THE COMPLETE NEW CONVERT CARE SYSTEM
By: Tim Massengale
John and Debbie Scott had high expectations as they walked down the aisle to be introduced to the congregation. A week before, John and Debbie had both received the Holy Ghost and were baptized. Now, they each testified of the wonderful change that their new experience had brought. The congregation rejoiced, obviously pleased to have this new couple and their three beautiful children become a part of the church family. Everyone was smiling and happy and looking forward to a long,
Eight months later, after those warm words of welcome, John and Debbie Scott were gone. They had not been to worship in two months and unless the Lord intervened, would probably not attend church again. They became a part of a growing number of “backsliders” that had come in the front door and, before they were really ever established, had gone out the back. There had been no falling out with the pastor or the people. There was very little conflict in doctrine or standards. The problem was that John and Debbie had never really become a part of the life and fellowship of the church. They never truly felt “included.”
Because of this, their attendance had been sporadic. They had developed few friends. They were seldom seen at church socials and picnics. Slowly they had drifted back to old habits and friends. What was worse, few people in the church even knew they were drifting away. Now, John is somewhat bitter. He feels the church is “cliquish” and unfriendly. Debbie thinks the standards are unreasonable and the
pastor is narrow minded.
When they had been baptized, John and Debbie had no intention of ever leaving. None of these feelings existed. This was their “new life.” Why did this seemingly happy marriage between two new Christians and the Lord end in separation and divorce? What factors contributed to them losing their love for God and his people? And more important, is there something the church could have done that might have kept it from happening?
The answer is a fervent “YES!”
The above example happens too often. Souls come in the front door and the quietly slip out the back. Before long, the church is faced with the “burnt over field” syndrome. We must change this endless cycle of futility. We must begin to think differently as well as act differently. Churches must stop thinking and acting like “Bo-Peep,” and instead, begin thinking and acting like the “Good Shepherd.”
The Good Shepherd is the one who – even with ninety-nine in the fold – went out into the rough, rocky places to seek for the one sheep that was lost. The Good Shepherd refused to give up until the stray little
one was brought back into the fold. Every lamb that was born was important. Every sheep was loved and cared for.
In contrast, the Bo-Peep church believes exactly what the poem indicates:
Little Bo Peep has lost her sheep
and doesn’t know where to find them.
But leave them alone and they’ll come home
wagging their tails behind them.
In taking this stance, saints are often heard to say, “Well, they know the truth. If they want it they know where to find it. When they need God bad enough, they come home.” How sad! They have become “Bo-Peep” churches in a “Mother Goose” fantasy land that does not feel or see the hurts and needs of new converts.
The purpose of this chapter is to explain the three basic needs of new converts and how the church can best meet these needs – and in doing so, raise their overall retention rate. This must be a top priority of
the church! It does little good to place our total focus upon outreach when we are loosing people as fast as we gain them.
D. L. Moody reportedly said, “I would rather train ten soulwinners than win ten souls.” He rightfully concluded that our task is never done until those we save are saving souls themselves. The New Testament gives us some insight as to what can be done to establish new Christians in the faith.
THE NEW TESTAMENT EXAMPLE
The New Testament church began with explosive growth. There was over 3,120 converts the very first day. That’s a lot of new babies! It had to be the work of the Holy Ghost to inspire the Apostles on how to
establish these new Christians.
The writer Luke records that after the three thousand were baptized, the new converts continued steadfastly in three areas (Acts 2:41-47):
1. Instruction (vs. 41, 42, & 46)
2. Fellowship (vs. 42 & 46)
3. Unity of Involvement (vs. 44 & 45)
Each of these three are extremely critical to the growth of a new convert. If any of the three areas are neglected, the convert will suffer.
Some might argue that the new convert is covered in these areas simply by attending regular services. “After all,” they reason, “the preaching and teaching is instruction, and there’s fellowship before and after church. Plus going to church three times a week is certainly more involvement than they previously had.”
This may be true in a general sense, but new converts have special needs that are inadequately met by only a normal service. That would be like saying, “What mom fixes for the rest of the family is sufficient for her newborn baby.” This is not true! Babies have certain needs which adults do not. These special needs must be met or the child may suffer and die.
Around the turn of the century, the infant death rate was over 30% – almost one third of the babies born in the world died the first year. Infant diseases such as small pox, scarlet fever, influenza, and others took a heavy toll. Today, the death rate in America less than 5%.
Do mothers today love their babies more now then back then? No! The simple fact is, we have learned to care for newborns better. Many babies that would have died fifty years ago are being saved today through advancements in medical science. Superior prenatal and postnatal care practices have greatly increased their survival rate. The same applies to the church. If we will learn to take better care of our new converts, we will see more solid, established Christians. Let’s take a closer look at these three basic needs.
When an individual comes to our altars and receives the Holy Ghost or is baptized, they begin their new life much like a new born infant – very weak, very hungry, and very dependent upon their mother. They do not know how to live for God, how to pray, how to study the Word, or how to fight temptation. Someone must train them; someone must teach them – and that someone is us! If we abandon the newborn, it will not take long for them to die. You can be sure that the devil is going to do everything he can to make them stumble and fall. Somehow we must give them nourishment and provide the protection that will deter the devil’s attack. There are three basic steps we must take to provide this needed instruction.
1. First Night Counseling. First Night Counseling is a concept that has greatly increased the survival rate of new converts. Research shows that most new Christians who backslide, do so within the first month – and many the very first week. The reason is that the devil will strongly attack the convert before they know his tactics or how to fight back. His attack usually begins the moment the convert leaves our services. Satan knows that the sooner he can cause them to stumble – and all new babies stumble when learning to walk – the better are his chances of getting them to give up and quit. We dare not let a new
convert leave that service without putting something in their hands – both for strength and to defend themselves. For too long churches have used the “sink or swim” attitude once someone receives the Holy Ghost. Far too many are sinking. First Night Counseling can prevent this.
