Connections are a vital part of any healthy, thriving church. You may call this assimilation, or even discipleship. But regardless of what you call it, the reality is the same: Do it well, and you will continue to reach new people, increase engagement and impact your community. Do it poorly, however, and you will lose people, including 7 out of 10 of your first-time guests.

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So if there’s one process your church needs to get right, it’s connections. It proves invaluable as a means to improve the life and health of your church by engaging more people in being the ministry of your church.

The problem for most churches, however, is that no one in the organizational chart is likely assigned the responsibility of ensuring that their church is effectively moving people from first-time guests to fully engaged members. Each individual ministry might have a role in engaging members, but as a whole, there’s not a defined process for effective connections.

" leaders often have no idea how many first-time guests they attract per weekend..."

While you might not be directly responsible for how day-to-day connections work, it’s important for every church leader to have an understanding of the processes your church has in place to move people into engagement.

Why Connections Are Important

Unless your church uses facial recognition software to identify every new guest or family that visits your church, the likelihood of you identifying them on your own is slim. While there are definitely systems your church can put in place to identify first-time guests, the primary tool churches use is the connection card.

But is it really working? From our conversations, we’ve found that few church leaders are confident in their connection card strategy. Churches are often just hoping that guests present themselves. Of course, this puts all of the pressure on the guest.

Whether you realize it or not, filling out an information card is a big decision for your guests. It’s more than providing an email address to learn more about your church. This card is the entry point for getting plugged into what you’re doing. The decision to fill it out and drop it in the offering plate or at your welcome center is a sign of commitment.

However, many church leaders make it too easy for people to opt out. They don’t spend any stage time on the first-time guest. And then they wonder why they’re not growing or why they have no idea how many first-time guests they attract per weekend.

A powerful church management software that serves your entire church can provide a scheduled report from your children's ministry check-in to help identify first-time guests. With a connected system, the processes feature will allow you to follow-up with guests seamlessly and personally.

How To Know Your Connections Need A Reboot

You might need to rethink your connections process if …

  • You don’t know what connections are.
  • You can’t explain your connections approach or strategy.
  • No one on your organizational chart is assigned that responsibility.
  • You judge growth by your ability to slightly outpace your rate of attrition.
  • You have no idea why someone who seemed to be connecting suddenly disappeared.
  • People participate in your new members’ class but then are never seen nor heard from again.
  • You coerce new members into service positions no one else wants
  • You think collecting personal contact information is intrusive.

So if we are ever going to fully realize the potential God has given our church through our people, we must give serious thought to what we do when a person says ‘yes’ to faith and ‘yes’ to joining our church.

Here Are 12 Ways To Maximize Your Connections:

1. Define your connections goals clearly. If they are not defined, you will not know what data to collect, manage and measure.

2. Offer a pre-membership class online to learn more. Show and tell people what to expect. Give them a reason to show up in person for the new members class.

3. Involve the pastor in the new member’s program. Never underestimate the power of personal presence to say ‘you matter.’

4. Clearly define your expectations of how a member functions in your church. This is a great time to talk about things like Worship, small groups, giving, and serving.

5. Make available all new member content on a microsite online for future reference. No one should be expected to remember everything or to keep up with all the printed materials.

6. Break it down into steps. Don’t dump everything on a new member at one time.

7. Include a personal assessment or inventory of learning styles, interests, skills, and abilities. Most people haven’t done much self-discovery on their own. This will prove to be invaluable and may uncover some new ministry ideas.

8. Ask for feedback. Ask people to share their impressions with you. You’ll get great information and probably a few surprises.

9. Manage the process and track what you learn in your church management software (ChMS). You have to have data before you can report, analyze and adjust. This should be a core purpose of your ChMS.

10. Send follow up communication on a pre-defined schedule based on the preferences of the member. (e.g. email, snail mail, etc.)

11. Track the habits of the new member class as a cohort. Group tracking allows you to see pockets or consistencies in experience and behavior.

12. Evaluate the data you are collecting to determine what’s working and what isn’t. If something isn’t working, make adjustments. What good is collecting data if you aren't going to do anything with it?

Connections – or assimilation – takes time and effort. But it is well worth it. And leveraging technology to help with the heavy data lifting can make your process more efficient and effective. In addition to helping you distribute the workload of the process, it will also help you move people from ‘I'm here’ to ‘I’m all in.’

Download a free copy of our Guest to Engaged ebook to learn best practices of connections and assimilations. These best practices can help you establish helpful processes at your church.Get Your FREE Book!