The Funnel of Connection to Your Church

Have you ever wondered what draws people to a church, causes them to join the church, and keeps them in a church? 

As pastors and ministry leaders, these questions should be at the forefront of our minds when evaluating how our churches reach people. 

Today I want to discuss some things that are elemental for people to come to your church and connect long term.

Personal Relationships

Relationships are the first thing that draws people to your church. Personal relationships are the most successful way to bring people to your church. Church growth gurus know the power of personal relationships in reaching people. Many have touted, “82% of the non-churched people would come to church if a friend or relative invited them.” Put another way, if God’s people reach out through their relationships, the unchurched will respond. The value of relationships in church is an absolute truth for God’s people to understand and leverage.

I have seen the power of relationships in bringing people to church. In my own life, before I came to know Christ, the church was irrelevant at best. There was no amount of marketing, events, or other church strategies that could get me to attend a church. It was only through the invite of my girlfriend (now wife) that I came to church, heard the gospel, and was saved. The personal invite based on a relationship meant the difference to me.

 Furthermore, church guests expect to make connections and form new relationships before they join your church. As people visit the service, they expect to be greeted by your people. When guests visit small groups, they expect to build relationships in the group. Relationships are how people enter the fellowship. They are the entrance to formal membership.

Let me ask you, How friendly is your church? What opportunities are you creating for guests to connect to your church beyond a meet and greet time in the service? What can you do to foster deeper relationships among your people? Are people connected through relationships, or are they greeted and then lost to fend for themselves?

Experiences

The second step is accepting the experience. The experience is not simply the way your church looks. It is the way the church feels. It has been said that “a guest will judge your church and determine if they will return in the first ten minutes of visiting your church. In most cases, this is before they meet the pastor.” How comfortable their church experience is will determine their willingness to accept a church. 

The best way to illustrate this is through my grandmother’s house. I remember visiting my grandmother as a kid. The yard was cut nicely, and the house was always spotless. As I looked through the rooms, breakables were displayed everywhere. I knew two things from the experience of just being there; I could get into a lot of trouble here, and I need to mind what I do because this is not a place made for a rambunctious boy. Now don’t misread what I knew about my grandparents. I knew my grandmother loved me, and she wanted me there. But because my grandmother’s house was not meant for a wild young boy, my experience was that I was never at home. I could always come as a guest, but I would always be an outsider.

The experience can be similar for guests at your church. Whether intentional or not, if your church gives an unfriendly or unwelcoming perception, the guests will never be at home in your church.

Which leads us to the question, What do guests experience at your church? How are they involved in the experience? Are guests welcomed and desired at your church but ultimately treated as visitors who will eventually leave, or are they welcomed into the church and encouraged to get involved?

Values & Beliefs

The third step of connection is adopting the values and beliefs. Our values are those things we hold dear or the nonnegotiable ideals in our lives. These may be preferences, or they may be convictions. For church people, values could be using a specific Bible translation, singing a particular music style, or a formality in the church service. Our beliefs are the doctrinal statements upon which we stand. These could be our stance on believer’s baptism or salvation in Christ alone by faith alone. 

For a person to join your church, they will be willing to adopt your values and beliefs. They will be in alignment with what your church believes. If your church makes its beliefs clear, they will either adopt the church’s beliefs or walk away. Most churches are very good at declaring their beliefs. Whether the preacher is proclaiming them from the pulpit or they are written on their website, most churches are clear about what they believe.

But people will also need to embrace the church’s values. If a person does not adopt your church’s values, they may believe the same, but their preferences and convictions will always hold them back from fully committing to the church. For example, they may believe in the exclusivity of Christ with you, but they may not be able to fully commit to the church if the preacher preaches in a ball cap and flip-flops. The point is that values and beliefs will be adopted for a person to commit to your church.

The questions then become, What are the values of your church? How are those values demonstrated? What are the beliefs of your church? How are those beliefs communicated? What values and beliefs are expressed verbally and nonverbally by your congregation?

Vision & Purpose

The deepest level of connection to your church is through an alignment of vision and purpose. When a church knows what they’re called to do in its community and can articulate that purpose in a way that invites people to align their lives to the vision, the most profound connection is made.

I think of it as a sports fan with their favorite team. The fan can make connections with other fans, and they can attend the games. They can even have the same goals, convictions, and beliefs as their favorite team. But the most profound connection will not occur until they are on the team, playing for the win. A real connection is made when the fan aligns their life with the team’s purpose. Church life is no different. When your congregation aligns their lives with the vision and purpose of your ministry, a real connection will be made.

A few questions arise. Why does your church exist? What has your church been called to do in your community? How is that vision different from the other churches in your community? How can your people get involved with your vision? What would it look like for someone to align their life with the purpose God has given your church?

As you have read through this, I hope that it stretched your thinking about what it means to join a church. Pastors and church leaders, let us think of intentional ways to connect people in more profound ways to the church family and the mission Christ has called us.

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