Each of us has heard of a church which has reached and baptized a lot of people only to see the church had no real growth in attendance from week to week. This is because the church had no real plan to assimilate the people it reached. Assimilation begins before the guests ever arrive at the church. It begins with making the right First impression. Are there parking spots reserved for guests? Is the entrance clearly marked? Are there people at the door to greet guests and help them?
“In our surveys of first-time guests, we hear repeatedly that one of the keys that caused them to return was a friendly first impression. Like it or not, it’s often a make or break issue for the guest”. Thom Rainier-Blog on Greeters
The pastor was astonished. He had just arrived at a Coptic monastery in the day’s journey from Cairo. The monks were treating him as though he were the most important guest they had received since the monastery was founded in the 12th century
They served him a fine meal, showed him to a comfortable room, brought him freshly cut flowers, and then introduced him to the abbot.
“Wow! You really know how to treat a visitor here.”
Father Jeremiah replied, “We always treat guests as though they were angels–just to be safe.”
2 Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it. Hebrews 13:2 (NASB77)
Research continues to show that relationships are the key. If a person makes as many as five friendships in a new church research shows they will be more active and remain in the church. If they establish less than five friendships, they will likely be gone in a couple of years.
“Our studies show that a new member who gets involved in a Sunday school class is five times more likely to be an active church member five years later than one who attends worship services only…….. And leaders in these churches seek to conserve their evangelistic gains by seeking to incorporate the new believers into a small group, most typically the Sunday School.” Thom Rainier, High Expectations
The key is to get Guests and new members into a Sunday School group where they can make friends and relationships. That requires work. There must be a process. Churches like LakePointe in Rockwall and Champion Forest in Houston have a written out plan of follow-up with the goal of getting them into a Sunday School group.
The plan must begin with the greeters, helping guest to find the appropriate Sunday School Class. Also it requires active follow-up.
According to Flavil Yeakley, there is a 36-hour window that makes all the difference in the world. If you make your first follow-up contact within 36 hours, there is a 50% greater chance the visitor will return next week. Jonathan Gainsbrugh, Winning the Backdoor War Page 102
Even Coke realizes the importance of relationships in its new marketing campaign to “Share a Coke with a (Friend, Neighbor, Dad , Mom, etc).”
The best organization the church has for follow-up and establishing relationships is the Sunday School. A pastor is wise to help his Sunday School to accomplish the task of assimilation if he wishes to grow a church instead of just seeing a lot of additions.
Dr. Mark Yoakum is the Director of Church Ministries for the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. He has served as Minister of Youth, Minister of Music, Minister of Education and Executive Pastor in churches in Missouri, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Texas.