Welcoming visitors into your church is an awesome experience. You want to make sure people feel invited into your worship and into your community, and no doubt you put a lot of thought and effort into the welcome experience. But what do you do to make sure people are connecting to your church in ways that are going to last? How do you make sure they’re becoming part of the core ministry efforts where life change really happens?
If we’re going to fully realize the potential God has given our churches to build the Kingdom through the people around us, we’ve got to have a plan for what happens when people say ‘yes’ to following Christ and to doing life together with the people in our churches.
Thanks to our work with churches around the country, we’ve been able to see the things churches do consistently to help people connect in lasting ways to their communities:
- Define your ‘connection’ goals clearly. If you don’t know what a fully connected member of your church looks like, how can you know if you’re really helping grow them? Define your goals so you know what to data to collect, manage, and measure.
- Let people know what membership in your church looks like through an online ‘pre-membership’ class and church management software. Tell — and show! — people what to expect, and get them excited to attend a new members’ class in person.
- Make sure your pastors are part of the new members’ classes and programs. A personal presence from your leaders shows new members and attenders that they really do matter.
- Define your expectations for how members participate in your church. Just showing up on a Sunday can’t be enough. Talk through (and document) things like worship, giving, serving, small group participation, etc.
- Keep all your new member materials available on a landing page or microsite online. Don’t expect people to remember everything you’re sharing, or to keep track of printed materials. Bonus: This is a great place for members to point visitors for a view of what your church is about.
- Provide new members a roadmap for connection. Don’t dump everything on them at once. Define your expectations (see item 4), then break them down into steps a new member can follow at their own pace.
- Guide new members through a personal assessment or inventory of learning styles, interests, gifts, skills, and abilities. Many people haven’t done much self-discovery on their own, and tests like these can give them a new perspective on where God is calling them to connect and serve.
- Ask for feedback. New members are a terrific source for new ideas and ways to change things up. You’re probably in for a few surprises, but they’ll be worth it.
- Manage the process and track what you’re learning about people in your church management system (ChMS). It’s no good learning about your newest members if you don’t collect, share, and analyze the data. That’s why you have a ChMS, right?
- Make sure followup communications are sent to new members on a pre-set schedule, and according to how the member indicated they want to receive them (email, snail mail, etc.).
- Keep an eye on the habits of a new members’ class as a group. Seeing how the entire group is progressing lets you see gaps and inconsistencies in experience and behavior.
- Hear what the data is telling you. Look at what’s working and what isn’t. If something isn’t working, figure out why and adjust the process. There’s no point in collecting data if you’re not going to do anything with it!
Creating a clear connections process not only helps your newest members become part of your community more quickly, it can also help you more effectively collect and review data that will show you how well it’s working. Tracking the process will help you get better and better at moving people in your church from “I’m in” to “I’m committed”.
What other steps are you taking to help people become a more permanent part of your community?