Pastor, you may have a large crowd of attendees on Sunday morning—and still not have a congregation. The fact is that the crowd must become a church. People must be assimilated.
Assimilation is simply the task of moving people from an awareness of your church, to attendance at your church, and then to active membership in your church.
- The Community talks about “that church.”
- The Crowd talks about “this church.”
- The Congregation talks about “our church.”
Members have a sense of ownership. They are contributors, not just consumers.
Because the incorporation of new members into your church does not happen automatically, you have to develop a system and structure to assimilate and keep the people you reach. At Saddleback, our system is composed of two parts.
The first part of our assimilation system is a set of questions we ask ourselves:
- What does God expect from members of his church?
- What do we expect from our members right now?
- What kind of people already make up our congregation?
- How will that change in the next five to 10 years?
- What do our members value?
- What are new members’ greatest needs?
- What are our long-term members’ greatest needs?
- How can we make membership more meaningful?
- How can we ensure that members feel loved and cared for?
- What do we owe our members?
- What resources or services could we offer our members?
- How could we add value to what we already offer?
Because your congregation has a unique history, culture and growth rate, these questions are important. The answers will determine the assimilation plan that’s best for your situation.
But you’re not the only one with questions. Prospective members have their own set!
Before people commit to joining your church, they want to know the answers to five unspoken questions:
1. Do I fit here?
This is the question of acceptance. This question is best answered by establishing affinity groups within your church so that people with similar ages, interests, problems or backgrounds can find and relate to each other. Everyone needs a niche, and small groups play a crucial role in meeting this need. You must show people that you have a place for them.
2. Does anyone want to know me?
This is the question of friendship. You can answer this question by creating opportunities for people to develop relationships within your congregation. There are an unlimited number of ways you can do this, but it takes planning. Remember, people are not looking for a friendly church as much as they are looking for friends. People deserve individual attention.
3. Am I needed?
This is the question of value. People want to make contributions with their lives. They want their lives to count. They want to feel that they matter. When you can show people that they can make a difference with their gifts and talents by joining your church, they will want to be involved. Position your church as a creative place that needs the expression of all sorts of talents and abilities, not just singers, ushers and Sunday school teachers.
4. What is the advantage of joining?
This is the question of benefit. You must be able to clearly and concisely explain the reasons and benefits of membership. Explain the biblical, practical and personal reasons for membership.
5. What is required of members?
This is the question of expectations. You must be able to explain the responsibilities of membership as clearly as you state its benefits. People have a right to know what is expected of them before they join.