/singles are scheduled to be with three different couples for each dinner, with all who are involved hosting only once. The main course is provided by the host, with the other three couples bringing appetizers, vegetables, and dessert (also on a rotating basis). The host is responsible for arranging a date acceptable to everyone involved. In this way one spends an evening with 12 different couples during the year, with the result that both new and longtime members get acquainted.

Three other suppers during the year provide opportunities for further interaction. The Welcome Back Supper takes place on Sunday during the weekend after Labor Day weekend. The New Year’s Eve Supper takes place, of course, on Dec. 31. It generally consists of a film at 9:00 p.m., refreshments at 10:00 p.m., and a Watch Night Service at 11:00 p.m. The Spring Supper provides opportunity for the annual report to be distributed and for people to speak out on what is happening in the various church activities.

Deaconesses host senior luncheons at the church three times a year for retired people. These luncheons take place on weekdays and include a special activity, such as a guest speaker or singer. They provide opportunity for new-member seniors to meet others in their age group.

Pictures of each new member are posted on the church bulletin board in order to help people recognize them. On the Sunday they are received into membership a brief biography about each new member is included in the Sunday bulletin. Every family is assigned to one of the church’s deacons in order to insure that new members receive individual attention.

Park Place Baptist Church
Houston, Tex.
By Rev. Robert Parker, pastor

Assimilation of people into the community of believers that comprises Park Place Baptist Church is a process rather than a project. A project is a specific design or undertaking, while a process is more fluid and dynamic, a series of gradual changes that lead toward a particular result. At Park Place we have chosen to begin the process of assimilation before a person joins the church.

Park Place is a church of diversity in a transitional community. The process we have chosen includes many actions and groups, such as the following, to meet the varied needs and backgrounds.

Sunday School

The role of the Sunday school in our church is twofold-to teach the Bible and to reach out. It is divided into departments, classes, and groups according to age. This allows potential members and new members to identify with a group of similar age and similar needs.

The department ministry offers a class member the opportunity to be in a larger group, meeting more people and having opportunity for more friendships.

The maximum enrollment in a class is 25, and four or five classes comprise a department. Each class is divided into groups of five and has a Group Leader. The Group Leaders have the responsibility of keeping in contact with each person in their groups. This is done by mail, phone, or personal visit. The purpose is not simply to check up on absentees, but to be aware of individual needs and to minister to those needs so that the member feels a part of the class.

Park Place also offers its members and its community a Pastor’s Class, a one-year survey of the Bible. Such a course introduces the community to the church and the pastor, placing potential new members in an entry group where they can meet other people in the community as well as members of the church.

The Sunday school ministers to nonmembers and new members of the church by including them in weekly Bible study and giving them a small group of persons with which to identify. We are a church of 2,000 members. People can’t know 2,000 people well, but they can know a group of 15-20 people well. Studies indicate that a very high percentage of nonmembers who attend our Sunday school will become members of the church.

Caring Committee

The Caring Committee has a very definite assignment in assimilation. We use a card, produced by Christian Communications, that is divided into four sections: discovery, responding, assimilating, and nurture.

This committee follows individuals from the time we know them as prospects until they are assimilated and nurtured into the fellowship of the church. The committee meets weekly, assigning the names of prospects to our Sunday school visitation and outreach teams. They also contact each new member in the third, sixth, ninth, and twelfth months of their membership at Park Place.

We identify whether they have become active in any groups in our church. A permanent file is kept by the Caring Committee. This committee knows our membership and the level of participation of each member. Therefore, if a member is not active in an assimilation activity, we are aware of it before that person becomes an inactive church member.

Orientation

There are two types of new member orientation at Park Place. New converts are enrolled in a 12-week course, produced by Church Leadership Institute and entitled “The Successful Christian Life.” Its goal is to build a new believer into a disciple. After completion of the course, the new Christian is enrolled in the Sunday school to continue in a weekly Bible study. This course is also open to every Christian who wants to grow.

People who join our church and are not new Christians attend a one-session orientation that informs them about our church staff, ministry opportunities,programs, facility use, committee structure, policies, church government, and the church budget. They are encouraged to be enrolled in Sunday school and to participate in the various groups in the church.

Groups and Activities

If people do not establish relationships within a church, they will become inactive. Therefore Park Place offers opportunity for relationships to develop and gives new people a place to serve.

1. Dinner Eight. Dinner Eight is a program in which people are invited to join a dinner group. New members are especially encouraged to participate. A group of eight people have dinner together in the home of a group member once a month for three months. At the conclusion of the three months new people are asked to join, and the groups are rotated among the membership. This is done in the fall and spring.

2. Recreation. Park Place has an activities building in which there is a variety of opportunities for all ages. Everything from sports to painting is offered as an opportunity for people to meet people with a similar recreational desire.

3. Retreats. Retreats for youth and adults provide a time away for concentrated study and formation of relationships. Retreats on parents, marriage, the issues youth face, etc., help to form bonds quickly.

4. Missions Trips. A ministry of missions changes people. Park Place plans an annual missions trip. New members are encouraged to be a part of these trips. They bond with the mission team and see the involvement of their church on a broader scale.

