“If the back door of a church is left wide open, it doesn’t matter how many people are coaxed to come in the front door—or the side door for that matter,” says Pastor Larry Osborne in his book, Sticky Church.
So how to close that back door? The answer is found in connecting people within the church. Some call it assimilation, others call it connection strategy, here we call it the third law of effective outreach. But, the basic principle is taking newcomers and turning them into active participants in your church body.
Here are a few basic principles and how-tos to get you started…
You can find a model of the early church doing just this in Acts 2:41-47. They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, fellowship, eating together, prayer, caring for each other, meeting regularly and praising God. And the Lord blessed their ministry by adding to it. This example of togetherness and focus on the Lord is the model for every church—rather than just asking God to bless what churches are doing, churches should do what God is blessing.
An Embracing Culture
Church should be a safe place where people can seek spiritual help for real problems. As guests come through the door, they should feel wanted, welcomed, loved and valued. When we extend the arms of Christ, people will be drawn to Him.
When coupled with the work of the Holy Spirit, a willing heart can reach out to new guests…
- Outreach will bring guests through the front door (as discussed in Law 2).
- Warm hospitality helps visitors return a second time.
- Lasting friendships encourage guests to attend regularly.
- Discipleship can transform attenders into fully developed members.
In their book, Fusion: Integrating Newcomers into the Life of Your Church, Nelson Searcy and Jennifer Dykes Henson reveal that most first-time visitors have already decided whether or not they will return to your church within the first few minutes.
In the first few minutes, a newcomer should be…
- Greeted warmly
- Directed where they should go
- Treated well
- Seated comfortably
Your church can accomplish these goals by making the process as easy as possible. A few key hospitality elements, and others like them, will relieve some of the anxiety a new guest might feel…
- Clear signage
- Easy parking
- Friendly and trained greeters
- A current, clear and relevant bulletin and Information Center
- An inviting, clean and safe children’s ministry
- Clean lobby and restrooms
- Fast, friendly and helpful follow-up
Create a culture where guests can go from “just visiting” to totally plugged in. Here are some guidelines for connecting guests…
- People connect people, programs do not.
- Create an atmosphere where relationships can happen.
- We truly are like sheep. Visitors won’t initiate the connection process—you must.
- Per Chip Arn of ChurchGrowth.net, visitors need six significant relationships in order to stick.
- A meal should be part of every connection process.
- Everyone should be involved in the connection process.
- There are no short cuts to connect newcomers.
- Communicate the connection process everywhere.
- Watch for gaps in the connection process—are people falling through the cracks somewhere?
- Connect people through small groups and eventually via serving.
Mentoring usually happens once friendships are established. From a venue of fellowship, provide clear opportunities and direction for how someone can request discipleship, or disciple others. Keep in mind (as before), that most people are not self-initiators, and may need to be prompted or asked to be discipled or serve.
For more information on the Four Laws of Effective Outreach, or to request a 4 Laws Seminar DVD for your church, click here.
Who in your church is really excellent at welcoming newcomers?