Connecting People to the Church

5:30 AM

Recently I built an addition onto my storage facility, and I needed it wired for electricity. There was only one problem--we had no main power run to the building. I decided to go ahead and wire the shed anyway, in hopes that, one day, I could run a permanent power line. Until then I would just use a very long extension cord. Through that experience I realized some principles that could be applied to connecting people to the church, particularly those who aren't already attending.

Principle One: We have to prepare for people who will visit our church. 
When wiring the building, I tried to determine what lights and outlets I would need. I then had to determine the best path for the wiring and the best placement for the outlets and lights.

When connecting to people, you have to imagine that you are a guest visiting your church for the first time. Here are some things that you will need to determine:
  1. What is the welcoming atmosphere in your church? Hopefully it will be an atmosphere that expresses the love of Christ and the joy we have in Him.
  2. How will people connect to the church? Evaluate the flow patterns in your facility to see if adults can find guest parking and can find their way from parking into the building and to the auditorium, classrooms, childcare, and restrooms.  Provide convenient and marked parking as well as opportunities for guests to be greeted—consider stationing greeters in the parking lot, entry way, auditorium, and classes.
  3. How will you tactfully and accurately gather information so your leaders and Bible study groups can follow-up with guests?
  4. How will you communicate with first time guests after they visit? Are there steps you can create to help everyone know what to do when communicating? I am very proud of the deacons in my own church. They have taken on the role of developing First Contact teams. They deliver gifts to guests' homes right after worship on Sunday afternoon. Their intent is not to visit in the home but to just introduce themselves, or, if the residents aren't home, to leave a welcome package.
  5. How will your Bible study groups get connected to guests who don't visit a group? We assign every guest to a group for follow-up. This involves a phone call invitation to the group and a visit at some point.
  6. How will the pastoral leaders be involved in follow-up? We assign every person to a staff member for follow-up and seek to keep accurate records on the results of visits.
Principle Two: Determine ways to keep a permanent connection with the unchurched. Remember the extension cord to my storage building? I needed a more permanent connection. What is the permanent connection that helps your church remain connected to those who visit and to those who aren't yet connected to Christ or His church? The permanent connection is a simple yet seemingly more difficult discipline that most church members struggle with; it is the simple act of developing relationships with the lost and then offering them the invitation to follow Christ or at least attend church with them.

Lead adults to passionately embrace the opportunities they have for inviting people to Christ and His Church.
  • These opportunities might be parents who are discovered through Vacation Bible School, unchurched adults who attend a men’s or women’s event, or adults who are discovered through a local mission project.  Develop and teach a follow-up plan to your adult Bible study group leaders.
  • Teach adults that every activity (sports, school, work, community, and so forth) is an opportunity to connect with people who need an invitation to Christ and His church.
Principle Three: You need one primary connection. My storage building only needed one main line in order for the entire building to have power. There needs to be one central place that will provide a continuing connection to the unchurched.  Your Bible study groups are that connection! They are vital to helping the unchurched and guests get connected to the church. They are the main connecting point for building ongoing relationships with the unchurched. If adults in your groups aren't passionate about reaching out to the unchurched, inviting them to their groups, and welcoming guests who attend their groups, then your connection to the unchurched will be very weak.

Principle Four: We have to experiment and try again.  I ran permanent wire to the storage building and everything worked until I turned on the air compressor. I discovered that the power line couldn't handle the load. We had to make adjustments to the wiring and add separate and stronger circuit.

As you watch your church connect with the unchurched you will discover places that aren’t working correctly. Adjust the process, add a new Bible study group, do additional training, communicate better, or do whatever is needed in order to make the connection work properly.

God has placed your church exactly where He intends it to be. There are people all around the church who so desperately need to connect to Christ and His church. We should continually be evaluating how we can better lead our churches to make, strengthen, and keep these connections strong.

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