First night counseling simply means that someone, usually the pastor or a trained assistant, sits down with the new convert the same night they receive the Holy Ghost or are baptized (whichever comes first), and spends about fifteen minutes with them covering four basic principles from the Word of God.
a. Your New Life. The convert needs to know what has just happened to him and how it fits into the new birth process. If they haven’t been baptized, baptism is explained. If they haven’t received the Holy
Ghost, this is explained also. But what mainly is stressed is the “new beginning” that comes by being born again. This way we defeat a major tactic the devil uses against new converts: dragging up their past
that’s under the blood.
b. Three Basic Nutrients. The second topic is what many call the “three basic nutrients for new converts” – daily prayer, daily Bible reading and consistent church attendance. A convert needs to begin a daily prayer life immediately! The problem is, they often don’t know how to pray, or that they even need to. To wait until lesson four of the new converts course to begin praying is too late – most will be already dead! They must begin to pray daily from the very beginning.
The same applies to the Word of God. They need to read and study their Bible for this is their source of strength. But they don’t need to begin in Genesis, like the Bible was some kind of novel; or in the book of Revelation, which will only confuse them. They need to begin in the Gospels or the Book of Acts and read a chapter each day.
They also need to know that every time the church doors are open to be there. The world’s concept of going to church is “Sunday morning only,” which, of course, is wrong. Someone must tell them otherwise.
These three basic nutrients – prayer, Bible study, and church attendance – are outlined in a handout provided at the end of this chapter. This is designed to be inserted in the front of the new converts booklet.
c. The Devil’s Attack. We must warn the new convert that the devil will soon attack them. He may use family or friends to condemn their decision to live for God. He will try to make them stumble and sin. He will try to tempt them back into their old way of life. The new converts needs to be aware of this and be ready to defend themselves. And if by chance they do stumble and do something wrong – and all babies stumble while learning to walk – to get back up, tell the Lord they’re sorry, and promise to never do it again.
They need to know the Lord will forgive them. A favorite ploy of the devil is to tell them that, having stumbled, they are now forever lost – so they might as well quit. If someone doesn’t tell them otherwise, how will they know it’s a trick of Satan?
d. We Care. The last topic is very simple, yet so extremely important. The new convert needs to know “we care.”
Many converts have no one close to talk to when they encounter problems because no immediate family is in church. Yet, they are often reluctant to call the pastor for fear they are imposing upon his time. So they battle alone and often fall. Someone needs to reassure them that they can call or come by any time. If we don’t come when the baby cries, the devil will!
It is good to give them the pastor’s home number, the assistant pastor’s, the new convert care director, and any others who can encourage them when they are down. Someone needs to be there! We must realize a new born baby is not like an adult – they must have much more personalized attention until they mature.
In First Night Counseling these four subjects are only covered briefly. The objective is not to give them a comprehensive study, butrather to reveal a few basic principles and spark their hunger for more. It is strongly recommend that the pastor take a Bible Study night and teach a lesson entitled, “The Successful Christian Life” and expound on these and other needful concepts of spiritual growth. But make sure you record it, because from then on every new convert should have that tape given to them the night they receive the Holy Ghost or are baptized. This is an important part of First Night Counseling.
In addition to the tape, many recommend giving them the booklet entitled “Victorious Living For New Christians” which can be ordered from the Pentecostal Publishing House, 8855 Dunn Rd., Hazelwood, MO, 63042. It is in the front of this booklet that you will tape or glue the “page insert” on prayer, Bible reading, and church attendance that is provided at the end of this chapter. On the back you should list
names and phone numbers of who they can call when in need, as well as service and prayer meeting times.
That is First Night Counseling: fifteen minutes of instruction, a booklet and a tape. Now they have some tools to fight the devil with and spiritual nourishment with which to begin their walk with God.
2. New Life Class. Also, under instruction must come the New Converts Class. Most prefer to call it a “New Life Class.” This class should be taught at the church on an ongoing basis. It is best to have this class on Sunday morning during Sunday School. The reason for this is three fold: (a) where a weeknight class often gets canceled because of special activities or revivals, your Sunday School is never canceled.
Also, (b) an additional night of “church” is often excessive for someone who never went to church previously. And finally (c), new converts often must work week nights and will miss the class. Sunday
morning seems to be the most productive, best attended time of all. But if this is not possible, have it at another time because the New Life Class is absolutely essential. New converts must be taught! Acts 2 says, “And they continued steadfastly in the Apostles doctrine. . .” New converts need to be taught doctrine, prayer, faith, fasting, tithing, and other basics of Christian living. There is no finer place than an ongoing New Life Class.
It should be mentioned that some churches are too small to have a class of this nature taught at the church. It is difficult to teach a class if you only have one student in it. Yet, to wait six months until you have enough converts to make up a class is even worse. That new babe in Christ can’t wait six months to learn the importance of prayer, how to fight temptation, and other vital subjects. The answer, of course, is to teach the new converts course in the home just like a home Bible study. This should be taught by the Care Partner, if at all possible. If the Care Partner cannot, provide an instructor. Teach the 10 or 12 lessons of the new converts course. At the end of this course, then teach a 10 or 12 lesson home Bible Study such as Search For Truth. However you wish to do it, the new converts course is an essential step of maturity for every convert that comes to your church.
There are several excellent new convert courses available to use as material for this class. The three most common are:
a. “My Father’s House Discipleship Course” To order: General Home Missions Division, 8855 Dunn Rd., Hazelwood, Missouri 63042. Contains teacher guide, large charts, overhead transparencies, and student’s workbook. Three levels available.
b. “Called, Chosen, and Faithful” To order: Search For Truth, P.O. Box 34236, Houston, Texas 77234. Teachers book and large chart.
c. “From an Acorn To An Oak” To order: Pentecostal Publishing House, 8855 Dunn Rd., Hazelwood, Missouri 63042. Teacher’s book only.
