Why Have a Connection Class?

Choosing to Join King’s Grant Baptist Church is an important decision. People today will wonder in and out of our services without ever understanding how important church membership is unless pastors and leaders help them understand that, but also properly shepherd them through the process of joining. I include church leaders because the pastor cannot do it alone.

According to LifeWay research, 64% of churches either have nothing to assimilate new members, or no systemic plan to move people towards membership. This is why I offer the Connection Class several times throughout the year.

Connection Classes Help Guard the Purity of the Church: In our culture the statement “I am a Christian” can mean different things to different people, so it is important to make sure that everyone desiring membership in our church understands and believes the gospel. During a class we might find some people have never heard the gospel clearly articulated even if they grew up in church. So, it is so helpful to talk about the “secrets of being a healthy and happy church member.” The key to health and happiness in church membership is understanding salvation. It is so good to hear someone’s testimony along with presenting a basic gospel presentation before they join our church. Our Connection class provides church the opportunity to explain the gospel clearly.

Connection Classes Help People Understand the Church: These classes help people in the church to be “on the same page.” I believe that a prospective member should know what the church believes on essential and non-essential doctrines, the meaning of church ordinances, how a church works, and how it makes decisions, with who we associate and partner, lifestyle beliefs. We also spend time communicating the church vision, core values, and explain its ministry philosophy can be an important aspect of helping someone make the decision to join the church. Teaching these things can also help new people learn what they can expect from the church leaders, processes, and its ministries, and what the congregation can expect out of them.

Connection Classes Help People Plug In to Serve the Church: We need to provide an effective environment to plug people into serving in our church. All members have certain gifts and abilities that can be used in serving God and others through the church. When someone first joins, it can be difficult to figure out where to get involved. We cannot assume that a new member will automatically want to get involved in ministry and will know how to do so. In our Connection Class, people learn that the congregation expects them to get involved, and learn of entry level opportunities for service.

Connection Classes Help Guard the Unity of the Church: When a church emphasizes membership expectations, we are able to raise the bar of membership. While a scary thing, we also should talk about what would happen if church members did not live up to membership expectations. Clarity in the Connection Class goes a long way in setting the church member on the right path. This information can serve to preempt potential church discipline issues later on.

Connection Classes Help People Assimilate Into the Church: We see the class as an opportunity to encourage regular attendees to get to know other potential members of the church, as well as leaders in the church. While the primary purposes of the Connection Class is for church orientation and teaching doctrine, mission, values, and vision, this relational orientation to church leaders is a very positive thing.

The writers of the New Testament assumed that the local churches to whom they were writing had a clear understanding of who was a member of the church and who was not (1 Corinthians 5:2; Colossians 4:5; Galatians 6:10). The Connection Class is one of the most effective ways to examine, assimilate, and clearly guide new members into our church family.

[print_link] [email_link] Adapted from Matt Capps, and Ministry Grid

Church Guests Have Questions

It’s important to encourage attenders to join our church — because they’ll NEVER grow spiritually without a commitment to live out what the Bible teaches while in a relationship with others.

As we encourage church membership, it’s important to keep in mind these five unspoken needs that prospective members are looking for our church to meet.

  • Will I be accepted at this church? – We meet this need best by establishing affinity groups within our 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. We must show people that we have a place for them. Our Sunday and Wednesday opportunities are great because they can get involved, and if they have children, there is a quality and comprehensive process for discipling kids.
  • Will I find friends at this church? – People are looking for opportunities to develop relationships within our congregation. People aren’t looking for a friendly church as much as they’re looking for friends. The most common feedback we get off the Connection Cards and e-mail surveys is that we are a friendly and welcoming church. Let’s NOT just be polite but bring people in to our circles of commitment.
  • How will I make a difference at this church? – People want to make contribution with their lives. They want their lives to count. They want to feel that they matter. When we can show people that they can make a difference with their gifts and talents by joining our church, they will want to get involved. What can we dream up to get people involved, that will need all sorts of talents and abilities — not just singers, ushers and small group leaders. Take a look here on ways to get involved.
  • How will I benefit from joining this church? – We must be able to clearly and concisely explain the reasons and benefits of membership. Explain the biblical, practical, and personal reasons for membership. We have put together a simple brochure on what membership is so important.
  • What will be expected of me at this church? We must be able to explain the responsibilities of membership as clearly as we state the benefits of it. People have a right to know what is expected of them before they join. The Connections Class is a great way to get to know people who are on a similar life journey and to understand what King’s Grant membership is all about.

