By “closing the back door,” we are referring to assimilating or keeping those who have already become a part of the parish. The sad reality is that many parishes have less than one-half of their parishioners show up at any one point. They are “walking out the back door.”
The Five-Step Plan
The plan to keep your parishioners from leaving the parish is not difficult. It just requires execution and persistence. Once begun, these five steps become a natural flow of the parish’s ministry.
- Have a mission statement that includes the importance of parishioners getting involved in a group. For example, if the mission statement is “Love God, Connect with Others, Serve Others, and Give Abundantly,” the second part of the mission statement (“Connect with Others”) would refer to the importance of a parishioner getting involved in a small group, Sunday school class, or some other group.
- Communicate the importance of groups in your new members’ class. In fact, some parishes actually require the prospective member to connect with a group as a requisite for membership. This statement obviously assumes that the parish has a new members’ class in place.
- Make certain the parish is intentional about starting new groups. This step is very important if you are diligently moving new members to groups. New groups, particularly, will be attractive to these new parishioners. They will not have to break into existing relationship patterns.
- Have a leadership group review the status of new parishioners at least once a quarter. The ministry staff could take this initiative. Some parish leaders do this review once a month; others do so once a quarter. One of the primary purposes of this review is to determine if the new parishioner has become active in a group.
- Follow-up persistently if a parishioner is not in a group. Some parishes have a “meal plan” follow-up. They make certain an existing member of a group takes the new member out to eat and invites him or her to join the group. The success rate has been very high.
Why These Steps are So Important
Parishioners that are in a group are more likely to read their Bibles regularly. They are more likely to share their faith. They give more abundantly to the parish. And they are much more likely to “stick” with the parish over time. In fact, in earlier studies, it was found that a parishioner who was in a group was five times more likely to stick with a parish than someone who was not.
So, these five steps are not some new entrepreneurial discovery. They are basic. They get people in the Word studying with others. They engender new relational connections. They create an implicit system of accountability.
And they also get parishioners to stick. The back door is closed.
Source: Lifeway Resources
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