If you don't have a plan to connect and engage with your first-time visitors, they won't be back. Getting guests to return is only your first goal, but just attending is never our long-term play. Our passion is to grow first-time visitors into fully engaged disciples.
And assimilation, the process through which we forge connections, plays a critical role in creating disciples. It fosters intimate relationships and interactions, and lays the foundation for meaningful connection to the church, and subsequently, intentional discipleship.
It begins with a person’s first visit to your church and ends when that person connects with your church. But it is possible, however, for someone to join a church without ever truly making a connection.
"...only 10 percent of first-time visitors become committed congregants..."
Because somewhere along the way, the perception formed that ‘professional ministers’ do disciple-making and equipping while the rest of the church body watches from the sidelines.
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 …
POP QUIZ: What percentage of first-time visitors become regular attendees?
Ten. That’s it.
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.
Assimilation is a complex mapping process where the church discovers more about the interests, "...the principles of assimilation must translate into a disciplined, reliable process that can be measured, monitored, and modified..." passions, and personality of the member and the member discovers more about the leadership, community life, and vision of the church. If a church does this well, the relationship with the member can be exponential to advancing the mission of the church through the passions, interests, and skills of this person. If a church doesn’t do this well, it can create an incredibly fast burn rate for new members that creates the epic ‘revolving door’ we often refer to in church life.
So what can we do to change it? The simple answer is that we have to do things differently. So much of the assimilation process is about checking boxes when it should be about building relationships.
That’s easy to say if you’re a church of 100. But what if you’re a church of 10,000?
That’s where technology can help. A church who invests in the right technology and the time it takes to train the users of that technology experience …
- Better matching between interests of the member and opportunities for ministry.
- Increased satisfaction in volunteer placement.
- Great assessments of leadership potential of new members. Insight into new ministry opportunities based on the unique gifts the member brings with him or her.
- A much higher rate of generosity with respect to time, talent, and treasure.
- OK. So technology can help us do the heavy lifting when it comes to managing information. But then how do you ensure that everyone God brings through your doors makes a connection? How do you manage the human element?
You make sure that you have an assimilation process in place to give you and your church every opportunity to connect and engage your visitors.
Assimilation, covers four basic processes:
Church hospitality is like home hospitality – you greet every guest at the door and warmly welcome them. Directional signs and information for newcomers that make navigating the church easier work well, but active, intentional hospitality calls for us to welcome newcomers with people available to greet and help anyone entering our doors.
When churches gather information, they often find that they had more visitors than they realized. And churches that gather information will uncover ministry opportunities to make each person feel more valued and important.
Follow-up is recognizing what people need, when they need it, and provides you the tools and insight to connect with them intimately. It also helps identify opportunities for pastoral ministry through information gathering that provides the dates, milestones and prayer requests that connect people when it matters most
People often connect to church when they develop meaningful relationships, and when people feel that their church is intimately invested in them, they are more likely to sacrificially and intimately invest in their church – becoming members, givers, servers, volunteers, and ultimately, intentional disciples.
"...follow-up is recognizing what people need, when they need it,..."
It isn’t always easy to turn first-time guests into committed members of your church. It requires good processes, intentionality, and accountability. But 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 that seeks to join us in faith and as a godly leader, when you help ready the heart of a first-time visitor to be receptive to God, you are cultivating intentional disciples and stewarding the people God has brought through your doors to serve Him.