Once you have effectively welcomed your new church friends and introduced them to key leaders and potential friends in your congregation, the final major piece of your early assimilation efforts is the newcomer’s orientation. Somehow, you must communicate the core components of life in your church if you expect people to engage that life with you.
This effort can take on a variety of designs. Some churches have a weekend event, others offer a 4-week class. Still others provide a DVD where the most important information is conveyed through video. Whatever approach will work best in your church, you must find a way to get your new friends started on the journey you want them to take. You must understand that new guests will struggle to connect if they don’t know what’s going on or why you want them to be a part of your church.
The content of a newcomer’s orientation is simple. Guests don’t need a detailed explanation of every ministry in your church. What they need is a clear explanation of the path you want them to walk. So, if your church wants them to connect with a small group, grow through a Sunday school class, and serve in a life-changing ministry, help them see that path. In a newcomer’s orientation, you are simply trying to finish this sentence–“As a part of our church family, we want you to experience…”
Some churches overwhelm new people with information they don’t really need. Too much of this type of info will block their view of the things they need to know. Empty-nesters don’t need details on all the children’s ministries and meeting times, but they need to see how they can connect their lives to your church. Make sense?
So focus on the journey you want them to take. Yes, you want every individual to build relationships in the church–that’s a key reason why offer small groups, so tell them that. Yes, you want every individual to grow in their understanding and experience of God’s truth and love–that’s why you offer classes and other growth settings. Yes, you know that real growth comes through serving, either in the church or in the community, so help them see the importance of making a volunteer effort. Layout the path and help them begin taking the first steps.
Without some type of newcomer orientation, we leave our guests to try and figure out the path on their own. That can take months, and if it does, many won’t still be attending with us when they could have been around long enough to figure it out.
And, by the way, when you help your new guests learn the why of the life of your church, you’ll discover that some of your existing congregation didn’t know the “why” either. A newcomer’s orientation can raise the bar of participation throughout your entire church.