3. Home Bible Study. It is also an excellent idea to have every new convert complete a ten or twelve week home Bible study. It is important for them to have an overall understanding of the Bible. But the greatest benefit of a home Bible study to the new converts is not so much the information taught, but the bond of friendship that is established between the teacher and student. This weekly contact helps establish them in truth and provides a format to answer other questions. The home Bible study should be taught to the new convert by their Care Partner. If the Care Partner is for some reason unable to teach it, they should at least attend the study and the Home Bible Study Department will provide an instructor.
This concludes the “instruction” needs of a new convert. There are, of course, other subjects that could be taught and other classes that could be given. But these are the basics:
1. First Night Counseling
2. New Life Class
3. A 10 or 12 Week Home Bible Study.
These three will go a long ways toward making the convert “steadfast in the Apostles doctrine.” All three are extremely important. In fact, some pastors feel they are so important that they make the completion
of the New Life Class and a Home Bible Study a requirement for church membership. These pastors feel that unless some “teeth” are put into it, people won’t realize their importance.
This author personally feels that this is an excellent suggestion. Other denominations have been doing this for years (they call it catechism) and for good reason: if a proper foundation is not established at the beginning of a converts growth, later on a storm will blow them over. What if the new convert refuses? If a pastor loses a convert by having this requirement, it was doubtful the convert was truly sincere about living for God.
Fellowship is the second most important key in binding new members to the church. The stronger the friendship bond that the convert builds, the more assured you can be that the convert will be a long-lasting Christian.
The Greek word koinonia is the term most often translated “fellowship” in the New Testament. It denotes the sharing together of a common life. It is the bond of love and unity that keeps God’s people one. Someone has said, “Fellowship is two fellows in one ship.” It suggests a binding partnership. It is not just handshaking, backslapping, friendly smiles, and warm welcomes. It includes these, but it is more. True fellowship is true friendship in action. It is the determination to love one another and stay together and refuse to allow difficulty divide. In a world that is dog-eat-dog, backbiting, and backstabbing, the fellowship of the church must be an island of love in a sea of hatred and competition. Several revealing research studies have been conducted on this “friendship factor.” One such study found that the number of close friends a convert develops has a direct relationship to that person staying in church. It compared fifty new members who were still in church after six months with fifty new members who had dropped out of fellowship. The new converts who had stayed and became established saints had made more than seven close, new friends in the church. Those who had dropped out had made less than two. The implications are obvious.
But the research did not stop there. The individuals who had left the church were then asked two questions: (1) Why they dropped out of church, and (2) What would most influence their choice of a new
church. The answer most given to the first question was, “We did not feel a part of the group.” The most frequent response to the second question was, “The friendliness of the people.”
Somehow the church must encourage bonds of friendship among new converts. It is these relationships that help support the convert through their trials and struggles. When the world casts them aside
because of their commitment to live for God, when their old friends and family avoids them because their very presence brings condemnation, then we, the church, must fill in the empty places and give them new family and friends to make them feel they belong. It is not just important, it is essential. There are four basic ways that you should encourage friendship relationships with the new Convert and the church:
1. Care Partners. The “Care Partner” is normally the “spiritual parent” or the one who has won this new convert to the Lord. They are one of the most important parts on any new convert care system. When the Lord allows a person to bring someone to spiritual birth, they need to realize that there is a responsibility beyond the altar and baptismal tank. This new baby needs a mother, someone to train and watch over him or her.
In the New Testament we find this kind of caring attitude in Barnabas. Paul was a new Christian. He had been excluded by the disciples in Jerusalem. Barnabas took Paul under his wing and nurtured him. He
brought him into fellowship and was his early teacher. How tragic it could have been had Paul not had such a friend. We need our churches to be filled with the Barnabas type of people.
The Care Partner is the primary friend of this new convert, and, just like a physical mother has many responsibilities, the Care Partner does also. The responsibilities of the Care Partner for a sample new
convert named “Mary” are as follows:
* Pray for Mary each day.
* Look for Mary in each service. Contact when absent.
* Insure that Mary attends all special church socials and services.
* Sit with Mary in church, pray with her when she goes to the altar.
* Introduce Mary to your friends. Make her a part of your social life.
* Have Mary over to your home for dinner as soon as possible. Have at least two other church couples over at the same time. Help her make new friends.
* Teach Mary a complete Home Bible Study. This is important!
* Go with Mary to the New Life Class on Sunday Morning.
* Help Mary become involved in the various ministries of the church. Invite her to work in the ministries you are involved in.
* Provide minor counseling. Refer Mary to the pastor for all major problems.
* Do not push standards of holiness or talk negative of the church or it’s members in any way.
* Alert the pastor to any needs or problems that Mary encounters.
These responsibilities are outlined in a letter that should be sent to all spiritual parents. The pastor should strongly encourage the care partner to be faithful to his or her duties as the parent of this new born child.
Occasionally there will arise the need for someone to “adopt” this new convert. This will be needful when no one brought this person to the Lord, or when the person that won them is not able to raise them. Such conditions are:
a. The new convert is a “walk-in,” no one really knows them. They came on their own and received the Holy Ghost.
b. The new convert was won to the Lord by another new convert. This is very common. The first new convert is not spiritually able to raise themselves, much less their friend.
c. The spiritual parent already has several new converts that they are caring for and do not feel they can take on another.
d. The spiritual parent is spiritually unfit (backslid) to raise their new baby. If they did, they would give the new convert the same bad spirit they have.
In all the above situations, adoption is needed. Any person that has a burden for souls and would be compatible with the new convert would be a good adoptive spiritual parent. Some members who are not your best “soulwinners” in the church, may become your best “spiritual parents.” Not everyone is a “harvester.” Some are “planters,” others are “caretakers.” Everyone has their place. This kind of ministry needs to be taught and encouraged.
