Home Outreach Leaders Articles for Outreach & Missions 5 Incredible Steps to Closing the Back Door in Your Congregation

5 Incredible Steps to Closing the Back Door in Your Congregation

If you want to close the back door in your church, read these five incredible steps.

By “closing the back door,” I am referring to assimilating newcomers and keeping those who have become a part of the church involved. The sad reality is that many churches have less than one-half of their members showing up at any one point. They are “walking out the back door.”

Why they are incredible

Words have meaning. We are always in danger of miscommunicating, misleading or overstating. When I use the word “incredible,” I do so for a specific reason. In this case, I am simply saying I know that these steps are working in real life. They are not merely the theory of one guy behind a keyboard.

In fact, I had a conversation recently with a pastor who told me the assimilation rate in his church for the previous two years was more than 90 percent. Did you read that statement carefully? Nine out of 10 of those who connected with the church the past two years are still active.

The five steps

The process is not difficult. It just requires execution and persistence. Once initiated, these five steps become a natural flow of the church’s ministry.

1. Adopt a mission statement that includes the importance of members getting involved in a group. For example, if the mission statement is “Love God, Connect with Others, Serve Others and Give Abundantly,” the second part of the mission statement (“Connect with Others”) would refer to the importance of a church member getting involved in a small group, Sunday school class or some other group.

2. Communicate the importance of groups in your new members’ class. In fact, some churches require the prospective member to connect with a group as a requisite for membership. This statement obviously assumes that the church has a new members’ class in place.

3. Make certain the church is intentional about starting new groups. This step is a key if you are diligently moving new members to groups. New groups in particular will be attractive to these new members. They will not have to break into existing relationship patterns.

4. Have a leadership group review the status of new members at least once a quarter. In the church I mentioned earlier, the ministry staff takes that initiative. Some church leaders do this review once a month; others do so once a quarter. One of the primary purposes of this review is to determine if new church members have become active in a group.

5. Follow-up persistently if a church member is not in a group. Another church I know has a “meal plan” follow-up. They make certain an existing member of a group takes the new member out to eat and invites him or her to join the group. The success rate has been very high.

Why these steps are important

Church members in a group are more likely to read their Bibles regularly. They are more likely to share their faith. They give more abundantly to the church. And they are much more likely to “stick” with the church over time. In fact, in earlier studies, I learned that a member who was in a group was five times more likely to stick with a church than a member who was not.

So, these five steps are not some new entrepreneurial discovery. They are basic. They get people in the Word studying with others. They engender new relational connections. They create an implicit system of accountability.

And they also get members to stick.

The back door is closed.  



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Thom S. Rainer is the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources (LifeWay.com). Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam, Art, and Jess; and six grandchildren. He was founding dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism, and Church Growth at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. His many books include Surprising Insights from the Unchurched, The Unexpected Journey, and Breakout Churches.