How Effective is Your Assimilation Process?

While many churches implement a number of systems to help them manage the metrics that help them carry out their mission, assimilation often gets lost in the shuffle.

But assimilation, the process through which we forge interpersonal connections, plays a critical role in creating disciples. Assimilation – by fostering intimate relationships and interactions – lays the foundation for meaningful emersion in the church, and subsequently, intentional discipleship.

Assimilation begins with a person’s first visit to your church and ends when that person becomes connected to and engaged with your church. But it is possible, however, for someone to join a church without ever truly making a connection.

But you can’t steward someone without a relationship. Assimilation connects people to your church through relationships – so a church that does assimilation well will also create strong disciples.

So churches employ a variety of systems designed to help them carry out their mission because while assimilation is all about human interaction, systems help us identify and connect with real people and develop a growing relationship with God.

Assimilation includes four basic processes:

Hospitality: Do you leave the door open for guests of your home to walk in, or do you greet them at the door and warmly welcome them into your home?

Church hospitality is much the same. Feeling welcome is due largely in part to feeling comfortable and familiar – and first-time visitors don’t know how to find the restrooms, check their kids into the nursery, or get to the worship center.

And there are two ways to deal with hospitality – passively and actively. Passive hospitality provides directional signs and information for newcomers that make navigating the church easier.

But active hospitality calls for action. It welcomes newcomers with people available to greet and help anyone entering your doors.

Information Gathering: When churches gather information, they often pleasantly find that they had more visitors than they realized.

And while hospitality is hard to quantify, gathered information is easy to measure. Churches that gather information will fuel their ministry opportunities and make each person feel more valued and known.

So with accurate metrics, a church can not only know their attendance numbers, but also the number of new visitors and recognize changes in the attendance patterns of their returning congregants.

Think of it like this: If hospitality is the heart of your system, subjective and qualitative by nature, then information gathering is its head, objective and quantifiable – and actionable with follow-up.

Follow-Up: Following up and following through is an intentional process that gives life to information cards. It’s recognizing what people need, when they need it, and provides you the tools and insight to connect with them intimately. It will also help identify opportunities for pastoral ministry.

Follow-up helps the pastor engage individuals when they need pastoral ministry through information gathering that provides the dates, milestones and prayer requests that connect people when it matters most.

Connection: Many churches confuse attendance with connection. People who feel intrinsically connected to their church – that they are valued and that they matter – are people ready to delve deeper into their relationship with Christ. Connection marks the end of assimilation and the beginning of discipleship.

People often connect to church when they develop meaningful relationships, and helping them connect at a deeper level in your church creates opportunities for responsibility and ownership.

Because when people feel that their church is intimately invested in them, they are more likely to sacrificially and intimately invest in their church – becoming members, givers, servers and volunteers, and ultimately, intentional disciples.

Every church – of every size – must have a process that supports a fully functioning system to ensure no one gets lost, left out or overlooked. Because while no data should ever be more significant than the people it represents, that data facilitates assimilation. And the more powerful your assimilation process, the more powerful your church will be.

When guests – new and returning – arrive, take care to treat them as you would a guest in your home – thoughtfully, warmly and with a comforting joy that acknowledges the value of their presence.

Because ultimately, we as church leaders are responsible for the people who come through our doors. And as a godly leader, when you help ready a heart to be receptive to God and He is allowed to infiltrate everything they do, you are cultivating intentional disciples and stewarding the people God has brought through your doors to serve Him.


Want to learn more about an effective assimilation process? Connect with an Auxano Navigator today.


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Church Community Builder

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4 Areas That Drive Effective Church Assimilation

Every area of ministry in your church is enhanced when you focus on developing an effective assimilation process. Discipleship thrives because there’s a process in place to move people into a deeper relationship with Christ. Community flourishes because people feel connected. Overall church health improves because there’s a plan in place to help people continually grow.

While each church’s assimilation process is unique, there are certainly elements included in every process. Here are the four primary parts or processes that need inspection if you want to build an effective assimilation process in your church:

1. Hospitality

There are two elements to successful hospitality—passive hospitality and active hospitality. Passive hospitality includes directional signs and maps that make navigating the campus easier. Active hospitality involves real people who watch for ways to assist anyone entering the facility.

