It is early November. Thanksgiving is on the horizon, and Christmas is barreling toward us.
This means that three of your church’s four largest attendance periods occur in the next five months (Christmas, New Year’s, and Easter. The other is the beginning of the fall/back-to-school period.)
Most churches do an excellent job planning for these big attendance windows, and most have some plans to connect their guests.
ChurchOS calls this plan the Engagement Pathway. Our work with hundreds of churches reveals that most churches’ steps on the Engagement Pathway are too big for newcomers. For example, inviting someone to sign-up for a small group from your weekend services is a HUGE STEP.
We encourage the team to think in BABY STEPS of engagement when it comes to the ONE and their family. Nearly always, they think it’s small, and we ask them to make it smaller and more straightforward.
After all, most relationships begin with small steps. My wife and I started our nearly thirty-year relationship when I lost my keys at camp, and she helped me find them. It was a simple step, and the rest is history!
As you are making your BABY STEPS clear and small, here are some questions you should consider:
1. Is our language simple enough for a newcomer to understand?
Churches can become so comfortable with their facility, setting, and language that they often lose sight of how it feels to newcomers.
Lee LeFever described this problem as the curse of knowledge: “The more you know about something, the harder it is to imagine what it’s like not to know.”
A healthy practice is for every leader to regularly put themselves in unfamiliar situations to remind themselves how it feels to be new someplace.
One more thing: Churches are notorious for using creative names and terminology that confuse new people. We strongly encourage using words that are simple and descriptive. If it’s a student ministry event or new guest reception, call it that. Don’t call it a fancy name that feels creative but is confusing to someone new.
2. Can we invite people to something they were already going to do?
One church hosted a monthly event following church services at a local pizza shop where you can buy pizza by the slice. They invited newcomers to join some church leaders for pizza. (Offering to pay if needed, but most people didn’t take them up on the offer.)
Another church invited parents with young kids to meet at an underutilized public playground to hang out on a Sunday afternoon.
In these examples, they invited people to something they would do anyway (eat, go to a park, etc.), and it was on neutral ground.
3. How can we make the BABY steps relational, not programmatic?
Many churches utilize the “Welcome to Church” class. These classes often focus on discussing the church and its beliefs and programs. (Going back to the dating example. How would a date go if you spent the entire time talking about yourself? The answer: Not well.)
This approach also makes new guests feel like they have to agree on all of these things to continue the relationship with the church.
Focus your first interactions on the needs of your guests, and you’ll be amazed at how engagement increases.
4. How can you creatively ask, “What can we do to help you?” in various ways and settings?
Every person who engages with your church wants or needs something.
If your leaders can find creative, heartfelt ways to ask, “How can I help you?” at the welcome desk, pizza shop, introductory reception, or on the communication card, people will often tell you what their BABY STEP should be.
But you have to stop talking and listen. And you have to create the time and space for those conversations to occur naturally.
It’s time to amplify your engagement in this important season of ministry.
We are hearing again and again how guests are showing up for the first time. NOW is the time to do all you can to ensure they get connected to you, Jesus, and others in a simple way that makes sense…to them!
It can be the beginning of your journey toward multiplying your impact in 2023.
Speaking of 2023, don’t forget to register for the ChurchOS Conference. We can’t wait to see you in in Chandler, AZ on January 24-25, 2023!