Wednesday, February 04, 2009


We all want people who are not currently involved to become involved. There are some sophisticated words, like assimilation, to describe the process. But it basically comes down to getting "outsiders" to become "insiders." There are some very particular things you need to do to help people transition from outside to inside:

1. Roster. If you do not have a roster, there is no way to know who is "part" of your program to begin with, so it will be impossible to have someone who is not part of it become part of it. A roster is elementary, but necessary. Who is a part of your ministry, or your small group? Put the names on a list. Distribute the list to the participants so that they know they are "officially" participating. Post the list so that others can see who is already involved. This now creates the possibility that you can add more names to the list and move them from outside to inside.

2. Meetings. Meetings are critical to assimilation as a point of reinforcement for those involved, and a point of entry for those who are not. Everyone should know when the next meeting is going to happen, so if they encounter someone who would like to "join" they can invite them to the next meeting. By attending the meeting the newbie gets put on the list, and becomes an insider.

3. Introductions. A key leadership role is the role of introducing new participants to existing participants. "Tie" people together by giving both sides some basic information. You may want to subjugate your agenda and just let everyone share their story when you have a new person in attendance. This will fast-track the relationships and make people feel that they are being known by others and knowing others, which is the essence of community.

4. Acknowledgment. Participants need to be acknowledged. If someone is a part of your ministry, but is never highlighted for what they are doing, they can start to feel invisible and wonder, "Am I really a part of something, or am I just imagining that I am." Send out congratulations for a job well done. Post a hall of fame. Give away awards. Even newcomers should be celebrated in some way. Acknowlegment can't help but create tighter connections.

5. Communication. Between meetings there needs to be regular correspondence. It could be a newsletter. It could be an email. It could be a blog. But people want to know that you care about them, and not just for what they can do for you or the group. Build the relationships offline.

6. Prayer. At every gathering pray for others to join your group. In a small group setting we sometimes call this "praying over the empty chair." The empty chair represents someone that we want to love in Jesus' name. Praying for newcomers accomplishes a couple things: a) It keeps the priority of outreach foremost in participants minds, and helps them to hold the ministry loosely, b) it helps newcomers to know that they are loved and wanted, and not unwelcome intruders.

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