In this final installment on our Assimilation series, let’s focus on the third big step in an effective plan. We’ve already talked about the importance of making Connections by weeks 2-4 and achieving Involvement no later than weeks 6-8. Our third priority, then, is Contribution–something that needs to occur no later than weeks 10-12.
By contribution, we mean that every one of our new friends needs to feel they are contributing in a meaningful way to the ministry of the church. One of the core reasons why people go looking for a church is the inherent desire in nearly every adult to feel significant. We want to make a difference! And there aren’t many places that can offer the number of opportunities provided by the local church.
Here’s the truth…people WANT TO GET INVOLVED!
They want to help, to serve, to contribute in some meaningful way to something meaningful. In fact, I’ll go out on a limb and say that nearly everyone does. So why do 20% of the people end up doing 80% of the work at church? Well, usually its because we missed the window for getting the others involved.
The first three months in a church set a tone for the years ahead. If people don’t feel needed or aren’t personally invited to get involved in an area of outreach or some other type ministry in those first few months, they will conclude that others have it all covered. The non-involvement of the first few months becomes a habit that will linger into the future. But in a church where there is a culture of involvement, people pick up on an “expectation” that we all contribute to the work we are doing.
Sadly, many churches are dominated by people that didn’t develop the habit of involvement at church, so they make their contributions elsewhere. Church, for them, becomes a place to attend when convenient and give of their finances when available. Their only contribution is the one they can deduct from their income taxes.
Wanna change that? Build a strategy to engage your new friends in the first quarter of their attendance. Offer them meaningful opportunities to participate in the way your church ministers to others. Help them see that the best personal growth comes from doing the work of ministry. In so doing, you’ll accomplish two significant goals–they’ll find meaningful opportunities and they’ll be spending time with others who are making a contribution in your church. If you leave them on the sidelines, they’ll build friendships with others on that sideline–some that have been on the sidelines for decades.
Don’t think small when deciding where people can make a contribution. Make a list of the opportunities, both on Sundays and in ministry efforts all week long. You can even include community involvement opportunities as a part of “your” ministry effort. When people are encouraged by their church to get involved, they see a spiritual opportunity, even in activities that never touch the church campus.
Offer the chance for involvement as soon as possible. Yes, there are a few places where we need to get to know people really well before opening those doors (children & youth workers come to mind). But don’t let a six-month waiting period be the norm for other opportunities. The sooner someone is making a contribution of their time and energy, the sooner they’ll start thinking of your church efforts as what “we” are doing at “our” church. When they begin feeling ownership like that, you’ve taken a giant step forward in the assimilation effort.
So to summarize: 1) Help new friends make several relational connections in weeks 2-4; 2) Help them find a place(s) to get involved with others in the small group settings your church offers no later than weeks 6-8; and 3) Invite them to make a contribution by bringing their gifts and abilities to your church’s ministry efforts by weeks 10-12. Find ways for your church to achieve each of these three steps and you’ll see a marked difference in the staying power of the new friends who visit your church.