How to Help People Integrate into Church Life

I’m going to write some thoughts on this subject which I hope will be helpful. I have to preface all this by saying that the people belong to God, and in the end should go where God sends them. This consideration trumps everything else on this subject. However, if we have the kind of church which really cares about people and shows consideration to them and places value on them we are more likely to be the kind of church which Jesus wants people to go to.

Go First for Low Hanging Fruit

I’m all for evangelising strangers. I’m for any kind of activity which spreads the knowledge of the goodness of God and the gospel in society. I’m open to street evangelism and I’ve done it more than most. However, going out there in the world to evangelise strangers probably results in less church growth than other forms of evangelism – in the early stages, because it takes time for TRUST to build between people and between people and church organisations – and TRUST is what is required for people to get seriously involved in church life. TRUST is built on relationships in most cases.

The easiest people to minister to ought to be those who are willing to come to church. These will be both saved and unsaved people.

A lot of times people walk in the door of a church as a newcomer and they are pretty much ignored. In a slightly better scenario, they get to put up their hands and welcomed as first time visitors, and given some information, along with invitations to give their contact details so they can presumably be contacted by the church.

If we are interested in church growth, its best if we are interested in PEOPLE. We need to demonstrate our interest in PEOPLE by thinking carefully about all the things we could do to show love to people who come in the door for the first or second time. These people are also the “low hanging fruit” as far as church growth is concerned. They are also possibly the KEY to many others in their immediate circle of influence. So how we treat them could have a big bearing on their future with us and even the future of their “oikos” or immediate household or friend network.

Practical Ideas for a Larger Church

Door greeters need to have a heart for people. Mere techniques are not enough. But there are some things that would possibly betray a lack of interest in people by greeters at the door and the team that works with newcomers. Things like not smiling and not giving eye contact betray a lack of enthusiasm and interest in people.

What any given church can do depends partly on the number of people who are prepared to serve those who come in. If only one person is there at the door and a flood of people are coming by there is not much that can be done. I feel it is very good to do something a little more for those who come in who are not known to the team. The team should if possible know who is already part of the church and of course be warm to them but the acknowledgment should be brief. The main priority should be on newcomers.

If newcomers come, you can’t force them to do anything but you can express a desire to know them as a person – at least their name, initially. Its good to practice remembering names as well as faces as this is one way to show value and honor to a person.

I remember one lady who was on staff at a church and she worked very well in doing this. She knew also knew the congregation well enough to think immediately of people that the newcomers or newcomer family might possibly be able to relate well with. And she would try to take that person straight away to meet such a person in the congregation if possible. She would match up people based on common features, age, gender and so on – young families with young families, ethnic Chinese with ethnic Chinese, young men with young men – whatever seemed to fit. And I think this helped integrate people into the church.

I believe it is good if about 10% of the congregation at least has been trained to be proactive in regards to showing an interest in meeting newcomers in the church. So a church of 400 ought to have at least 40 people who are ready, willing and able to seek out newcomers who come into the larger meetings. There ought to be some sort of intentionality about this. It is a ministry of service. It might mean spending less time with familiar friends after church. But the more people reach out to newcomers the better it will be. And all kinds of people are needed for this.

Invite People Out

I remember when I first visited North Shore Christian Centre, a church in Sydney Australia  in 2000. I’d recently come back from Europe and I wasn’t so convinced I wanted to be part of any church as I’d previously been church planting and would have considered doing it in Australia. But one of the great things that happened was that after the service people invited us out to lunch. And unbelievably, this happened for the first 5 weeks we visited that church. Different people just invited us out for lunch after church. Maybe it was a sovereign action of God but I think it was also something about what was in the hearts of those people. This led to some wonderful relationships and it was a time of blessing for us, a time in which God had his reasons for me being in the professional world of I.T. It wasn’t His plan for me to be a church planter at that time. But we needed a caring church.

Inviting people to meet for coffee during the week or after church sends out a BIG MESSAGE in today’s society. Any well-organised church will have have programs they mention on a bulletin or on video announcements. Nothing stands out about being invited to a program. But when someone gives up their valuable TIME just to be with you and hear your story – that is a big part of LOVING and people are looking for LOVE and SIGNIFICANCE.

If God should send in boatloads of people at any time He would want those people to feel cared for, valued, and heard. He would want those people to have an opportunity not only to be transformed through fellowship and the Word of God, but also to make some kind of contribution in spiritual or practical ways, or both. This is why everything should be done to strengthen the connection with newcomers. And one of the best ways is to have people on the ball looking out for new people and seeing if they are interested in friendship or relationship. More than one person needs to try this for each newcomer if possible, because not all people hit it off personality wise. But hopefully there is someone for everyone that can hit it off.

If I was a pastor of a larger church this is one of the first things I would be looking at. The window of opportunity is limited. A person who visits once may or may not visit again. If they feel someone finds them interesting and valuable or worthwhile to talk with then there is a much stronger chance that they will want to learn more. As the saying goes, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” So we need to start with caring, accepting, listening as well as praying and then perhaps the doors will open for some form of discipleship from there – one way or another.

Another thing I would be looking at is whether there was the possibility to visit the homes of newcomers and pray for their households. Here is a great opportunity to bring blessings of the Kingdom – heavenly Shalom and more – to those who are on the periphery of the church life. Here is a great place for those with the gift of evangelism to focus. The immediate friends, acquaintances and family of newcomers may be a very fertile ground for gospel ministry. The only way to know is to pray for open doors and then try to see if doors are open. We want the Kingdom of God to manifest in people’s homes.

I’m sure many of these activities could be divided amongst church members according to their motivational gifts. At the same time, everything ought to be bathed in prayer. We don’t pray enough for people in the church. We don’t pray Pauline prayers for them such as you will find in Colossians 1:8-12 and Ephesians 1 and passages like that. If we do start praying like that for people by name, we are praying the will of God for them and something is going to happen. We need to be praying that the Kingdom of God will come to the lives of newcomers and their immediate circles of friends, family and acquaintances.

May God help the churches of Jesus Christ to grow and may God’s Kingdom come.




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