News Articles

Early assimilation crucial to church member retention

GLORIETA, N.M. (BP)–Helping new church members to be assimilated into the life of the congregation is a key factor in retaining them as active members, a national consultant told participants in Discipleship and Family Week at Glorieta (N.M.) Baptist Conference Center.
Leaving new members to fend for themselves can have negative consequences, said Carlos Cobos, evangelism and new member specialist in the discipleship and family leadership department at LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.
“If the new member is also a new Christian, it is especially crucial,” he said. “A new Christian may feel nobody cares for them, and it is very easy for them to go back to an old lifestyle if no one encourages or befriends them.”
Referencing Matthew 28:18-20, Cobos said the Great Commission includes directives to make disciples, baptize them and teach them.
Assimilation of new church members is a part of carrying out the Great Commission, he said, helping them find “meaningful relationships and purpose for ministry in your church.”
Friendships, small groups, spiritual growth, identification with the church’s vision and meaningful involvement are the means by which assimilation occurs, he continued.
“After people come to church, they need more than the one friend who invited them,” Cobos observed. “People generally need five to six friends to feel comfortable in a church, and small groups are an important part of that.”
He also suggested that many people do not know the vision statement for their church.
For established members who want to make an invited guest’s experience at church a positive one, Cobos suggested:
— Sit with them.
— Introduce them.
— Pray for them.
— Protect them from well-meaning people who may want to rush them into a particular Bible study class.
— Offer to go forward with them if they have made a spiritual decision.
— Spend time after church with them discussing their experience and learning from them the things they saw and felt.
Once a person has joined the church, three time spans are important to assimilation, Cobos said.
The first 10 minutes are vitally important because the person needs assurance and growth. They need the assurance of repentance, faith, Lordship and prayer. They need the church, God’s Word and to learn to witness.
The first week is important in receiving contacts from the church, he added. The pastor, a deacon and a Sunday school teacher should make some form of contact. While telephone calls or e-mail are acceptable today, Cobos said, at least one contact should be a personal visit.
The first month should include new-believer studies, including resources such as “Beginning Steps: A Growth Guide for New Believers” and “Survival Kit: Five Keys to Effective Spiritual Growth.” The Sunday school teacher or outreach leader should show the person special interest and answer any questions they may have, and prayer for the new believer is needed, Cobos said.
An intentional effort to assimilate new members will result in a larger percentage of people retained in the congregation, he said, and leading them to study resources appropriate to their needs will enable them to recommend studies to others in the future.
Discipleship and Family Week, July 18-24, was sponsored by the discipleship and family division of LifeWay Christian Resources.

    About the Author

  • Charles Willis