Monday, February 2, 2009

Closing the Back Door #3

Churches that retain their members long term have an advantage when it comes to discipleship. Closing the back door gives them more time to grow people to maturity. But they also have an advantage when it comes to evangelism.

Churches that close the back door do so by serving their congregations so well that the people don’t want to leave. And happy sheep are zealous word-of-mouth marketers (missionaries, evangelists). Most of us can’t help but tell others when we have been well served – and no one needs to tell us to do so.

Four major factors have contributed to our healthy growth – all associated with closing the back door:

High expectations
We have high expectations of those who attend PCC. Few people want to belong to anything, especially a church, that requires little or nothing of them. We clearly communicate Biblical standards for life, character, and conduct. We offer a series of classes for spiritual growth and development. We require our members to make increasing levels of commitment as they grow, and we use commitment covenants for virtually every ministry area of our church.

Small Groups
Small groups are essential. They are little congregations within our larger congregation whose members provide care one to another. In small groups people connect relationally, learn more about the Bible, and develop spiritual muscle. New leaders are spotted and developed in small groups too.

Ministry Involvement (or volunteerism)
Our third key has been encouraging everyone to be involved in some type of ministry. The earlier a new member or attendee can get involved in our church’s ministry, the more likely this person will stay with that church. It becomes a mutually beneficial arrangement for both the individual and our church.

Relationship connections
Finally, the more new members connect with longer-term members, the greater the opportunity for assimilation. In an interesting twist, I have found that most of these relationships were being developed before the new member ever came to our church. In other words, our members intentionally develop relationships with people outside the church, and they invite them to church after the relationship had been established. Once the new attendee begins attending, he/she is already connected to a long term member. Whow! How good is that?

Even a small trickle can flood the whole house if everything is locked up tight.