Are your volunteers trained and equipped to provide the kind of active hospitality needed to make first-time guests feel welcome?

2. Information Gathering

It is overwhelming when churches provide too many ways for the first-time visitor to connect. Don’t provide a catalog of options. Make it very simple and clear. Provide one or two primary options for taking the next step. As people move deeper, you can record more valuable information to increase the level of commitment.

Do you have a simple process for intentionally gathering information that helps you connect with every single person who walks through your doors on Sunday?

3. Follow Up

This doesn’t require a lot of creativity — simply follow up with your visitors and say hello. While this may seem too easy, it is important to evaluate your process regularly! Effective follow-up should help your members and visitors experience one-on-one ministry.

Is your follow-up process leading to more relational connections with the people in your church or are you letting people slip through the cracks?

4. Connection

This step is the end of assimilation and the beginning of discipleship. There should be a smooth handoff to someone who can guide people to go deeper in their relationship with God and their connection to the church. If you aren’t assimilating people, you will be increasing the number of spectators rather than growing strength in the Body of Christ through active disciples.

How are you moving people from visiting your church to becoming active members?

The difference between a church that has successful assimilation and one that doesn’t is how well these parts are working individually and collectively. If any of these four areas in your church’s assimilation process need a “tune up,” check out “The Assimilation Engine.” Effective assimilation can multiply your ministry efforts and maximize your Kingdom impact.

Is your church’s assimilation engine running well? What area needs the most improvement?

Read more from Steve here.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Steve Caton

Steve Caton

Steve Caton is part of the Leadership Team at Church Community Builder. He leverages a unique background in technology, fundraising and church leadership to help local churches decentralize their processes and equip their people to be disciple makers. Steve is a contributing author on a number of websites, including the Vision Room, ChurchTech Today, Innovate for Jesus and the popular Church Community Builder Blog. He also co-wrote the eBook “Getting Disciple Making Right”. While technology is what Steve does on a daily basis, impacting and influencing the local church is what really matters to him……as well as enjoying deep Colorado powder with his wife and two sons!

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2 Ways to Solve the Guest Experience Problem You Don’t Know You Have

In my blog I have referred many times to my days of church consultation, particularly those experiences where we sent one of our consultants to be a first-time guest in a church. He or she would return with a report of those experiences, and the report would eventually be consolidated with other information for the church.

I have nearly 300 of these “mystery guest” reports. Both Chuck Lawless and I have posted about them on this blog.

In the past, the mystery guests would “grade” the visit based on several criteria. Less than 20 percent of these reports were graded “B” (good visit) or higher.

The Recent Surprise about Guest Visits

In light of the woeful reports from mystery guests, I was very surprised at one facet of some recent research we conducted as we interviewed pastors across America.* One of our questions asked if the pastor’s church does a good job of meeting the needs of first time guests. Surprisingly, 90 percent of the pastors said “yes.”

Did you get that? Less than 20 percent of the guests said their visit was good, but 90 percent of the pastors perceive the opposite, that most guests have a good visit.

Why is there such a discrepancy between the pastors’ perceptions and the real experiences of the guests? May I suggest five reasons many pastors have blindness regarding the first-time guests?

  1. Gradual slippage is hard to detect. The pastors see the church almost every day. Daily deterioration of the facilities and slight slippage in ministries are almost impossible to detect. Over time, though, the slippage can become a major deficiency.
  2. Relationships can blind them to reality. The pastor has many good relationships in the church. The people he knows are friendly to each other and to him. He does not perceive that they are not so friendly to strangers.
  3. The pastor has received positive feedback from some guests. But the pastor rarely hears from those who have had a bad experience.
  4. The pastor does not intentionally ask for feedback from all guests. There is no system in place that attempts to hear from everyone who visits.
  5. The feedback from members is positive. Pastors and members often feel positive about the friendliness of members to one another. The pastor then assumes the members’ attitude and friendliness to each other is the same for guests.

Two Possible Approaches

When I was a pastor, I took two approaches to keeping myself grounded and aware of how our church was perceived by guests. I subsequently used it as a church consultant with a lot of success.

