Last time we established the key steps of an effective assimilation plan—Connection (wk1), Relationships (wks2-4), Involvement (wks 6-8), Contribution (wks 10-12). Here’s some ideas for building your plan:
1. Be upfront about your plan
When someone visits your church, they want to know what you’re all about. They don’t want to just go through the motions of your weekly routine, but have come to see what church is like at your place. So let them know that you plan for them to build friendships, you plan for them to find purpose and meaning, you plan for them to find ways to make a difference with their gifts and abilities. In some creative way, layout the map for them from day one so they can engage the direction. Of course, don’t overwhelm them or try to sign them up for things on their first visit, but let them see that relationships, involvement, and service are key elements to the journey they will want to take.
2. Give time to relationship-building
Encourage connection times before, during, and after your services. Offer events for friend-making. Provide newcomer events where people can meet other people (not just hear more about the church). The primary reason people visit a church is to make friends so give them every chance to do so.
3. Make your small groups excellent
Work on your Sunday school or small group ministry so they can be places you want guests to visit. Make these ministries highly relational—people don’t need two sermons on Sunday morning so teach the lecturer some new approaches. Remember that people want connection before content.
4. Get creative with involvement opportunities
Too many churches give the impression that involvement means either singing or teaching. Find creative ways to expand into oppportunities that can utilize other gifts. The majority of church people feel that their gifts are “helps” or serving gifts. They’re not looking to be in charge, at least not initially. So, identify dozens of ways people can get involved. Then let them choose what looks enjoyable. Teams are the best approach. If I join the hospitality team or the parking lot team or the children’s ministry team, I know I won’t be alone and will likely make new friends.
5. Don’t stop using those guest cards
Yes, next Sunday is a new week, but if the guest cards go in a file at the end of each week, never to be reviewed again, you’ll struggle to assimilate your new friends. Keep the names in front of you so you can be thinking of how to help people become connected. Good assimilation requires that we maintain focus on those we’re trying to involve in our church until we’ve given them ample clear opportunities to take important steps toward becoming fully engaged in our church.