When I think about the commitments I’ve made that led to spiritual growth, often a very small step took me to a place where I could make the next commitment. Here are some baby steps that will help your members make the next commitment toward spiritual maturity.
1. Put a place to commit on your welcome cards. If you have a card for guests to use to give you information about themselves, that’s also a great place to offer an opportunity to commit to a class. Your guests will see from the beginning that these classes are a priority at the church. It also gives them an opportunity to sign up without leaving their chair during worship services.
2. Personalize the weekend announcements. When you’re announcing the classes from the pulpit, think about the person who needs to make a commitment to the next step. Ask yourself, what will help him or her to do that? Focus on who needs to take the commitment step. Don’t simply tell people when and where the class will be. Remember, you’re inviting people, not numbers, to the class.
3. Make the commitment to the next class a part of your sermon. Just drop the classes in your sermon somewhere. Say you’re talking about being a part of a church family; mention that taking Class 101 is how you become a member of the church. If you’re encouraging people to get involved in ministry, tell people that in Class 301 they can find out more about how God has shaped them for ministry and discover how they can serve at the church.
This is by far the most effective way to get people to take their next steps. Make attending a class an application to your message. You can’t do it every time your church is offering the class because you’ll wear people out after a while. But you can do it a few times a year. The largest classes have always come when we mentioned them in the messages.
4. Make the classes a part of every testimony. If you use testimonies in your services, ask those who share to mention their experience with the classes. When we have someone who is going to mention joining the church, we ask him or her to specifically talk about taking Class 101. Let people know that the classes are a value in your church.
5. Ask people to tell you what classes they’ve taken. When you ask someone what class they’ve taken, it’ll give you an instant picture of where they are in their spiritual journey. It’ll save you a lot of time in getting to know the spiritual condition and readiness for ministry of those to which you’re speaking. For example, say I’m speaking at a men’s retreat: I’ll ask how many have taken Class 301. If 75 percent of the men raise their hands, I learn something about the people I’m speaking to at the meeting. If only about 10 percent raise their hands, I learn something else.
Consistently asking people what classes they’ve been through increases the value of the class as well. It shows people that you value the classes and you want them to attend.
6. Develop a brochure detailing the value and the benefits of each class. Some people in your church will need to see something in writing before they’ll want to attend. When you’re putting together the brochure, don’t just talk about the details of the class. Tell them the benefits as well. Tell them what will happen in their lives because of attending the class. Put in some testimonies of people who went to the class and how it made a difference in their lives.
7. Have a pastor’s chat in your home. When Rick first started Saddleback, he would have all of the new people over to his house each month. We have way too many guests each month to invite them all to Rick’s house now! But it was a great way for Rick to get to know everyone. People love to go to the pastor’s house. And it is a great opportunity to tell people – in an intimate setting – about your membership class.
8. Provide a welcome center at the church. You need a place where guests can go to find out what’s going on at the church. You want every guest of your church to feel comfortable enough to walk up to it. Ideally, you’d be able to put this outside, but the climate in your community may not allow that. The next best scenario would be that you put a glass wall on the room if possible. Transparency is the key.
Unchurched people can be apprehensive about rooms they know little about. People like to be able to see what’s going on at the welcome center without having to go into a strange room. Make sure your welcome center has a lot of information about potential next steps – like your membership or other classes.
9. Use every event to encourage people to join small groups. Small groups are one of the most important baby-step incubators you have. Use every opportunity you can to get people into them. We never have a large group event at Saddleback where we don’t use to get people involved in small groups. At the end of every men’s retreat or women’s retreat, we encourage those in attendance to find a small group. Every class we offer mentions small groups as well.
What’s the use of having an event where everyone’s excited, then two months later they forget about it? You want to use every event to assimilate people into the life of the church.