2. Dinner Ministries. A recent Gallup Poll reveals that 75% of all Americans consider themselves shy, inarticulate, uncomfortable around strangers, and hesitant to place themselves in new situations. So for
75% of us, making new friends in a church full of strangers is very difficult indeed. How can we best encourage friendship development? The finest method for helping a new convert establish friends among church members is a program called “Dinner Ministries.”
Simply put, dinner ministries is having the new convert over to your home for dinner. You will discover that the easiest way to build a friendship is to eat a good meal together, talk, have fellowship, play a game such as Monopoly or Scrabble – in other words, have an entire evening of food, fun, and fellowship. By the time the convert leaves that evening, they have a new friend! One to two other couples are always invited over at the same time. In this way, the convert will get to know several people in the church on more than just a casual basis. Hopefully, this will be the beginning of a long and caring relationship.
The way Dinner Ministries works is very simple:
a. Dinner Ministries is usually coordinated by the New Convert Care Director, although the director may wish to delegate it to another. All assignments should be made without the new convert knowing the
invitation was arranged.
b. The first person to have the new convert over for dinner would normally be their Care Partner. This dinner date should include several other couples or individuals also. It is these extra couples that most likely will be assigned to invite the convert over in subsequent months.
c. Other people that the director may be use for dinner ministry assignments are:
� Home Bible Study Instructor
� New Life Class Instructor
� Friends or relatives in church
� Pastor and/or Assistant Pastor
d. The New Convert Care director should explain to each Dinner Host the importance of this ministry by giving them a “Dinner Ministries Assignment” form (a sample of this form is provided at the end of this
chapter). The director should get a commitment from each host not to forget the date that has been preset.
e. The director should always present the completed Dinner Ministry Assignment forms to the Pastor for approval before handing them out to the prospective hosts. This is in case there is any problems with the host that would make them a poor choice.
f. The Care Director should explain to the host that inviting the New Convert to their home for dinner is BEST, yet an invitation for lunch in the hosts home, taking them out to dinner, lunch or breakfast, or
taking them out after church, is also acceptable.
g. The director should check back with the Host as to their faithfulness and remind them if they forget.
The New Convert Care Director should ask a different family each month to invite the new convert over for dinner. By the end of ten months, the convert should have at least ten or more close friends in church.
This was a consistent pattern found throughout the New Testament Church. “They continued steadfastly in the Apostles doctrine and fellowship and in breaking of bread . . .” It was not by accident that so many of the important events in both the life of Christ and in the book of Acts occurred around a dinner table. There is something almost spiritual about sitting down to a meal together – and it is by far the best way to make a friend.
3. Drop-in visits. When a new convert comes to the Lord, they will quickly lose most of their old friends. They will either lose them, or win them to God. Their old life of parties and drinking will be left behind. Soon, the television will be sold. Where once the converts evenings were filled with movies and parties, they now stare at the walls wondering what to do with their time. Until they become firmly established in the church, we cannot allow this to happen. This is why the “drop-in” type visits are so important.
This is normally handled through the Visitor Follow-up ministry since they are already making weekly visitation assignments. It is easy to add another name or two to the assignment list. The new convert should have at least one drop-in visit each week for several months, if not longer. The person visiting need not stay long, but should show that they care and are wanting to be friends. One pastor expressed that this type of visit has been the most important part of his new convert care program. We must keep in close contact with the convert, especially during the critical first month or two when they are still
“wobbly” on their spiritual feet.
4. Quarterly New Convert Social. A final method that has proven successful in helping new converts build friendships is the Quarterly New Converts Social. Once a quarter the New Convert Care director
should plan a special get-together for all new converts and their care partners. The reason for these socials, again, is for fun and fellowship. A wide variety of activities and events are planned. One quarter they might have a potluck social and another quarter a softball game and picnic. The third quarter might be an all day outing or over night camping trip, and the last quarter it is good for the pastor to have all new converts over to his home for something like a barbecue. This way, not only do the converts develop friendship among the saints, but among one another also.
The key element here is to break down the “cliques” that so easily develop among church members. It is next to impossible for the convert to break into these “us-four-and-no-more” social groups by themselves. You must help provide the avenue for them to feel a part of the body and to establish the lasting, meaningful relationships that are so essential to their spiritual and social health. Without it, the
convert will soon parish.
Research has conclusively shown that people who leave the church rarely were involved in any way. Involvement gives a feeling of self-worth. It says, “I’m needed, I’m important, I’m a part.”
Few churches provide ample opportunity to their converts for meaningful involvement. An unfortunate concept in many Pentecostal churches is to tell the converts, “Sit on the pew for a year and prove
yourself. When your more mature in the Lord, then we’ll use you.” What this is actually doing is teaching the new convert to sit and do nothing. The first year of a new Christian’s life is their most impressionable year. Patterns and spiritual habits will be established that will be with them from then on. It is critical that the new convert becomes involved in the harvest and the supporting ministries of the Body as soon as they are basically stable. The task need not be great, nor should it involve any leadership responsibilities, but it should let them know that their talents and abilities are useful to the work of God. The old saying, “use them or lose them” is well applied here too. Someone who is pulling on the oars has little time to rock the boat.
The kind of basic stability needed to begin involving the new convert usually begins within two or three months. By this time the individual is somewhat familiar with basic Bible doctrines and has often
completed their Home Bible Study and New Life Class. They now need a new challenge to encourage further spiritual growth. By becoming involved in bus ministry, choir, youth activities, or other similar
ministries, the convert begins to think of the church as being their own. Until they are involved, they tend to feel like they are on the outside looking in.
Seldom will the convert shy away from some kind of involvement. There is almost always a strong feeling of appreciation to the church for helping them find this wonderful new life. They are often eager, even
insistent, on doing something to show their appreciation. If after four or five months they still refuse all efforts to get them involved, it is almost a sure sign that something is drastically wrong. It would be like a baby that has not walked yet after two years.
