God is creating a church that people love to come to. But, what if, rather than just creating a church that people love to come to - what if we also created a church that people refuse to leave."
For years, the primary focus in many churches has been on the “front door”—people coming into the church. And while such an emphasis remains the Great Commission priority, our leaders are equally concerned with integrating newcomers into the life of the church.
Researchers have discovered four major factors that are at work when churches close the back door effectively. If all four are in play, the back door closed tight. But any one of these factors still contributes to more effective assimilation.
1. High Expectations
2. Small Groups
Second, churches that close the back door seek to get as many of their members as possible into small groups. Connections and life-change happens best in small groups. If you are only a Sunday attender, let me challenge you to be involved at a deeper level in our spiritual family. You will be blessed. You can find a list of our small groups on our website at www.heart4communtiy.org. It is in our small groups that we begin “doing life together.”
3. Ministry Involvement
The third key component is ministry involvement. The earlier a new member or attendee can get involved in a church’s ministries, the higher the likelihood of effective assimilation. This is a critical time-frame that our ministry leaders monitor closely. Churches that close the back door have a clear plan to get people involved and doing ministry as quickly as possible. We currently have a high guest-retention rate – one reason is that newcomers get involved in serving very quickly. Incidentally, the newcomer I mentioned at the beginning of this article - signed up to serve the second Sunday she and her husband attended.
4. Relationship Connections
Finally, the more new members connect with longer-term members, the greater the opportunity for assimilation. In an interesting twist in the research, they found that most of these relationships developed before the new member ever came to the church. In other words, members were intentionally developing relationships with people outside the walls of the church. They invited them to church after the relationship had been established.
You’ll have to judge how we are doing in each of these areas. One thing I would ask is that you help make Community a “sticky church.”