[print_link] [email_link] [ Adapted From Rick Warren ]

Why Guests Don’t Return

I recently read about ten ways to ensure guest DON’T return to our church, (written in the first person):

  1. Offer no easy way to plug in to community: Don’t tell me about small groups. Make me wait forever to plug in, or make me do extensive work to even figure out what kind of groups you offer.
  2. Don’t welcome me in the parking lot: Just do your job, don’t speak to me as I walk in, and offer a bit of an “it-is-early-on-a-Sunday-morning” scowl.
  3. Don’t acknowledge I’m in the service: Give no head nod to “first timers,” “guests,” or “folks just checking us out.” In fact, just speak to the inner core, the “members.”
  4. Acknowledge me too much: Call me out and have me stand up. Ask me to publicly share my name and darkest secrets.
  5. Don’t give much thought or care to your kids’ ministry: People don’t care if their children are safe, watched after, and learn the Bible. Nope. Let them run amuck.
  6. Pass the offering plate twice: Or three times, and shame me into giving you money.
  7. Don’t share the gospel or challenge me spiritually: Because that’s not why people come to church, is it to be stretched to grow spiritually, is it? Oh, wait, maybe that’s one of the main reasons they show up.
  8. Ask me to give my e-mail address, then spam me: Overwhelm me, starting on Monday morning, with news from every single ministry your church has ever offered.
  9. Visit me at home: Show up during dinner time, if you can, or while I’m trying to put my son to bed. That would be ideal, please. Our generation loves the random church-member pop-in when we aren’t even sure we like your church.
  10. Pastor, disappear as soon as you finish preaching: Go back to the greenroom, or Starbucks. But don’t position yourself in the hallway. You are a diva, after all.

If you want visitors to return, be warm and inviting. Challenge people to grow. Offer various opportunities to plug in and serve. Then get out of the way and give people the chance to explore.

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The Top Three Assimilation Mistakes

Nelson Searcy hosted and led a webinar on January 25, 2011. I’m familiar with his book called Fusion, where he outlines the assimilation process at the Journey Church in NYC. At King’s Grant we moved toward the phrase Connection Process, because my people were unfamiliar with the term “assimilation” relating to the church. I used his information and elaborated with KGBC specific information.

Quotes:

  1. “Experience is the name everyone gives to their mistakes.” — Oscar Wilde (1854-1900), Lady Windermere’s Fan, 1892, Act III
  2. “Mistakes are the portals of discovery.” — James Joyce (1882-1941)
  3. “If I had my life to live over… I’d dare to make more mistakes next time.” — Nadine Stair
  4. “Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.” — Scott Adams, ‘The Dilbert Principle’
  5. “If I had to live my life again, I’d make the same mistakes, only sooner.” — Tallulah Bankhead (1903-1968)
  6. “All men make mistakes, but only wise men learn from their mistakes.” — Winston Churchill (1874-1965)
  7. “People say ‘no’ to what is confusing.” — Nelson Searcy

Why Avoid Mistakes?

  1. To keep people from falling through the cracks.
  2. To reach people for Christ (evangelism).
  3. To grow the church.
  4. To become a friendly church.
  5. To grow your people (discipleship).
  6. God commands it; to grow the church and grow leaders.

Mistake #1 – Poor or No Follow up with First Time Guests
They say that common sense is not common practice. Fruit is in the follow-up. There is no way to follow up if we do not gather information. Much of this webinar focused on the Fusion process.

  1. Collecting information on the Connection Card.
  2. E-mail contact – sent within 36 hours (thanks, come again, praying for you, invitation to feedback).
  3. Letter contact – received within 96 hours (hand-written, by senior pastor, on note-sized stationary, hand addressed, with first class stamp, thanks, come again, praying for you, include the gift card).
  4. Stop sending form letters.
  5. A-B-C Mail Pile Theory:
    1. C = circulars, junk mail, right to the trash.
    2. B = magazines, bills, not urgent, will set aside to review later.
    3. A = open immediately, hand written address, personal sized envelop, wow-factor.

Mistake #2 – An Under-developed Theology of Hospitality
This primarily comes when we forget how a first time guest feels arriving at an unfamiliar place. They are not familiar with where to park, where to enter the building, what to do with their children, where to locate a restroom. The first time guest needs to be directed from the street to their seat. Emphasize they need to be:

  1. Greeted properly, the law of the first seven minutes.
  2. Directed properly, like to the children’s area, the sanctuary, the rest rooms.
  3. Treated properly, with respect and thoughtfulness.
  4. Seated properly, escorted in, introduced to others.

Insiders vs. Outsiders: the church may believe they are already a friendly church, but only if you are an insider. Outsiders feel like they are coming to someone else’s family reunion.

