Dicipleship is affected by the environment into which converts are born. With work, you can create a welcoming environment for your church.
Sociology is the study of cultural units. A cultural unit can be a:
Choosing to Become a Member
Sociological research examines how the people within that cultural unit interact with each other. It also considers how those with the cultural unit relate to and interact with those outside the unit. The fascinating research includes the response a person will receive if that person is making a choice to become part of the particular family, tribe . . . or church!
Our consideration of sociological factors in disciple-making is simple, but the implications when a church does not get this right is huge. So set aside all the big words and think about how welcoming your church is toward new people.
Fearing the Newcomer
Herod and Pharoah’s responses to the birth of a promised child seems a bit extreme. They were put at risk by a new baby. These two influential leaders simply destroyed all the male new-born. Herod and Pharaoh were both frightened by the prospect of this new addition into their comfortable kingdom.
Ask yourself, “Does out attitude and behavior toward newcomers cause them to want to be part of us?” There are some things to consider from the pragmatic side of things: The median size church of every denomination in North America is around 75. A group of that size is just a bit larger than a social unit described as a “single cell.” In a single cell organization, everybody knows everybody. In most instances, those within such a church know each other intimately. The church group may well consist mostly one or two families.
Symptoms of a church operating as a single cell social group:
- Not being consistently friendly to strangers who come to church.
- Tight forced smiles, contrasted to “open arms” of hugs that welcome.
- Few people within the church say, “I’m glad you are here today. Thank you for coming.”
- Conversations happen in small groups that exclude newcomers rather than welcome them
A minister from our church visited a church this past week. For over ten minutes no person spoke to this lady who has been wonderfully used of God in numerous ways. If this lady was not made to feel welcome, the sinner fellow who arrived on a Harley Hog would certainly not feel at home. Do you see the issue at hand?
So you have this single cell group that is comfortable with each other. Having newcomers, even as guests, is a bit like having a relative stranger show up for a family Thanksgiving dinner. A single cell group is thrown out of its comfort zone by new people.
How do you change this “single cell” culture?
- Elevate the expectations. Talk about newcomers coming. Then as a leader, you will likely have to “go get” guests. People will need to see that you mean for there to be growth.
- Give proper attention to guests. The late G.A. Mangun took visitors to a local restaurant while hospitality for his Sunday evangelist was provided by good saints in the church. I know because I was that evangelist. I’ll never forget the elder’s unintended lesson on where a pastor’s priorities lie. Priorities are not on the 99 who are already saved. The priority is on one who is lost.
- Put pastoral time, energy and effort into disciple-making. Where possible, involve some of the people who are part of the existing “single cell.” Always respect faithful saints, but without resentment communicate that new converts are the responsibility of the church. If necessary, a pastor should teach a “Take Root” class for new converts while someone else teaches a much larger group of older saints.
- Officially welcome newcomers! Bring newcomers to the front to receive a Holy Ghost or baptism certificate. Celebrate this by having people come by to welcome these newcomers. Time is required for this celebration, but it is well worth the time expended. Such an event one time each quarter conveys that something is happening here.
What is working for you?
I know some of our church planters have resolved the “single cell” challenge. Others who have led a church to break the 100 barrier have also overcome the “single cell” sociological factor.
Help us all! Please share some intentional and strategic behavior you have used to good advantage. I’m always looking for ideas to help us be more effective at SpringfieldCalvary.church.
By the way, several pastors have said they are gaining more from listening in to the audio of our services at SpringfieldCalvary.church than the decade my sessions on Mission North America webcasts. I suppose concepts presented where the rubber meets the road are always more effective.
Resources for New Convert Care
My e-book shown above provides some of the things we do to break the sociological issues in disciple-making. “The How and Why of New Convert Care” contains letters we email to converts, my strategy for how to welcome newcomers and what a convert’s social should look like and involve. The e-book is $9.99. You can be using “The How and Why of New Convert Care” resources within ten minutes.
Hang out here for a bit – explore. There are many older blog posts about growth. There are also resources that can help you grow people. As you grow people, you will grow His church.