The Church Revitalization Podcast – Episode 118
After a new guest shows up, do you have a plan for guest assimilation?
The term “assimilation” may not be one that you think of favorably at first glance, but the idea is simply helping new people get connected into your church. It’s the formation of relationships that will be mutually beneficial. Any church should desire guests to become integral, functioning members of the body of Christ. That will only happen in rare instances unless you’re intentional about your actions towards them and intentional in what you ask of them. Thus, we refer to assimilation as a process, since building a relationship is not a one-time event.
Let’s not forget that newcomers to your church have made the first move, so to speak. They chose, bravely, to walk through your doors. They didn’t do that expecting to never be contacted. They’re looking for something, though they may not yet know what. In many cases, they are actually hoping that you can help answer the questions of life they have or to show them a better way to live. Most likely, they want to get to know people.
There are a few key things to consider when building your guest assimilation process. I’ll use the analogy of dating and marriage as I walk through the points below.
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Define the Wedding Moment
This is the final step of marriage in our analogy. We all know that marriage doesn’t come first (at least in western culture), but when building an assimilation process, we have to start with the end in mind in order to properly strategize the steps to get there. So what will the marriage step be for your church?
Joining a small group or Sunday school class?
Volunteering on a team?
With the end in mind, we next need to figure out how we’ll get people there, and there are a few steps to work through. What leads up to that wedding?
You’ve heard us say this in many episodes of the podcast, but good communication is necessary in all aspects of church and relationships, especially in this context.
A great formula to keep in mind on this comes from the book Boomerang by Tyler Smith and Alison Hofmeyer. They do the math on Content + Frequency + Duration. Stating it another way; develop the right message, get it in front of people often, and don’t give up. With those three elements in place, your communication strategy will be on its way to moving people into a first date, courting, engagement, and finally, a wedding.
First Date. What Should We Do?
Asking someone you just met to marry you wouldn’t likely work out well, so don’t ask new guests to jump to the end either. Keep it simple and comfortable. A guest lunch is a popular choice for a lot of churches today, and there are some fun variations you can do with that. Don’t make people reserve a spot so those who hear about it for the first time that day can just pop on in.
Are We Engaged? Maybe So.
The next phase in the guest assimilation process should take a little time, but not too much. What would be designed to be more of an on-ramp, will also give people the chance to get out of the relationship. After all, we should desire that if we’re not the right church for them, that they would get connected where God really wants them to be. Everyone wins that way.
Some good options for this phase are a Growth Track type process, or maybe even a newcomers small group that runs for a season. No matter what you choose to do, the content and process should be designed to continuously move the relationship further. Not only should it move towards your pre-defined wedding moment and marriage, but also a level of discipleship that fits well for wherever the people may be in their faith.
Are Those Wedding Bells I Hear?
Congratulations, you made it to the end. But it’s actually just the beginning. Regardless of what you defined marriage as, if you aren’t ready to shift your attention to the long-term discipleship phase then you may have just wasted a lot of time and energy.
What marriage remains healthy without both parties putting in the effort to continuously improve one-another, and communicate well, and grow? Your dating, and engagement and wedding steps should all be for the setup of a great long-term relationship.
A final point on the church guest assimilation process is to stress how important it is to monitor it at each step. How many guests are choosing to go on the first date? How many are then moving into engagement? Where are people falling away? Only by knowing if you started with 100, and continuously checking, can you know if you need to go after the one.
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A.J. Mathieu is the President of the Malphurs Group. He is passionate about helping churches thrive and travels internationally to teach and train pastors to lead healthy disciple-making churches. A.J. lives in the Ft. Worth, Texas area, enjoys the outdoors, and loves spending time with his wife and two sons. Click here to email A.J.