  1. The language is unfamiliar (sanctuary, Harvest Hall, bulletin, church language).
  2. The procedures are unfamiliar (where to sit, when to stand, when to use the hymnal, what to do with the Connection Card).
  3. This leads to less salvations and spiritual growth than God intends.

The Eight Systems of a Church: assimilation effects all the other systems of the church.

  1. Evangelism: learn how to attract a crowd to worship every week.
  2. Assimilation: learn how to move people from first-time guests to membership in your church.
  3. Worship Planning: learn how to plan, implement and evaluate the weekend services at your church to bring people to Christ.
  4. Small Groups: learn how to fill and produce small groups in your church.
  5. Ministry: learn how to mobilize people for significant ministry.
  6. Stewardship: learn how to disciple extravagant givers in your church.
  7. Leadership: learn how to develop leaders at all levels of your church.
  8. Strategy: learn how to constantly evaluate and improve your church.

Hospitality in Diagram:

Mistake #3 – An Unclear Assimilation Process

The process must be written. One must be able to explain it to others. People say “no” to what is confusing. It’s not that they don’t want to visit again, or join, but that they are unsure what the next steps may be.

Guest Ratio:

  • 3:100 (three guests per 100 members) = staying even, due to attrition, deaths, people moving, people becoming dissatisfied.
  • 5:100 = able to grow.
  • 7:100 = optimal growth.

The Principle of Spiritual Readiness: God will not give us those whom we are not prepared to receive.
My preparation precedes God’s blessing. We want to receive first.
Like saying to the stove, “if you give me heat, I’ll fill you with wood.”
Like a farmer saying, “if you send me a crop, I will sow the seeds.”

The Connection Process at King’s Grant:

The spaces between the blocks are for emphasis:

  1. Return: from first time guest to second time guest (get people to come back).
  2. Relationship: from second time guest to regular attendee (get people into smaller groups).
  3. Responsibility: from regular s=attendee to fully devoted member (get people to exercise their giftedness).

Mistake #4 – the Pastor Abdicates Assimilation to Someone Else

This was the bonus mistake for making it through the full hour. The difference between abdication and delegation: Abdication is to cast off and relinquish formally, while delegation is the act of empowering another to act. The pastor cannot wash his hands of the process, buy the kit and tell a staff member to simply do it. The pastor leads this process, emphasizing the importance of the process, and by actively investing himself within the process.

  1. Searcy emphasizes the hand-written notes from the senior pastor, the one who was the teaching pastor that morning. He does the first 30 himself, and then gets a staffer with a similar penmanship to write with him.
  2. Prepare for double the guests than you expect, showing an anticipation that God is going to bring people your way. This is the principle of expectation and readiness.
  3. Grow as a leader, schedule the next seminar. Leaders and readers, find out what others are doing and adapt it to your situation, don’t spend all your time reinventing the wheel.

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Our Goal is Getting Connected

My primary responsibilities on staff involve helping people to get better connected to God and our church, and the development of small groups; I see the two as being compatible. But getting connected is not automatic for a lot of people. Many are content to sit back and receive what the church has to offer, but do not understand that the entire body needs to be functioning if the body is to be healthy.

The world has never been more connected. Companies are laying millions of miles of fiber optics and shooting satellites into space. Kids all around the world are texting each other on cell phones, yet we hear about people all the time who feel more and more disconnected. They feel like they’re out of touch and lonely. Loneliness can come even when we are surrounded by a million people in Virginia Beach.

Our fast-moving lives wreak havoc on our relationships. We don’t feel nearly as connected to each other as people did a generation ago. We are not sitting on the front porch at sundown, watching the kids play and talking to neighbors over the back fence. These days we can close our electronic garage door and step into our house without even greeting our neighbors.

Yet we were created for relationship. The first thing God said was, “It’s not good for man to be alone.” God said that human beings were not made for isolation. We were made for connection. Why? We were created in the image of God. The Bible says God is love. And to love, you’ve got to have somebody else around you.

One of the crucial purposes of our church is to help people get rid of this sense of disconnection. There are people in our facility every weekend who aren’t connected to our church in a meaningful way. That’s why from time to time we offer the Connections Class.

Part of that class emphasizes the four great word pictures of the New Testament church. These metaphors tell us a lot about why God wants us to connect with one another. They give us a picture of what the church should be.

The Bible says that that being spiritually connected means:

We’re built like a building: “In Christ you are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God” (Ephesians 2:22 NRSV). We are meant to fit together like bricks in a new building. It’s essential that the parts of a building fit together. You aren’t safe otherwise because there’s no support. Those who aren’t connected to the church family in any meaningful way have no support. Life is tough. We all need the support of people who care about us. King’s Grant can provide that for the people in our community.

