The greatest challenge many churches face is knowing how to turn visitors into members and to retain them once they become members. For many churches, assimilation is their ‘Achilles heel” in evangelism. Assimilation is the process of integrating new believers into the church family and congregational life. This process doesn’t happen automatically and, unfortunately, in many local churches, doesn’t happen at all. Or it occurs haphazardly at best. Churches that want to make the most of their community outreach and attractional ministries must also be intentional and strategic in their assimilation.
Every church needs a plan for how to take people from their first visit to becoming fully developed members. Visitors cannot be expected to return without any intentional action on our part. Visitors are normally seeking and need specific direction. Likewise, new members need to be nurtured and guided in their faith development.
Core Practices – How It’s Done
· Use visitor information cards or bulletin inserts
· Respond to interests and visitors within a week
· Make weekly appeals
· Schedule regular reaping meetings
· Place new members in a small group especially designed for them
· Hold new member classes
· Have an intentional visitation program with new members
· Assign spiritual mentors to all new members
· Give new members spiritual gift training
· Train new members in friendship evangelism
· Plan frequent fellowship and social activities
Columbia Union Church Profiles
• Mountain View Conference
Driven by the principle that every member is a missionary for Jesus, conference leaders decided to partner with ShareHim Ministries (sharehim.org) to transform their churches into training centers. Since they started four years ago, conference leaders have held 30 ShareHim boot camps and helped graduate more than 80 individuals. About 75 percent of graduates go on to support the ShareHim meetings as greeters, ushers, technology personnel, etc., and more than half return every year for advanced training. Thirty of the graduates have already conducted their own meetings.
This Allegheny West Conference church in Cincinnati, OH has developed a spiritual mentoring ministry. Select members are invited and trained to serve as ‘spiritual guardians’ for new believers. They make weekly calls, arrange transportation, invite visitors home for a meal, join them at social functions, provide emotional support and assess needs. For more information on this new believer mentoring program contact the church office at (513) 961-5684
• Emmanuel – Brinklow
To keep new members of this Allegheny East church in Ashton, Md., from slipping away, the church formed a shepherding ministry. Members were divided into groups by their zip codes and encouraged to gather for Sabbath potlucks, Bible studies and social interactions. Now these small groups bond as they share struggles and joys. Another complementary initiative is their ‘Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?’ event organized by the Family Life department. The participants are then anonymously matched and meet their mystery-dining mates once they arrive. After the meal, church elders meet with each group to provide spiritual food. For more information contact the church office at (301) 924-3044 or visit their website at emmanueladventist.org.