We are responsible as church leaders for the people God brings through our doors. Therefore, every church, regardless of size, must have a process that ensures that none of those entrusted to us to shepherd get lost, left out, or overlooked.
So, we try to close the back door. But …
Seven minutes may not even be enough time for your guests to find a seat, let alone hear the word of God. Those seven minutes may only grant you time enough to make your first impression during your pre-service – so your church should take care to open the front door wide – and close the back door by welcoming each and every guest personally, intimately, and genuinely to create points of connection wherein those first-time guests feel they’ve found their way home.
And your assimilation process is what determines if you’ve successfully closed the back door – or left a revolving door unattended.
If only 10 percent of first-time visitors become committed congregants, the principles of assimilation must translate into a disciplined, reliable process that can be measured, monitored, and modified as needed to ensure that every first-time visitor has the potential to become a long-term, regular attendee. We must welcome every visitor just as we would a guest in our home.
So here are four articles that help illustrate the importance of assimilation and offer ways to incorporate an intentional process in your church:
“Every area of ministry in your church is enhanced when you focus on developing an effective assimilation process. Discipleship thrives because there’s a process in place to move people into a deeper relationship with Christ. Community flourishes because people feel connected. Overall church health improves because there’s a plan in place to help people continually grow.”
“Maybe you’ve seen it happen. A new believer joins a local church, and he is thrilled by his changed life. He shows up at every church event. He consumes knowledge of the Bible. But then something happens. The excited new believer slowly wanders away, and few people in the church notice.
“Too often, this story resounds in churches that have a poor assimilation strategy. They might reach people for Christ, but they have no intentional plan to keep the people they reach. Their back door remains as open as their front door.”
“In almost every consultation I conduct through my company, the Rainer Group, and in almost every church I research, the issue of assimilation arises. ‘If we could just keep the people who join our church, our attendance would be twice as high,’ church leaders often lament. Is there a ‘secret’ to retention? Is there some type of process that can close the back door?
“While there is neither a secret nor a neatly-packaged process, there are four key principles to membership retention and involvement. Our research has shown that if a church improves in all four of these areas, assimilation will likely improve, and often dramatically improve.”
“I’ve noticed a reoccurring issue in many churches including my own. It’s as if there is this invisible revolving door located somewhere in our church that apparently only new people are able to see. If your church is anything like mine, we didn’t have a problem getting first-time guests to show up, but we definitely had problems getting them to come back. I remember thinking in one of our strategic meetings, ‘If just half of the people who walked through our front doors would stay, our church would double and we’d hit magazine covers headlined REVIVAL!’ The immediate thought that followed was an intensely humbling, ‘we’re obviously doing something wrong … but what exactly is it?’”
Ultimately, think of assimilation like this: Replace the word ‘assimilation’ with the word ‘belong’ and you can very clearly see how critical it is that we help our first-time visitors assimilate – or belong.
And it presents us with the incredible opportunity to be intentional about stewarding every soul who seeks to join us in faith.