The best way to help promote involvement is to have each new convert fill out two basic forms. These two questionnaires, the “Physical Gifts Quiz” and the “Apostolic Christian Talent Search” (A.C.T.S.),
will help you and the convert know where they are best suited for involvement.
Some people love working with children in children’s church, others cannot tolerate it. What is one man’s trial is another man’s treasure. The church is not a sausage or a scrambled egg. Everyone is not
equipped to do the same thing. Instead, the church is made up of highly individualized parts, all beautifully framed together to make up a church.
People should not be frustrated by their work for God, it should be a joy and a thrill. To just stick a new convert anywhere to get them busy, or to place them in yard maintenance because “that’s where we need help,” is both a disservice to the convert as well as the church. “God hath set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased Him” – not as it hath pleased us.
Place a gun to the head of some people and say, “Teach a Home Bible Study or I’ll pull the trigger,” and they would reply, “Pull the trigger.” They are not called to teach Bible studies and the idea of doing so frightens them to death. It is not their gift. Each member has received their own special talents and callings. None is quite like the other. Yet, diversity is important to unity.
By using these two forms you will help the new convert discover their natural, God given talents and gifts to be used in the work of the Lord.
1. The Physical Gifts Quiz. God has given us physical gifts and skills as well as spiritual gifts. The physical gifts quiz will help a person know what those gifts and abilities are.
These are not to be confused with the nine spiritual gifts – those of miracles, tongues, faith, healing, wisdom, and so on – nor with the fruit of the Spirit – love, joy, temperance, peace, patience, and others. Rather, these gifts have more to do with your temperament, personality, or natural talents. There are also nine of these that apply to the new convert, most of which are found listed in Ephesians 4:11; Romans 12:6-8; I Corinthians 12:28; and I Peter 4:8-10. They are as follows:
a. Administration – In Corinthians this is called “governments.” This is a natural organizational ability. Those with this gift enjoy planning, leading, directing, and are usually goal oriented. They are good at motivating and encouraging groups toward a goal. I Cor. 12:28; Acts 6:1-7; Rom 12:8
b. Encouragement – In Romans this is called “exhortation.” This is an ability to encourage others and motivate them to action. They are natural counselors and listeners. When people are down, they can lift
them up. Rom. 12:8; I Tim. 4:13; Heb. 10:25; Acts 14:22
c. Evangelism – This is a person with the gift of leading others to Christ. They enjoy witnessing and sharing spiritual truth. They carry a strong burden for lost love ones and friends. They are not shy about their Christian experience and are effective in most all outreach ministries. Eph. 4:11; Acts 8:5-6, 14:21, 21:8; II Tim. 4:5
d. Giving – Nothing pleases this person quite like the opportunity to give to those in need and to the Lord’s work, both with money, food, and possessions. They have a strong convection that all they have belongs to God. Rom. 12:8, II Cor. 8:1-7; 9:2, 6-8
e. Hospitality – This is the ability to receive people, to entertain and minister to their needs. They enjoy having people over to their home and have a knack for making strangers feel a ease. They are more aware of the needs of others than their own. Rom. 12:9-13; Heb. 13:1-2; Acts 16:15; Rom 16:23
f. Mercy – This is a special gift of concern and sympathy. They have an inner need to minister to those who are sick or suffer. They show compassion for those with physical or mental handicaps. They love to express this compassion with cheerful deeds of kindness. Rom. 12:8; Acts 16:33-34; Like 10:33-35; Mark 9:41
g. Service – In Romans this is call a gift of “ministry,” and in Corinthians it is called “helps.” They are natural followers. They love to help in any capacity needed and are always willing to lend a helping hand. Most tend to be “task” oriented. I Cor. 12:28; Rom. 21:7; 16:1-2; Acts 9:36
h. Teaching – These have an ability to clarify God’s truth. To understand it and present it to others in such a way that they can understand. Acquiring knowledge from the Word excites them. I Cor. 12:28; Rom. 12:7; Eph. 4:11-14; Acts 18:24-28; Acts 20:20-21
i. Creative Ability – This is a natural talent in music, singing, drawing, writing, and similar abilities. They are naturally creative. They love choir, the church bulletin, doing bulletin boards, drawing posters, helping with dramas, etc. They are worth their weight in gold!
Although there are others that could be listed, they may not truly apply to the new convert. Yet, most all of the ministries in your church can fit within one of these nine areas. Take a list of all your various ministries and departments and match them up. Then, as new converts come in, work them into those areas of ministry in which their gift lies. They will be much more satisfied and fulfilled in their work for God.
A very simple Physical Gifts Quiz is provided at the end of this chapter. However, there are others available that are much more complete and detailed. We recommend that you at least write for a sample and see if they can be adapted for your use. They are:
a. “Building A Growing Church Team” – Gifts Inventory Questionnaire. To order: Church Growth Institute, P.O. Box 4404, Lynchburg, VA 24502.
b. “Team Ministry” – A Guide To Lay Ministry Involvement. To order: Church Growth Institute, same address as above.
c. “The Biblical Profile Kit” – Evaluates you temperament from a biblical perspective. To Order: C. E. Fuller Institute of Evangelism, P.O. Box 90910, Pasadena, CA 91109
d. “Houts Inventory of Gifts,” “Wagner Gifts Questionnaire,” “Wesley Gifts Questionnaire,” Trenton Gifts Analysis.” – Four different quizzes, each focuses on different areas. To order a sample of each: C. E. Fuller Institute, same address as above.
e. “Spiritual Gifts Implementation” – Helps set up a gifts identification ministry within the church. To order: C. E. Fuller Institute, same address as above.
f. “Gifts for Building the Body” – A complete action program. To order: Church Growth Inc., 709 E. Colorado Blvd. #150, Pasadena, CA 91101.