We’re joined in a body: “Just as there are many parts to our bodies, so it is with Christ’s Body. We are all parts of it, and it takes every one of us to make it complete, for we each have different work to do. So we belong to each other, and each of us needs all the others” (Romans 12: 4-5 TLB). That which Jesus did when he was here in his physical body, he wants to do today through our church. We are the body of Christ on Earth. We are his hands. We are his feet. All of us have to play our part. Being part of the body of Christ means we are a part of something bigger than ourselves, and if we don’t play our specific part, the mission of the church is impacted.

We’re born into a family: “I want you to know how people who are members of God’s family must live. God’s family is the church” (1 Timothy 3:15 GW). I like this one because it doesn’t take any explanation. Most people think that Christianity is a belief system. There are beliefs in Christianity, but it’s so much more. Christianity is a belong system. The Bible says we were born again into God’s family when we became a follower of Jesus. It also says that we have been adopted into God’s family. Both are great metaphors for what it should mean to be a part of the church.

Because those of us who follow Christ are part of God’s family, we should accept one another and love one another. Now let me be very clear here. We don’t approve of everyone’s behavior. That’s not love. If someone is doing something hurtful, approval is the opposite of love. But we must accept and love one another. Your family hasn’t always approved of everything you’ve done, but – I hope – they’ve loved you anyway. That’s a picture of the church that your congregation needs to see.

We’re attached to a vine: “Live in me, and I will live in you. A branch cannot produce any fruit by itself. It has to stay attached to the vine. In the same way, you cannot produce fruit unless you live in me” (John 15:4 GW). Being connected isn’t just a horizontal issue. It’s a vertical one as well. Our people need to be connected to God himself, and Jesus says when we are connected to him it’s like being attached to a vine. Fruit not connected to a vine dies. It’s that simple. Our people can have all the interpersonal relationships possible, but if they are not connected to God, they will not have the life that God wants them to have.

Paul continues Jesus’ metaphor when he talks about the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23. When we’re connected to the True Vine, there will be certain spiritual fruit in our lives. If you’re connected with God, those fruit will characterize your life, and that’s the kind of connection we all want.

From the Connections Class workbook, I teach about six symbols of the church:

  1. The Church is a Fellowship:
    • Acts 2:42 – (they devoted themselves to fellowship, prayer, teaching…).
    • Ephesians 4:3 – (united in spirit, bonded with peace).
    • Romans 14:19 – (aim for harmony in the church, build each other up).
    • John 17:23 – (Jesus desires complete unity, so the world will know that the Father sent the Son, and loves them).
  2. The Church is a Family:
    • First Peter 3:8 – (be of one mind, sympathize with each other, love each other, have compassion, love, humility).
    • Galatians 6:10 – (do good to all, especially to those in the household).
    • Hebrews 2:10-12 – (we are declared to be holy and brothers of Jesus).
    • First Peter 4:17 – (judgment begins with the family or household of God…).
    • First Timothy 5:1-2 – (speak to others as fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters).
    • First Timothy 3:4-5 – (must manage his own family well to lead God’s family).
  3. The Church is a Flock (Jesus’ favorite description for the church).
    • John 10:1-30, Matthew 26:31, Matthew 25:33 – (Jesus’ imagery with sheep).
    • John 21:16-17 – (the flock is led by a shepherd).
    • First Peter 5:1-2 – (overseers and shepherds are leaders of the church).
    • Acts 20:17-18, 28 – (elders are to keep watch over them, like shepherds).
    • Titus 1:5-7, 1 Timothy 5:17 – (elders will direct the affairs of the church).
  4. The Church is a Body (not a business, an organism not an organization):
    • First Corinthians 12:27 – (we are members of Christ’s body).
    • Ephesians 5:23 – (He is Savior of the body, His church).
    • Ephesians 1:22-23, Colossians 1:18 – (and the church is His body, made full and complete).
    • Colossians 2:19 – (Christ is head of the body and He holds it together).
    • Romans 12:4-6 – (the members of the body working together).
  5. The Church is a Bride:
    • Second Corinthians 11:2 – (…I promised you as a pure bride to one husband, who is Christ).
    • Isaiah 62:4 – (Your new name will be “The City of God’s Delight” and “The Bride of God,” for the Lord delights in you and will claim you as his bride).
    • Revelation 19:7 – (…For the time has come for the wedding feast of the Lamb, and his bride has prepared herself).
    • Revelation 21:9 – (Then one of the seven angels … said to me, “Come with me! I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb”).
  6. The Church is a Building:
    • First Corinthians 3:9-10 – (…you are God’s field, God’s building. … I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care).
    • Ephesians 2:20-21 – (In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit).

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