First, I hired two mystery guests to visit our church. Each visit was six months apart. I paid them a small stipend for their efforts. One of the guests would be a Christian and a regular churchgoer. But he or she could have never been to our church before. The other person was not a Christian and, likewise, never visited our church. I gave them a form to complete and left room for open comments. Their insights were invaluable.

Second, each guest who was willing to complete a guest card received a letter from me. Included in the letter were a $10 gift card to Baskin Robbins and a stamped response form. We specifically asked them not to use their names, and to write frankly about their experiences at our church. We often received many of these evaluations back; they were of tremendous value in helping us discern how guests perceived us.

So why do you think pastors have such a positive view of the guest experiences of their church? What would you do to stay better informed?

Read more from Thom here.

 

*LifeWay Research conducted a telephone survey of 1,007 Protestant pastors from September 4-19, 2013. The calling list was a stratified random sample of all Protestant churches. Each interview was conducted with the senior pastor, minister, or equivalent. Responses were weighted to reflect the geographic distribution and denominational (or non-denominational) groups of Protestant churches. The complete sample provides 95% confidence that the sampling error does not exceed +/- 3.1%.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Thom Rainer

Thom Rainer

Thom Rainer is the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources.  Prior to LifeWay, he served at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary for twelve years where he was the founding dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism.  He is a 1977 graduate of the University of Alabama and earned his Master of Divinity and Ph.D. degrees from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. In addition to speaking in hundreds of venues over the past 20 years, Rainer led Rainer Group, a church and denominational consulting firm, from 1990 to 2005. The firm provided church health insights to over 500 churches and other organizations over that period. Rainer and his wife, Nellie Jo, have three grown sons: Sam, Art and Jess, who are married to Erin, Sarah and Rachel respectively.  The Rainers have six grandchildren: Canon, Maggie, Nathaniel, Will (with the Lord), Harper, and Bren. He is the author of twenty-four books, including Breakout Churches, Simple Life, Simple Church, Raising Dad, The Millennials, and Essential Church.  His latest book, Autopsy of a Deceased Church, was released in 2014 by B&H Publishing Group.

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jmonda — 10/29/13 11:47 am

The one thing that would make this article better would be to include the forms that were used or a sample of a form that could be used to give to the "mystery guests" as well as what was used for the guests that completed a visitor card.

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Is Your Church Missing an Opportunity to Connect People at Weekend Services? Learning from a Willow Creek Reboot

I sat in on a meeting at Willow Creek recently while Bill Hybels was casting some vision for the church’s new connection strategy…helping people find a place of friendship based on where they sit on weekends, then inviting them to connection events and gatherings.

It is not a new strategy; many of you have used this for decades with a twist or two in the method. And some of you will remember we taught this for years to group life to point leaders, encouraging them to “Leverage Your Auditorium” as a strategic step for connection.  But some churches are still missing an opportunity to connect people at weekend services.

While this remains an “attractional” strategy (connecting people who come to the campus versus going into the community), it is a ripe opportunity each church has to connect with people who are already sitting there.

As I listened to the talk (1 of 4 vision Bill is doing for core leader teams) I had a flashback to my arrival to Willow in 1992. We were laser-focused on making disciples as the central part of our mission at that time.  There was much fruit in those days that came from the hard work of hundreds of disciple-makers led by Mark Weinert, Don Cousins, Judson Poling, and many others using a group-based discipleship model. It was a whole-team effort with a clear strategy to support it.

Our challenge was how to get more people into the process and make group life more accessible for those who had trouble finding a group. So we focused on the one thing you absolutely must do in disciple-making: connection.  As we wrestled with the right wording for building a church filled with group life, our team leader asked: “What is our infinitive? To grow…to disciple…to reach…to develop? What is it? How will it be your mission focus? Because it will become the central purpose of our mission in the first phase.”

What is your infinitive? What a great question!

After much discussion we made a decision. Our infinitive would be…

“TO CONNECT.”

Why? Because you cannot make committed disciples without connection. You can certainly try. Especially if you have a definition of “connection” that is less than personal and relational. Yes, there are non-relational strategies used in closed or persecuted countries, but you can bet there is not one follower in these countries who thrives by being alone. Discipleship requires People-ship. (A word from the Donahue Lectionary of Community-building!).