2. The A.C.T.S. Talent Search. In addition to determining what area the new convert is best suited for, it is important to then get an idea of what ministries appeal to them most. Where the gifts quiz looks at their area of interest, the A.C.T.S. Talent Search shows them what ministries the church has to offer. A sample form was provided in at the end of the previous chapter on organization. The convert should fill this out, checking what ministries they are interested in, keeping in mind their natural skills and abilities. It may be necessary to explain the departments and ministries to them and offer suggestions to help direct them.
A copy of the completed forms should be given to the New Convert Care Director. The Care Director will work with the pastor and the Care Partner to get the convert involved in an inward “church” type ministry (Men’s Fellowship, Youth, Ladies Auxiliary, Ushers, etc.) and an outward “outreach” type ministry (Home Bible Study, Sunday School, Bus Ministry, Saturday Door Knocking, etc.). But wherever the convert is involved, he or she should be paired with a mature saint as a mentor. A new convert should never be turned loose on their own.
NEW CONVERT CARE DIRECTOR
The task of keeping track of all the new converts in their various stages of development is a great one. It is critical to the growth of the church. It is not enough for a pastor to “hope” that the convert is being counseled the first night, attending the New Life Class, taking a Home Bible Study, developing friends, being visited, and getting involved. To “hope” is not getting the job done. Someone needs to “make sure” it’s being done, and if not, find out why so that a solution may be found. This task is too great to be placed within another department. You want the person in charge of this ministry to sit on the Monthly Council and hand in a regular report so that you will know exactly how each new convert is doing. Problems and trials effect converts much faster than mature saints. A pastor needs to be kept aware of all these various aspects of the spiritual child’s growth.
For this reason, it is strongly recommended that New Convert Care be made a separate department. This director will keep track of all the various needs of the convert and make sure that each one is doing their job.
The Care director will also be responsible for taking role on all new converts each church service, assigning saints for dinner ministries,checking with the Home Bible Study Director, and helping get the new convert involved in the various ministries of the church. The Care director may even teach the New Life Class, although this is not recommended – the work load may become too heavy. In fact, the best person to teach the New Life Class is the pastor or his assistant. This class deserves the very best. The following is a list of some of the responsibilities of a New Convert Care director (a more complete outline is given in the job description). The care director:
1. Insures that any individual which (l) receives the Holy Ghost, or (2) is refilled with the Holy Ghost after a long absence, or (3) is baptized, has an Altar Card filled out on them THAT SAME SERVICE. Will make sure that the card is filled out as completely as possible. (see sample at end of chapter).
2. Oversees the “First Night Counseling” for everyone that has an Altar Card card filled out on them. This counseling will be done either by the Pastor, the care director, or other qualified individual approved by the Pastor. Please note the following:
a. It is important that this is done the SAME SERVICE THAT the convert is baptized or receives the Holy Ghost.
b. Total time spent should only be about 15-20 minutes.
c. The convert should then be given the new converts booklet “Victorious Living For New Christians” and a cassette tape of the Pastor teaching in more detail on “The Successful Christian Life.”
3. Collects all Altar Cards each service and makes a photocopy to give to the following individuals, if possible, that same service:
a. Home Bible Study Director – To start H.B.S. immediately if not already going.
b. New Life Class Instructor – To contact and enroll in the class that same week.
c. Church Secretary – To add to church records/mailing list, send New Converts Welcome Letter and Care Partner Responsibility Letter.
d. Visitor Follow-up Director – To have folks drop by and visit each week.
e. Ladies Auxiliary or Men’s Fellowship or Youth – To involve in fellowship and activities (which department depends on age and/or gender).
f. Public Relations Director – To put welcome note and picture in the church bulletin & on the main church bulletin board.
g. Sunday School Director – To insure that both the new convert and the converts children are enrolled in Sunday School properly.
h. Prayer Ministry Director – To assign each convert a prayer partner.
i. Care Partner – To set up the first Dinner Ministry date for the next week.
k. Pastor – To visit that week and encourage, counsel, and inform that “we care.” Will give a New Member’s packet.
l. Other departments: as needed.
4. Will insure that the information on the back of the Altar Card is completed in full. All records should be accurate and up to date.
5. Insures that the new convert receives their Baptismal and Holy Ghost Certificates in a major service night and is “introduced” to the congregation.
6. Insures that each New Convert receives the Pastor’s “New Convert Welcome” letter (a sample of this is provided at the end of this chapter).
7. Insures that each new convert has a “Care Partner” to carry the main responsibility of raising this spiritual child in the Lord. Will also insure the sending of the “Care Partner Responsibility” letter to this person.
a. Should check with each Care Partner to insure they understand their responsibilities and are fulfilling them.
b. Will contact the Care Partner each month to see how the convert is progressing.
c. Will also insure that each Care Partner receives a “Birth Certificate” (see sample at the end of this chapter) on their new spiritual child to emphasize the importance of their responsibility as a spiritual parent.
8. Insures that each new convert has completed a ten or twelve week Home Bible Study. This course is to be taught in the convert’s home, preferably by the Care Partner.
9. Insures that each New Convert is enrolled in the New Life Class as soon as possible. The instructor should call the New Convert and welcome them that same week, inform them of the class, and encourage faithful attendance. The instructor must be contacted monthly to learn of the students faithfulness.
a. A graduation certificate should be given upon completion of both the New Life Class and the Home Bible Study.
10. Takes roll on all new converts Sunday night and Bible Study Night. If any new converts are missing repeatedly, alerts the Pastor immediately.
11. Assigns a different family to have the new convert over for dinner
each month to help develop new friendships within the church family.
12. Works with the Pastor and Care Partner to get the convert involved in both an outreach oriented ministry and a church oriented ministry as soon as possible.
13. Plans a social get-together for all New Converts and their Care Partners each quarter.
14. Hands into the Pastor a copy of the “New Convert Care Confidential Report” (see sample at the end of this chapter) on the first Weekly Tag-in of each month. This report should be as complete as possible and must to be kept confidential.
