To Connect People in the Church, the Path Must Be Clear
If you want to connect people in the church, the path for connection must be clear. If you’ve ever wondered why people aren’t connecting, it’s always good to evaluate the process through which you hope they will connect. Oftentimes, the path is not clear.
Let’s illustrate with a hiking trail. There’s something about going into nature that’s always fun. The fresh air, the sense of accomplishment, and great exercise are all motivators for enjoying the great outdoors.
The only times when it can get hard is when there’s an unclear path. When the trail starts to become overgrown and hard to see. What once was fun, now becomes, well, not fun.
If you’re a church leader, a likely part of your responsibility is to grow the church. You want more people in your community who currently are not in a church to start attending your church. However, you don’t just want them to attend, you want them to connect.
You don’t just want them to attend once or twice, you want them to attend regularly, get connected in a small group, and start serving on a ministry team. You want them to experience the entire journey God has for them, not just part of it.
Whether you want to prepare your church for Easter and other special events, or if you simply want to get people connected on a weekly basis, having a very clear pathway is one of the ways you can ensure people get fully connected into the life of the church.
And to be more specific, this path should be clear not just at the beginning, but all along the journey.
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Here’s what I want to show you. I want to give you six stages for the connections process, with a brief definition, and then I’m going to clearly define each stage.
Below is a stage name with corresponding definitions for that stage. Each stage moves the individual along the path. Here are the stages:
- A VIEWER is someone who is familiar with your church but has not visited in-person and/or shared their contact information.
- A GUEST is someone who has visited in-person and or shared their contact information during an online service.
- An ATTENDER is someone who regularly attends your church in-person or online.
- A PARTICIPANT is someone who regularly attends and is involved in the community of the church.
- A PARTNER is someone who is making significant contributions to the church.
- A DISCIPLE is someone who is helping others move through the connections process.
Now let me take a moment on each one. Remember this is a model for how we connect someone in the church.
A viewer is where we start. This is someone who is familiar with your church but hasn’t attended yet in-person. Maybe they drive past your physical location every day or they’ve heard of your church. They might even know the pastor’s name. This could even be someone who watched part of your service online, but they didn’t engage to the point where they shared their contact information.
The next stage is guest. This is just what it sounds like; they become a guest at your in-person or online service. This is probably the biggest step in the connections process. Getting people to your church is where we as church leaders spend a lot of our time and rightly so. If we can get people to this stage, we have the opportunity to move them further down the path.
Quick side note about this stage, someone is a guest online if they share their contact information with you through a connect card. If they don’t share their contact info online, they remain in the viewer stage.
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The next stage is attender. This is where someone calls your church home. They are now attending in-person or online on a regular basis. It may not be every week, but it is consistent. For someone to get to this stage, they like something or multiple things about your church enough to keep coming back. This is good news! However, the goal is to continue to move them down the connections path.
The next stage is participant. In this stage, someone will have taken steps to start engaging in the ministries of the church. For example, they may have joined a small group or they are beginning to give financially or both. They could have started going to additional church events or be a volunteer on a ministry team. The idea is that they are getting involved.
The next stage is partner. It’s similar to the last stage, but this one is where they are playing a significant part in accomplishing the church’s mission. They might become a small group leader or ministry team leader. They begin to use their gifts to help others in the church.
The final stage is disciple. This is where someone starts to use their gifts, time, and energy to help others go down the connections path. They are the spiritual leaders who are making other spiritual leaders. Ultimately, this is what Jesus commanded us to do as a church, “to go and make disciples.”
Now this process is simply a model you can use. It reflects the general progression of the formation of a disciple. It’s true that some will skip stages or go down the process very fast or very slow. Some people will stop at a stage or even go backwards. Since relationships can be messy, there has to be both an understanding and flexibility in the system that not everyone will follow the path in a linear or consistent manner.
I hope this process can be a structure and starting point for helping those new to your church. The goal is to help them take steps down this process. Please use and modify this as you see fit.
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