At the core of a church’s assimilation process is a class or meeting for new church members. This class not only serves as an important part of getting people connected, it’s also the on-ramp to discipleship in your church.
Every person that comes into your new members class is going to have a few questions on their mind. Some will be outspoken in their questions while others will remain silent and hope you answer them without having to ask. Some will ask really thoughtful questions and others will ask ones that will just make you stare in disbelief. One of my favorite questions that someone shared with me is when they were asked how the pastor gets fired. Yikes.
Yet, at the core of almost every question that might be asked are four basic desires that people are looking for. Ready to find out what they are?
#1: Are The Leaders Like Me?
People are drawn to people that are like them. They want to know that there are real people behind the scenes with real struggles just like them. They don’t want to belong to a faceless organization — they want to be part of something with other people like them. They want to hear the origin story, but they’re more interested in the people who are currently on staff.
I’m a big proponent of new members classes being led by a staff member for this very reason. The people in the meeting will get a first hand experience of what you are like in a way that isn’t typically possible in a Sunday morning service. This can also be a great time to get creative and show a behind the scenes video of your church staff. Show some personality and don’t be afraid to have fun!
Beyond that, one thing that I highly recommend is to talk about the full staff team and not just the lead pastor. They likely already feel like they know the lead pastor to an extent, but they may not know the youth pastor or small groups director. Introducing people to your staff team helps them to feel at ease and like they can relate to the people who are leading them.
#2: Do You Care About The Things That I Care About?
People want to know why you exist. It’s not uncommon for people to come to your church with baggage from their past experiences. They want assurance that you really care about the things that you care about and aren’t just saying it. Share the mission and vision of the church, but also highlight how those things are actually being pursued currently.
Make sure to answer how you’re reaching the city, how you’re meeting practical needs, and how the community is better because your church exists. People have a deep desire to be part of something that is bigger than themselves. They don’t want to be part of an organization that is stagnant without a vision for the future. They want to join something that is full of life!
#3: Do You Believe What I Believe?
This is the question that I think most pastors fear a little when thinking about their new church member classes. In today’s climate, there are likely to be some people that are upset about some of the things that your church believes. This is one of the most important questions that people are looking for answers on. How you handle the questions will say just as much as where you stand.
Make sure that you highlight the distinctives of your church. For instance, in the church that I’m currently planting, one of our distinctives is we believe in a separate baptism of the Holy Spirit and that all of the gifts of the Spirit are in operation today and that we expect them to happen during our services. This is something that needs to be highlighted because people will either have questions about it, fully disagree, or are fully onboard. Don’t shy away from talking about the beliefs that make your church different, but don’t go looking for a fight either.
At some point, someone is going to have a disagreement with some part of your church’s theology during a new members class. You’ll need to have a plan in place on how to handle this. Remember that this is not the time for a debate or a prolonged discussion on any particular issue. Instead, offer to schedule a time for them to sit down with someone on staff (possibly you) to discuss it further. You want to show grace during this time so that everyone in the room can see that you care more about showing love than being right in the moment.
#4: Will I Really Fit In?
This is probably the question that matters the most to everyone in your new members class. Some may ask about kids or youth ministry. Others may ask about small groups. Others may ask about leadership possibilities. What they’re really asking is if they will have a place to fit in. Make sure to highlight the ways for them to get involved.
Also, one thing that I haven’t seen often is talking about how it takes effort to build relationships and that they don’t magically happen. This may seem incredibly obvious to you and me, but from my experience people sometimes seem to think that they’re automatically going to make friends without getting involved in anything. Sharing that it takes effort, helps people to see that they can get involved and fit in, but that it will take some work for that to happen.
#5: So now what?
You’ve already highlighted that it takes effort to get involved, but people still have questions about how to actually do that. This is the last question we’re covering here, and it’s certainly an important one. In our article on church assimilation, we highlighted that you’ll need to figure out what the most important next step is in your church and promote that during your new members class. Provide a simple next step for people to take and then follow up with them about that next step!
A great way to do this is by sending a personal video post a few days after the new members class. Using HuddleUp, simply record a quick video thanking them for coming to the class and then highlight the next step with a link to take that action. It’s incredibly simple and effective! It will even give people an easy opportunity to ask some follow up questions that they may not of thought of during the class.
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