One way we pull the congregation forward is by connecting with new people. And I’m not just talking about being friendly; I’m talking about trying to invest in the new attendees coming into your church. These people are going to buy in more quickly, and they tend to have a different perspective of the leadership than the longtime stakeholders. Longtime members can have an entitlement attitude, whereas newcomers tend to be more supportive and respectful of the leadership. New people help bring about a tipping point, where the culture of the church suddenly changes and a majority of the people are embodying the values of the congregation. Without attracting and assimilating new people, reaching this tipping point is very difficult.
If you are fortunate enough to attract newcomers, it is essential that you have some formal training mechanism to help explain the culture of the church to them. Defining the culture up front is a bit risky because it has the potential of pushing some people away, even though it will attract others. It is a risk that must be taken, however. The last thing you want to do is to attract someone to your church with his or her own agenda or a false belief about who you are and where you’re going. By defining your beliefs, your calling, and your values early on, you remove ambiguity. If you are slow to define these things, or if you never do, you open the door for immature believers and people with agendas to infiltrate your church and do more harm than good. If you don’t define your culture, they may.
Our church offers a newcomers’ class about every eight weeks. We push this class hard, and when people arrive, we don’t water it down. We welcome them, have some fun, do some interactive things, and then define who we are as a church and where we believe God wants us to go. At one of these classes, a man became upset because he didn’t like some of the things I was sharing about our church’s calling. I explained, “The agenda of our church is not up for grabs. If you don’t like what I’m saying, that’s fine, but the reason we do this is so that you can determine if this is the right church for you or not. If you don’t agree, I would rather have you discover that now and find a church that is more to your liking than to have you continue to attend here with the false belief that we’re going to be something we’re not.” This man didn’t like it. He left the class and never came back. A short time later I was talking to the pastor of a church the man had previously attended. The pastor wanted to warn me that the individual was a defiant troublemaker who bounced to a new church every couple of years. I can’t tell you how glad I am that he left before he got involved. The main reason he left so quickly was because we were intentional about defining our culture up front.
The flip side of this is that almost all of the other people in that class stayed. They were energized, dialed in, and excited to be a part of our congregation. When you connect with new blood, the learning curve is short, and the ownership is high. New people, combined with your committed core, are the ones who spread the church’s values like dye in water.
--from Chapter 12 of Dirt Matters: The Foundation for a Healthy, Vibrant, and Effective Congregation
Next week, I will offer the fifth of the nine principles you can use to implant your church’s values into its culture.