Bud Brown, of Turnaround Pastor, has helped pastors improve their process for guest assimilation. He brings us a core concept here that you can apply.
In my hospitality coaching, guest assimilation is one area of focus that often brings some great insight into why your guests are not getting involved in your church.
Guest assimilation is like helping someone out for a stroll in a strange neighborhood.
Imagine it is you walking through the neighborhood after sunset. On the homeward leg a young woman approaches and asks,
“Can you tell me how to find East Wilshire Terrace? I’ve walked the neighborhood, but I can’t tell which streets go through and which don’t.”
What do you do?
- “You continue south on Alamo until Oak Street. Turn west on Oak until you come to Del Valle. Turn north on Del Valle, and you’ll find East Wilshire Terrace on your left, three blocks to the north.”
- “Let me show you the map on my iPhone.”
- “Follow me.”
The turnaround pastor goes with option #2 or #3
Turnaround Pastors Map Guest Assimilation
Turnaround pastors are relentless change agents.
They know policies need refinement. They know rules need redesign. And they know church visitors are the single most important source of growth, health and new resources. Church visitors equal church growth coming through the front door!
One of the changes turnaround pastors need to push – hard – is to “crack the code” so guests find it easy to become part of the church.
Got a road map?
Do an online search of “church visitor assimilation map” or “church guest flow chart” or something similar.
You’ll be surprised by what you find. Or don’t find.
Assimilation Maps Are Rare
Churches that don’t have a clear, simple and logical path for visitors to follow send out some conflicting messages!
The members think they’re a welcoming church, but the church guests experience something different. The loving bonds of friendship that tie the church members together end up becoming barriers to those who’d like to elbow their way into the congregation!
Make it easy for them, pastor.
There are some decent flow charts and maps for discipleship. There are even some diagrams that try to be accurate and comprehensive but most of them are poorly designed.
So either our churches haven’t developed assimilation maps or they haven’t bothered to publish them on the web.
I’m going with first option. Based on what I’ve seen in churches I’ve served as an intentional interim, visited as a guest, or evaluated as a consultant, our churches …. dare I say really suck at making it easy for people to elbow their way in?
The Turnaround Pastor’s Guest Assimilation Task
So your task, pastor, is to make a one page map of your church’s assimilation process. Something that’s clear, simple to follow and logical.
Here’s how you do it.
- Identify the process, if your church has one.
- If it doesn’t, get one. There are plenty of resources out there on how to develop an effective assimilation process.
- Train the people who will help guests at each step of the way through the assimilation process.
- Develop a feedback loop or data management system so you can track people through the process and also measure the retention rate.
- Put it into a graphic image so that church visitors know exactly what to do each step of the way.
- Assign a concierge who will walk with church guests through every step of the process.
Bear in mind that assimilation maps for guests will look different from the ministry map. A ministry map is a visualization of how the assimilation process works, what it looks like from the inside, something like this:
What assimilation looks like to church staff
What assimilation should look like to church guests
Church guests will see something different. It will be a visual representation of what they experience as they move from first time visitors to fully engaged members. It looks more like this:
This is more like what you should be handing to church guests. It’s incomplete, I know, but it is a place to start designing your own. Just be sure your team has the chops to deliver what your map promises!
Now, go do it!
You’re the turnaround pastor. If you don’t do it, no one in the congregation will!
Next Action Steps
Systems have a place, and in the training webinar on church visitor assimilation available for download after purchase, I’ll cover a few systems that will help you.
The simplest form of church visitor assimilation is helping people make friends.
If your visitor can make 5-10 new friends within the first 6 months, they will likely stay and get involved.
Bud’s map above is good way to start thinking about it.