Keeping and Engaging New Converts
Mark Parker, Oklahoma City OK — Our program is a little longer than we would like, but when it comes to establishing converts in the Word, I don’t know if it is possible to take too long. It is about six months, meeting once a week. We have had good success, if new converts go all the way through the program. One out of three of those who start the classes remain. Our retention rate is about 65 percent.
We’ve tried giving them something to do before they complete the classes, but we have found they don’t come back and complete the classes. We challenge them that they ought to have two jobs in the ministry: one they would like to do and one where they are needed.
A person is not truly converted until they are serving others.
David Myers, Palm Bay, FL — When people first come to our church, we don’t immediately try to get their information at the door. We used to do that, but it’s a bit intrusive. Now we give out a bag with a brochure and an invitation to the Welcome Center. When they come back there, we invite them to come to our discipleship classes. The main focus is to get them to be a part of a ministry. For people to stick, they have to get a job and make a friend.
We’ve redesigned all our ministries so that people can get involved right away. We have three areas: connect, serve and grow. We’ve divided it into four levels of services. Each of those levels requires more of a spiritual commitment. After the connect and serve levels, we invite them to the growth classes, which lasts for six weeks. There we discuss holiness standards, spiritual disciplines and discipleship training. Our retention rate is between 50-60 percent. The longer they stay, the better the chance they will remain.
One of the things we started that resonates with people is a charitable organization called Hands for Healing. It has grown to become the largest food bank in our county.
I’ve found that when people come to your church they want to know what it is doing in the community more than they want to know about your doctrine. No matter where a person is spiritually, even if they only come one time, they can get involved in giving food out to the hungry.
Randy Pate, Pascagoula MS – If people come to our church and say, “This is my church,” whether they’ve been born again or not we’ll find something for them to do. Somebody’s got to type the words for the songs on the computer, pour Kool-Aid, mow and trim bushes. I’ll make anybody a greeter at the door. We have to get them past the mentality that they are coming to Pastor Pate’s church or The Sanctuary, to where they say they are coming to their church. The only requirements are that you show up, be faithful and put a smile on your face. We cycle them into the program so that when new people come, they’ll see somebody who looks like them: people at every level of Christian maturity.
When somebody first comes into our church, we try to offer them a home Bible study or Search for Truth program. When they pray through, we offer them an introductory lesson. I also have a four-lesson series called An Introduction to The Sanctuary. There’s a lesson on who we are, what we believe, what organization we belong to, and the history of our church. Sometimes the new converts class starts with those four lessons.
We have used different curriculums. The one we are using now has 30 or 40 lessons and lasts the better part of a year. More than half the people that have come through the classes are still with us.
Jonathan Vazquez, Potts Camp, MS – We try to get everyone who visits to come to a breakfast at our church, where I share the vision of our church, and how we can help them to become what God wants them to be. We use that as a primary contact.
We have become a lot more streamlined and cognizant. When people get baptized, we have a book we give them called The First 40 Days. Right away, we introduce them to a daily study of the Bible.
We preach heavily on involvement in ministry so we immediately try to get them involved in an introductory ministry. Before a new convert can be involved in more advanced ministry roles they are asked to complete a 10-week discipleship course. Our last three or four couples that have joined are thriving and doing well.
Tim Gill, Medora, IN – One of the first things we do that has been very successful is to try to get new converts into our choir. In choir, we find we can teach them faithfulness and assimilation. They automatically try to get to practice, and we find that they learn from others in the choir. We don’t necessarily set a definitive time for that, but, of course, we have guidelines like commitment, attendance and going through the discipleship program. We use the same markers for backsliders.
Our discipleship series is called Pathways to Truth which consists of 16 lessons. Most of our programs are in-house. Sometimes I teach, or one of the ministers does. Our Tuesday night is a continuation of the program series. We call it Kingdom Life. It’s for everyone.
Christian Tay, Mankessim Ghana – Every three months, we begin a class focusing on being born again, holiness and faith, prayer, the Word of God and the second coming of Christ. We hold them in two sessions. Some classes are held on Sundays.
Depending on the location, such as a crusade, if someone wants to be baptized there, we baptize them and later require them to go through the class. Last year, 35 converted during our outreach, and 14 of them were retained as members. Otherwise, at church, we only baptize people after they go through the class.
When they get saved, we try to identify where they will fit initially. Most of them fit in the music ministry, so we send some to the choir and some to the praise and worship ministry. We send others to the intercession team and the follow-up team to win their friends who are not saved.