15. Informs the Pastor immediately if any problem develops with any New Convert.
IS EVERYTHING WORKING?
The most common response from prospective New Convert Care Directors after seeing how the care system operates is, “how in the world am I going to keep track of all I have to do?” Likewise, the pastor will quickly add, “and how am I going to stay on top of all this to insure my director is doing their job?”
Thankfully, there is a very good answer. There are two main tools that place total accountability into the program and help the director and pastor keep track of all the various details.
1. The Altar Card. The altar card is the permanent record for the New Convert Care director on each new convert (sample is provided at the end of this chapter). This should be filed, usually by punching holes in the card and placing in a small 5×7 binder. The back of the card is basically a information and responsibility check list for all the various aspects of New Convert Care. As it plainly states, “Do Not Check Unless Verified.” Take nothing for granted. That is the purpose of establishing New Convert Care: to insure everything is done.
Each month, the care director should go through the cards, keeping in mind the date their care began, and see what is yet to be done. Items on the front concerning First Night Counseling and receiving their New Converts Booklet and Tape should have already been fulfilled when you get the card. If not, insure it is done as soon as possible. On the back, items like: “New Converts Letter sent,” “Care Partner Letter sent,” and “Received Baptismal and Holy Ghost Certificates” should be completed and verified as soon as possible.
The new convert then needs to be assigned a Care Partner, home Bible study instructor (usually the same person) and enrolled in the New Life Class. The date started for these two types of instruction should be within a week or two after conversion (at the very latest!). Make sure you write in the Care Partner’s phone number, because you will be calling them each month to ask about the convert’s spiritual condition.
There are twelve spaces given for dinner ministry hosts. You may need more room than this. Additional cards can be attached or you can use the “Comments” area if you wish. This way you will not duplicate your monthly host assignments.
Hopefully, the new convert will complete the home Bible study and New Life Class. A graduation certificate should be given to them during a church service. Completion date should be noted and then check up top that they received their certificates.
The last item up top is for the talent forms. After they have completed the Physical Gifts Quiz and the A.C.T.S. church ministries form, work to involve them in a church ministry and an outreach ministry – both areas are important. Put their starting dates and the name of the director of that ministry. This is so that you might check back periodically at to their status of involvement. One of the first danger signals of a person backsliding is that they will drop out of involvement.
In conclusion, you need to realize that the Altar Card is the most important tool of the entire New Convert Care system. Without this, there is nothing to get the process rolling. It is only by filling out this card that it can be photocopied (if you do not have a photocopier, make some duplicate forms with carbon paper in between) and given to all the ministries that make up the new convert care support system. Failure to fill it out means that nothing will begin. Therefore, it is critical that several people feel the responsibility of insuring that it is completed and that First Night Counseling is done. The pastor should train several to help with this responsibility. This is especially true during a major revival when much is happening around the altar and many are receiving the Holy Ghost, even while others are being baptized. The New Convert Care Director is ultimately responsible, but this director will need help. Training an altar staff is vital if this ministry is to succeed.
2. The Confidential Report. The purpose of New Convert Care is so that the pastor may keep track of how the new converts are doing on a month by month basis. The main method of keeping the pastor informed is the “New Convert Care Confidential Report.” A sample, completed form and a blank, master form is provided at the end of this chapter.
As the name implies, this report must be kept confidential. No one is to see it except the pastor and those he specifically approves. There is some very personal information on this report: church attendance, Bible study attendance, New Life Class attendance, problems identified by the Care Partner, and so on. It would prove embarrassing if it fell into the wrong hands and the new convert found out about it.
The first column of the report is the convert’s name. Husband and wife are placed of separate lines because one may be doing well while the other is not. The second column is how many months they have been under the care of this department from the time an altar card was filled out on them. The next column is the date they received the Holy Ghost and were baptized. These are all fairly straight forward.
However, the next four columns are attendance records: for the New Life Class, home Bible study, Sunday night attendance, and mid-week service attendance. All of these should be written as in the example – “the number of time they were there” over “the number of times they COULD have been there.” If there were five Sundays in that month, and they were there three of them, the information should be written, “3 out of 5.” The bottom number is always the number of times which that activity could have taken place. The top number is always the number of times they actually attended.
Of course, their church attendance will come from the care director’s own records since he or she should be keeping church attendance of all converts. The New Life Class attendance should come from the New Life Class instructor, who should be keeping his own records. Home Bible Study attendance should come from the Bible study director. His job description states that he should be contacting all H.B.S. teachers each week at to the status of their study.
That brings us to the Care Partner report. This will require the most time. The care director will need to contact all care partners, either at church or by phone, and make a brief note of their status. There is not much room, so if need be, they will have to write additional information on the back of the report. The next column is the Dinner Ministry assignment – who had them for dinner that past month. And the next to last column is their involvement. If possible, there should be at least two ministries for each convert – a church and an outreach ministry. As was mentioned, if the convert has been in church six months and are still not involved anywhere, this is a danger signal. The last column is for any unique problems that the director might have identified while talking to these various people. If any more room is needed, the director should write it on the back.
As you can well see, this report will take some time and effort. The care director will need to devote three or four evenings at the first of each month to this. The report is due preferably at the first weekly tag-in of the month. The director should keep a copy for his or her own records also.
Between these two forms, the ministry is fairly well covered. There is little chance that something could be forgotten or left out. But the pastor must insure that the back of the altar card is being filled out. He must insure that the monthly report is handed in and is complete on each convert. So it is advisable that the pastor look over the records of this ministry about once a quarter. More than any other ministry, this one must be successful, because upon this ministry the growth of the entire church depends.
HOW THE SYSTEM WORKS
The following is a brief outline of the typical steps that would follow a new convert through the first few months after receiving the Holy Ghost and being baptized. This will help you get an overall view of how the ministry will work in a real setting.
