By Charles M. Stone Jr.
Without an intentional plan for the assimilation process, a church can lose a prospective member. However, if a church will align its assimilation steps, it can increase the number of new people it keeps.
Here are four steps to aid the assimilation process. Strategically calendar this four-step process three to four times a year. Adapt them to increase the number of people who will make your church their home.
Step 1: Throw Out An Outreach Net
An outreach net is a well-planned event targeted to encourage seekers to visit your church. An Easter service or Christmas presentation planned, publicized, and executed well will reach many seekers. Seeker sermon series can serve as excellent outreach nets as well.
We calendar these series to coincide with the two highest church attendance seasons Easter and Christmas and with the times people tend to set new routines September (when school begins) and January (when people make resolutions).
In our net events we encourage everyone, guests and members alike, to fill out a Feedback card with their comments and contact information. We then build a database from the guests cards from which we send invitations to the next assimilation step.
Step 2: Offer A Sampling Event
A church sampling event provides an experience for newcomers to sample before they buy. We call our sampling event the Pastor’s Newcomer’s Brunch. We promote it as a no-strings-attached opportunity to check us out.
A service team with a heart for people and an eye for excellence carries out the brunch. They provide tasty food, an attractive setting, and a small gift for the attendees. After the meal, our pastor and his wife give an overview of our church, share engaging stories about the church’s history, interact with the guests, and share the gospel.
As the reception concludes, the pastor will ask for written feedback on a Next Step card. He encourages the attendees to take the next step into either our new believer’s class or into the next step in the connecting process. Depending on their written response on the Next Step card, we put them in a database we use to invite them to the following step.
Step 3: Create A VELCRO Process
A Velcro process is a series of classes (or small group meetings) that last long enough to help new people begin to stick in your church. We call our process Connexions, which incorporates three two-hour interactive classes. We cover our vision, mission, values, and strategy in Connexions1. We cover the spiritual growth process in Connexions2. Connexions3 concludes the process with missions, evangelism, and service.
We hold these classes on three consecutive Sunday mornings. When we conclude the first two classes, we ask the attendees to complete a Next Step card to get their feedback and to encourage them to continue the process. At the last class, we challenge attendees to sign a membership covenant.
Assimilation does not end with a name on your church roll. The first three steps only begin the process. When you build this next step into the culture of your church, you will maximize spiritual impact.
Step 4: Link The New Member To A Greenhouse
True community develops in your church’s greenhouses. Every church member needs a place where he or she can belong, gain ownership, and experience spiritual growth. Your Sunday School ministry and small group ministry will serve as your greenhouses.
If a small group member will reach out to build relationships with the new people, it can ease the newcomer’s transition into a group. When you assimilate a newcomer into a greenhouse, your church will experience a fresh vibrancy.
If you incorporate these steps into your church’s ministry, you’ll surprise yourself at how many new people you will enfold into your church family.
This article Strategic Assimilation by Charles M. Stone Jr. was excerpted from Church Central Newsletter, February 2008 edition.