Ten Church Strategies: The Assimilation Strategy
Just an FYI – I didn’t make up that word: assimilation. It sounds very, well, official and businesslike (or Star Trekish – I notice we all leave the Borg’s tagline off: ‘Resistance is futile’. Wise.). That word does represent what we hope will happen to our guests. Dictionary.com defines the word ‘assimilate’ as follows: ‘to take in and incorporate as one’s own; absorb.’ This is what most church leaders desire regarding the guests who darken their door each week. We hope they will start coming to church, like it, and stay – eventually becoming members and leaders themselves.
In this installment of the ‘Ten Church Strategies‘ series I’ll talk about creating your Assimilation Strategy, or what I prefer to call your Guest Friendly Strategy. Check out more posts on Guest Friendly right here.
Key Sub-Systems of The Assimilation Strategy:
Following are SIX key subsystems necessary for guest friendly assimilation at your church. These systems will intersect with many of the other ten systems, but most notably The Weekend Service Strategy, The Small Group Strategy, The Discipleship Strategy, and The Marketing Strategy.
- Guest Friendly Campus System (Facilities & Grounds)
First impressions matter. No matter how big or small your building and grounds, it’s critical that each area is built and maintained to serve both attendees and guests. This system will include outdoor signs, the cleanliness of the grounds, the parking lot and parking spaces for guests, your entry areas, interior signs, restrooms, sanctuary, and much more. (Check out ‘Guest Friendly Parking‘, ‘Guest Friendly Signage‘.)
- Guest Friendly Host Services System
I’ve heard it said that ‘people’s perception is their reality’. We create guest’s reality, whether it is true or not, by how well we host them. Unlike our regular attendees, who know what to do, where to go, and who to talk to, guests are mostly clueless. This system includes the development of all the people who will welcome and take care of guests, like ushers, greeters, and various kinds of hosts (cafe, parking, etc.). This system should also include all preparations surrounding the materials guests will receive when they arrive at church for the first time (welcome packet, gifts, new info. cards). (Check out ‘Guest Friendly Welcome‘.)
- Guest Friendly Service System
Next up is the guest friendly church service. This system actually fits almost entirely within The Weekend Service System, but is worth noting here for a few reasons. This system will focus primarily on the few small things that can be done in a service to ensure guests feel comfortable participating in the service. It may include things like reserved seats near the back, but more notably the language being used during the worship, announcements, offering, and message. Additionally, this system will help keep ‘insider‘ activities that would alienate or confuse a guest to a minimum. (Check out ‘Guest Friendly Perspective‘).
- Guest Friendly Follow Up
A successful Assimilation System should always include relevant and timely follow up. This may come in the form of phone calls, personal visits, letters, emails, Facebook or any number of other means. This system will help guests know they were noticed during the service and will welcome and encourage them to return again someday. (Check out ‘Guest Friendly Follow-Up’, ‘Guest Friendly Website‘.)
- Guest Friendly Next Steps
Probably one of the most important pieces of The Assimilation System will be the ‘Next Steps’ you create as a church to help move people from ‘guests’ to ‘regular attendees’ and eventually members. These systems will communicate next steps to your guests and will facilitate all of the follow up activities that you will ask guests to attend, view, or listen to. For many churches, the final assimilation ‘next step’ would be a membership class.
Note: Inspiration for the Ten Church Systems comes from Nelson Searcy and the Eight Systems of the Local Church he proposed in his free e-book entitled, ‘Healthy Systems, Healthy Church‘