1. Mark and Debbie Tracy received the Holy Ghost and were baptized on Sunday evening July 16.
2. At the conclusion of the baptism, Tom Duncan, the assistant pastor, sat down with Mark and Debbie and completed an altar card on each.
3. Tom then spent fifteen minutes covering the four subjects of first night counseling. The New Converts Booklet (with the page insert) and the tape by Pastor Maxwell was given to them.
4. The altar card was then given to Mary Thomas, the New Convert Care director. She quickly took the card to the office and ran off ten copies and gave them to ten different people that same night.
5. One copy went to Jack Brazil, the Home Bible Study Director. Jack contacted Joe and Sheila Leaman, the couple who brought Mark and Debbie to the Lord, and arranged for them to begin teaching their two spiritual children a Home Bible Study that next week.
6. Another copy went to Don Townsen, the New Life Class instructor. Elder Townsen was a retired pastor and extremely adept at teaching this class. Bro. Townsen called Mark and Debbie that week to welcome them into the church and to insure they knew about his class on Sunday morning. Mark and Debbie said they would come. Joe and Sheila will also go with them for several lessons until they get to know the class members.
7. A third copy went to JoAnn Lackey, the church secretary, who sent a letter of welcome to the Tracys from Pastor Maxwell. She also sent a letter to Joe and Sheila Leaman, the Care Partners, that detailed their responsibilities as new spiritual parents. Then last, she entered their names onto the church mailing list.
8. A fourth copy was given to Joe and Sheila Leaman, the Care Partners of Mark and Debbie. Although they knew Mark and Debbie well (Joe worked with Mark at the sugar factory) they did not know their address or birthdays.
9. A fifth copy went to Connie Blankenship, the Visitor Follow-up Director. Connie will now assign someone different each week to make a “drop-in” visit to encourage and welcome Mark and Debbie. These weekly visits will continue for several months.
10. A sixth copy went to Tom Rodale, the Men’s Ministries director, and Sue Baker, the Ladies Auxiliary director. They will make a special effort to encourage Mark and Debbie to become involved in the men’s and ladies activities that come up periodically.
11. A seventh copy went to John McIntosh, the Sunday School Superintendent. He will enroll Mark and Debbie into the Sunday School records and get their two children, Timmy and Chris, into a class for their ages.
12. A eighth copy went to Sharen Wagner, the Public Relations director. Sharen oversees the monthly church bulletin. She will put Mark and Debbie’s picture in the bulletin along with a note to welcome them. She will also post a welcome picture and note on the main church bulletin board.
13. A ninth copy went to Lea White, the Prayer Ministry director. She will insure that Mark and Debbie both have a prayer partner to pray for them daily during the next year. She will also encourage them both to attend the regularly scheduled church prayer meetings.
14. The last copy went to Pastor Maxwell, who visited Mark and Debbie that week to see if there were any questions he could answer or help that the church could give. He gave them a New Member’s packet and explained all the various ministries of the church. He encouraged them to call him any time, day or night, that they needed someone to talk to about spiritual problems.
15. Mary Thomas, the New Convert Care director, kept the original card for her own records, and began to keep attendance on Mark and Debbie Sunday night and Bible study night (Sunday morning attendance is handled through the Sunday School and their absentee follow-up system).
16. Mary contacted Joe and Sheila that first week and arranged for them to have the Tracys over for dinner the following week along with two other couples in the church. These two couples were used as dinner ministry hosts in subsequent months.
17. Each month, for the next ten months, Mary Thomas completed the special monthly report for Pastor Maxwell. To do this she would contact the Home Bible Study coordinator (Jack Brazil) to find out each new converts attendance (Jack calls all his H.B.S. teachers each week to obtain this information). She would talk to the New Life Class instructor and get each converts attendance there also. She would then call each care partner to get a report of each convert’s growth. It took three to four evenings each month to complete the report on the twenty-six converts currently under her care.
18. After the convert has been in church two months, Mary began to work with the Pastor and the Care Partner to help get Mark and Debbie involved in the church. Mary had Mark and Debbie complete the “Physical Gifts Quiz” and an “A.C.T.S. ministries form, which helped in this area. Both are now involved in C.C.C. ministry. Mark also helps with the youth on Friday night and Debbie is doing line drawings each week for the monthly church bulletin.
19. Each month, Mary asked a different couple to have Mark and Debbie over for dinner. To assist with this, the “Dinner Ministry Assignment Form” was used. All assignments were cleared through the pastor first. Because of this ministry, Mark and Debbie have developed a close friendship with several other young couples in church.
20. All problems that Mary discovered were reported immediately to the pastor. Because of this, the church was able to help Mark find a new job when he was laid off several months back. Both Mark and Debbie are doing extremely well in church today and have won Debbie’s sister to the Lord.
If God were to send a great revival to your city and a hundred people received the Holy Ghost, could your present New Convert program handle it? Do you even have such a ministry? This is a question every pastor needs to ask himself. If God actually gave you the end-time revival that you have been praying so long and desperately for, could you handle it? Would the harvest be cared for or would it rot in the field?
True faith is “the substance of things hoped for.” This faith must then become action. It is only this present, positive action or work that we do that allows us to have the “evidence of things not seen.” You may not have that great revival yet, but to wait until it arrives is to wait too late. What if your city waited until a fire broke out to hire firemen and look for fire trucks? How long do you think your mayor would keep his job? Keeping that in mind, what do you think God thinks of us?
Someone has aptly said, “God is not in the business of making backsliders.” The Lord of the Harvest sees little benefit in sending you a hundred soul revival when ninety of them will end up backsliding Pastor, church leader, until your church can handle and absorb a hundred soul revival, God doesn’t want you to have one. But . . . if we will prepare now, and set in motion the process needful to retain such a revival, I believe God will send us one. He wants you to have revival much greater then even you want to have one. Don’t you agree?