Webster defines process as "a series of actions or steps taken in order to achieve a particular end". Naturally, we imply from this that all processes are linear. In assimilation, this means we are looking for the strategic steps we want people to take in moving from first time guests to fully engaged members of our church. We want steps 1, 2, 3, 4 to be crystal clear and then everyone involved to faithfully march through these steps. The problem is that people don't start at the same place along the spiritual growth continuum and they aren't gifted the same. So as you begin creating structure to execute the strategy, managing process gets complicated. We've found it helpful to think of assimilation as a network of groups to manage this complexity. These groups serve as pools and dashboards for managing the movement of people through process.
Groups as pools. Create a group for each step in the assimilation process. The basics are straightforward: 1st time guest, 2nd time, new members, people interested in groups, people interested in serving in kids ministry, etc.. But then you have other pools based on responses like: talk to pastor, accept Christ, baptism, info on youth ministry. These are all typical responses to your connection or communication cards. Creating a pool provides a destination for each response. People can be in more than one pool at a time.
Groups as dashboards. Each pool has a pastor, staff or volunteer assigned to it as the "leader" or facilitator. The columns of each pool are customized to provide exactly the information needed by the pool facilitator. This is very much like running a report except all the information is interactive. We call this the Group Members View. With a glance the facilitator sees all the people they need to follow-up with, their contact information, other relevant attributes, the timing and content of all communication to them, follow-up due date, and more. You can even customize the sort of the dashboard so that the contacts that are due show up at the top.
The goal for each pool leader is to receive the people sent to them, respond to them, notate the response in the database and then either reschedule another follow up or hand them off to the next step in their unique process. Pools ensure that hand offs are made cleanly so that people don't fall through the cracks. The learning curve for using groups or pools for assimilation is flat since staff and volunteers already use them to manage their small groups and ministry teams.
Ten important ideas:
- Organize the pools so no one has to care for more than 30 people at any given time.
- This might mean having multiple pools for the same step in the process. ex. we divided those interested in small groups into pools based on lifestage and/or geography.
- This also means having an outlet for non-responders. When is it okay to remove someone from a pool?
- 6-7 contacts over 4 months is more than adequate.
- If people don't respond, give them an option to restart the process and remove them from that pool.
- 40% is actually a really great retention number for 1st time guests.
- Outdoor pools help seeking people find a path to community.
- The decision pool helps interested people find a church they believe in.
- Indoor pools help committed people find a team to serve and/or do life with.
- Keep things moving. Stagnant pools stink.
We stumbled upon the idea of tracking process through a series of pools. We knew it would be consistent with our core architectural "church of groups" idea, but we were surprised by how groups as assimlation pools made a complex problem understandable and doable. If you haven't, check out the membership webinar I do every other week to learn more.