5. Banquets. We have an all-church banquet every Thanksgiving. Hundreds attend, and we always provide the finest program possible. It is a major event,which new members and prospective ones are invited to attend. They sit at a table with other members and make new friends.

6. Lunch Bunch. The singles ministry of our church has lunch together every Sunday at some local restaurant. All singles in the morning worship are invited to join the lunch bunch that day.

7. Committees. Park Place is a committee-oriented church. We have 35 committees, involving 175 people. The committee membership rotates so that a large number of people can participate. We make a concerted effort each year to include new members in the committee structure of the church. This helps them become contributing members.

8. Language Groups. The community in which Park Place serves has several language groups. In order to reach these groups and then assimilate them, we offer worship services in their languages. We presently offer services in Spanish, Korean, Cambodian, and Romanian.

9. International Christmas. This is the first of two annual events which bring our Anglo people in contact with our language groups and their cultures. The international Christmas is a display of Christmas as celebrated in other lands. This event concludes with an international Christmas meal with foods from around the world. We are reminded that all Christians are one in Christ.

10. Language Missions Day. On Language Missions Day all of the language groups come together with the Anglo church in a worship service. The uniqueness of the worship practices of each language group is shared in the service.

Special Ministries

1. Deacon Ministry Plan. The Fellowship of Deacons divides the family units of the church so that each deacon is assigned 10-12 families. As individuals join the church, a deacon is assigned to them. The deacon accepts the responsibility to minister to each family in his group. Needs are shared with the pastor. This provides a contact with every family in the church and forms the pastor and deacons into a ministry team. It lets the congregation know that somebody cares. This has been very well received by new members.

2. Prayer Ministry. The Prayer Ministry of Park Place is becoming one of the most vital ministries in our church. Call-in prayer requests are accepted, and each member is prayed for every month. Many people have commented, “How did you know I needed prayer that day? I felt something special.” New people sense the loving care of a congregation that is willing to take time to pray for them.

Assimilation at Park Place Baptist Church is fluid and dynamic. Some of the ministries directly target prospects or new members, so that we may assimilate them into our congregational life. Other ministries target the entire congregation, but every effort is made to include new members and make them feel welcome, loved, and incorporated. People join people. Programs are vehicles that help make assimilation happen.

St. Paul Lutheran Church
Trenton, Mich.
Rev. Wayne A. Pohl, pastor
By Ron Wrightson

We call ourselves a Great Commission congregation. . . . Our slogan is “The Church That Cares.” We show people we care by loving them and accepting them into the family of God. . . .

We have developed what we call “Six Keys of Discipleship,” which we think are outward indications and reflections of a member’s inner relationship with the Savior. The keys are the following: (1) regular worship attendance; (2) regular Communion attendance; (3) corporate and private Bible study; (4) knowing and using one’s spiritual gifts; (5) fellowship involvement; (6) tithing or striving towards the tithe.

Our goal in the assimilation process is that each new member who joins St. Paul eventually reflect these Six Keys in his or her life. This is not to contend that this list is all-inclusive. Obviously there are other characteristics that are evident in the life of a disciple, such as prayer, witnessing, etc., but the Six Keys are items which are more evident and measurable. In order to accomplish our goals in assimilation, Ron Wrightson, director of Christian growth and development, was added to the St. Paul staff in August 1981. His primary area of responsibility is the assimilation and incorporation of new and less active members. We feel that it is important to have a full-time staff person responsible for this area of ministry.

Pastor’s Class

The mechanics of the assimilation process begin with the Pastor’s Class. This is the 12-week course that prospective members take before joining St. Paul Church. Before each Pastor’s Class begins (four times a year), we recruit a group of active members who become trained to be sponsors for the class members. Although they are not sponsors in the typical sense, they perform the following functions:

1. They telephone prospects who have indicated in our evangelism process that they would be receptive to attending the Pastor’s Class. They invite them to come to the class, and they offer them assistance in any way to help them get to the class.

2. They actually attend the 12 weeks of class themselves as a means of getting to know the people in the class.

3. Once the class is concluded, they have no programmed responsibility. However, the relationships that have developed will undoubtedly aid in the assimilation process.

After the Pastor’s Class is over, the class members determine if they desire to be considered for membership at St. Paul. They fill out an application for membership and within three to four weeks, during a Sunday morning worship service, they are formally received into membership. That particular Sunday morning they are asked to arrive a half hour early. They are presented with a red carnation, and their picture is taken by Polaroid camera. These pictures are immediately posted on a bulletin board in the narthex so that the congregation can put names with the new faces they see in their midst. During the worship service the new members are invited to come forward. They are individually introduced to the congregation with a few words about how they came to be a part of the St. Paul family. They receive crosses for their homes and certificates of membership.

That evening they are invited to a catered dinner in the fellowship hall. Approximately half of the current members attending the dinner have leadership positions within the church. The program begins with a welcome and a prayer, followed by entertainment and dinner. More entertainment comes after dinner, and the evening concludes with a time of social interaction.

As director of Christian growth and development, I teach at least two sessions of the Pastor’s Class. This enables me to familiarize myself with the new members, since I will be the one in contact with them after they have joined.