Our mission for the group life ministry at Willow in 1992:

To connect people relationally in groups of 4-10 people for the purpose of growing in Christlikeness, loving one another, and contributing to the work of the church, in order to glorify God and make disciples of all nations.

I did not hunt through old folders to look that up. I did not need to…I have it memorized, ingrained in my head from the beginning. TO CONNECT.

If you do not connect people, you cannot disciple people. Period.

…and he chose the 12 that they might be WITH HIM and that he might send them out to preach… (Mark 3:14)

So today…21 years later…Willow Creek is re-focused on a workable connection strategy so that people who arrive unconnected can find a relationship. Such a strategy must be about more than just filling seats at services. There must be an overall disciple-making strategy, equipped leadership, empowered people based on gifts (not just ministry slots to fill on campus), and movement beyond a come-and-see outreach focus to a missional go-and-serve/love/gather strategy off-campus.

You need a comprehensive approach, and I can help you process that change if you want to chat about that.

Remember: You cannot stop at connection…but you cannot start without connection.

To reach out to the many disconnected, pass-through people (visiting a couple weeks and out the door a few weeks later), it will provide an essential first step along the path.

What are you doing to leverage your auditorium or worship center for connection? Do people feel welcome, known, and cared for during their weekend experience at a service?

Read more from Bill here.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bill Donahue

Bill’s vision is: “Resourcing life-changing leaders for world-changing influence.” Leaders and their teams need a clear personal vision and a transformational team strategy. This requires work in 3 key areas: Maximize Leadership Capacity, Sharpen Mission Clarity & Build Transformational Community. Bill has leadership experience in both the for-profit and non-profit arena. After working for P&G in New York and PNC Corp. in Philadelphia, Bill was Director of Leader Development & Group Life for the Willow Creek Church & Association where he created leadership strategies and events for over 10,000 leaders on 6 continents in over 30 countries.

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Sorry, the author of this content has removed the links at the original source!
 
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The hypertext link is broken for the pdf download - can it be fixed? Thanks!
 
— Steve Elliott
 
What happens when u dont have a meeting place any more. And u was forced out because the buliding wasnt available any more.
 
— Debra
 

Clarity Process

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The Story of the Table and Understanding Your Audience by Seth Godin

Brilliant simplicity from Seth Godin:

The person who invented the banquet table, the round table for ten, wasn’t doing it to please those at the banquet or even the banquet organizer. He did it because this is the perfect size for the kitchen and the servers. The table for ten is a platonic ideal of the intersection of the geometry of bread baskets, flower arrangements and salad dressing. Bigger and you couldn’t reach, smaller and there’s no room.

But, here’s the thing: the table for ten isolates everyone at it. You can’t talk to your left without ignoring your right, and you can’t talk across the table without yelling. And so, the very thing you’ve set up to engage the audience actually does the opposite. This is even true if you’re taking nine people out for dinner–ten at a table undermines what you set out to do.

Worse, if you’re brave enough to have a speaker or a presentation at your banquet, you’ve totally undermined your goals. Half the audience is looking in the wrong direction, and there are huge circles of empty white space that no microphone can overcome.

In my experience–I’m sharing a hugely valuable secret here–you score a big win when you put five people at tables for four instead. Five people, that magical prime number, pushes everyone to talk to everyone. The close proximity makes it more difficult to find a place for the bread basket, but far, far easier for people to actually do what they came to do, which is connect with one another.

Thousands of speeches later, I can tell you that the single worst thing an organizer can do to her event is sit people at tables for ten.

If you want to let the banquet manager run your next event, by all means, feel free. Just understand that his goals are different from yours.

>> At your next event with table seating, are you ready to take a risk and change the dynamics of connections?

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

VRcurator

Bob Adams is Auxano's Vision Room Curator. His background includes over 23 years as an associate/executive pastor as well as 8 years as the Lead Consultant for a church design build company.

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Sorry, the author of this content has removed the links at the original source!
 
— VRcurator
 
The hypertext link is broken for the pdf download - can it be fixed? Thanks!
 
— Steve Elliott
 
What happens when u dont have a meeting place any more. And u was forced out because the buliding wasnt available any more.
 
— Debra
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.