The final two sessions of the Pastor’s Class involve a spiritual gifts discovery and deployment process. The class members answer a series of questions which help them discover the gifts with which God has blessed them. Our entire philosophy regarding spiritual gifts is explained to them at this time. Following the discovery session is the deployment session, in which I lead the class through an interest finder form. The form enumerates all of the opportunities where the gifts they’ve discovered can be put to use.

Once the analysis and interest finder have been completed, the information is then catalogued in a series of notebooks and is ready for dissemination within the congregation. Leah Doede, coordinator of volunteer ministries, contacts the various organizations within the parish and provides them with the names and phone numbers of the new members expressing interest in their particular area. For example, if someone is gifted with teaching, his name is forwarded to the coordinator of educational ministries, who will contact him about helping out with Sunday school, vacation Bible school, or midweek school of religion.

All new members are encouraged to get involved by using their gifts in service to the whole body. The spiritual gifts program at St. Paul is essential to the assimilation process. Our goal is not simply to get new members involved, but to get them involved in the areas where God has gifted them to serve. We believe that our gifts program helps our retention of new members, since they get involved in areas where they feel comfortable and do well. The whole body benefits as a result.

Information on the giftedness of our members is constantly flowing back and forth between the offices of the director of spiritual gifts, director of Christian growth and development, and the coordinator of volunteers, as well as within the various activity areas in the parish.

Calling Process

The most critical part of our assimilation process is the calling process. Within the first six months of membership, each new member receives at least three contacts from the director of Christian growth and development or the callers that he has trained. These contacts can be classified as follows:

1. The first visit is a social visit from a couple or individual within the congregation. It takes place within the first two weeks of membership. There are 60 people at St. Paul trained to make these visits. They have pertinent information about the people they will visit. They are asked to pray for the new members daily. The visit should take 30 to 60 minutes.

During that time a New Member Brochure is presented. It details the various activities and programs that are available. Once this visit is completed, the callers will continue to pray for the new members, watch for them in church, introduce them to other members, and invite them to activities. Each new member visitor makes two visits per year, approximately six months apart, allowing plenty of time for personal attention to the people visited. The callers complete a report and return it to the director of Christian growth and development.

2. The second visit is made by the director of Christian growth and development within 45 to 90 days after joining.

During this visit the gifts analyses and interest finders are reviewed to see if the new members are getting involved in the areas in which they expressed interest. In addition, a booklet entitled “Sword of the Spirit” is presented. It assists in the development of personal and family Bible study and devotions. During this visit the Six Keys of Discipleship are discussed, and new members are encouraged to strive through the power of the Holy Spirit to use these keys in their lives.

3. The third contact is made after members have belonged for six months. If the new members have become active and their worship attendance is regular, this contact will be a phone call. The call will state how happy we are that they’ve joined St. Paul and ask if there are questions that we can answer for them. If they have not become involved in any areas and their worship is irregular, we will try to visit in order to discuss the situation and determine what the problem may be and how we can attempt to solve it.

How is worship and involvement monitored? A “Monitoring Form” has been created. It contains background information on each person, new and old, including gifts and interest areas. The reverse side of the form contains information regarding the Six Keys of Discipleship, excluding the area of giving. During the weekly services we request everyone to sign a “Fellowship of Worship” form. This enables us to record their worship attendance. We also record attendance at all Bible studies.

At the beginning of each month the coordinator of volunteer ministries records worship attendance and Bible study attendance on the Monitoring Form. She checks for any trends that may be developing. For instance, a new member may have been worshiping very regularly during the first six months of membership, but suddenly his attendance diminishes over the next month or two. She prepares a list of any such trends and gives this list to the director of Christian growth and development. He then calls such members to see if there is a problem, letting them know they are missed. In addition to contacts with new members, all other members are contacted by phone or letter after three consecutive absences from Sunday worship.

Each new member’s Monitoring Form is reviewed every three months during the first year of membership and annually thereafter. A list is developed periodically containing names of members whose worship attendance is regular, but who are not involved in the life of the parish. This list, which includes the gift(s) of each individual, is circulated among the staff members. When a staff person is looking for someone to recruit for a particular area, we encourage the use of this list so as to involve more members.

Small Groups

Assimilation in the large parish cannot be discussed without some reflections on the small-group life of the church.

We know that 75-90% of the people who join a particular congregation do so because they know somebody there. People become active and stay active in a congregation where they have developed friendships, and these are best developed in small-group settings. There are approximately 180 small groups at St. Paul, and friendships can grow in each of them.

New groups are continually being formed to allow more of our members an opportunity to be plugged into small groups. We have a home Bible study program entitled the “Share Group.” We offer many athletic opportunities through small groups. There are groups for men, women, singles, couples, children, and those who are over the age of 50. Each member’s small-group involvement is recorded on the Monitoring Form.

We believe that God cares about each person He leads to join St. Paul. We believe that He wants us to care enough about them and to love them enough to help them become healthy, active, discipled members of His church. It is a task which is never completed and where results may not be evident for years. However, assimilation is an essential task in the disciple-making process.

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