One of the things at work in churches known for their growth and momentum is what I call the power of sequencing. It’s not always visible. You really have to know what you’re looking for to see it. And once you’ve spotted the strategic practice at work, you’ll notice it’s absence when you look at churches and ministries that don’t know about sequencing.
I first really noticed it after I left Fellowship of The Woodlands and joined the staff of another large, landmark sort of church in Southern California. Honestly, I didn’t know what I knew when I left Fellowship (now Woodlands Church), but I spotted the absence of sequencing in my first few weeks and within about 90 days even had a name for it. Sequencing.
Here’s an example:
In churches like Woodlands Church, Easter is a big deal. It is in your church too, but at Woodlands Church it is huge and very important (along with Christmas Eve) in the growth strategy. Lots of planning and preparation. Massive efforts to make the Easter services really powerful, very creative, and to make the campus amazingly welcoming and easy to navigate for first time guests. Yada, yada, yada.
You do that too, at least to an extent, but here’s where sequencing comes in.
An invitation is built into the message that encourages a response. There’s no come forward kind of response. It’s the fill out the connect card in your program sort of response. But there’s a very intentionally developed invitation built into the message that then encourages a trackable response. “If you prayed with me, we’d love to know it and send you some information that will help you with next steps to grow in Christ. Just drop your connect card in the offering or take it to the welcome center in the lobby.”
Next, in the same service, an invitation to “join us in 3 weeks for Class 101 (or whatever it’s called now), where you can find out more about us and why we do what we do” is given. And there’s an opportunity to sign up for 101 by dropping your connect card in the offering.
On the following Saturday morning, everyone who filled out a card indicating a decision to follow Christ is called and invited to attend Class 101.
In every service over the next 3 weekends the invitation to “join us for Class 101 is included.”
When Class 101 is offered, it is a great experience for the whole family. Childcare, bounce houses, hamburgers on the grill, all hands on deck with the staff, friendly greeters, etc.
Very important, in the content of Class 101, an easy to understand explanation of the plan of salvation (call it what you do) is given as a major part of the class. And, once explained, an opportunity to accept Christ today. “If you’ve never personally invited Jesus to come into your life as leader and forgiver, you can do that right now. Just pray along with me.” Moments later, “If you prayed with me just now, you’ll want to indicate on your form that you accepted Christ today, here in Class 101.”
With me so far? Here’s the next piece of the sequencing concept. Also in Class 101, there is a well thought out explanation and teaching on the importance of baptism as an outward expression of inward change. And, “if you’ve made the decision to follow Christ, you might want to be baptized at our next big baptism on June 20th! If you’d like to be join us that day, just check that box on your form today.”
See how this is developing? Sequencing. The next aspect of the sequence is the inclusion of the importance of baptism in a message following Easter and before the big baptism on June 20th. It won’t necessarily be a message about baptism. It might be about commitment or discipline (or any number of other topics), but there will be a point in the message where the teaching will be clear about the importance of baptism as an outward expression of an inward change and an opportunity to sign up to be baptized will be clearly offered. “In your program is this connect card. If you need to be baptized as your next step and you’ll fill this out and drop it in the offering later, you can join us that day!”
How many sequencing steps did you spot?
There is a reason that hundreds and hundreds of people are baptized at Woodlands Church (and Saddleback, LifeChurch.TV, etc.). Clearly, God is at work in the lives of people, but once you know the power of sequencing…it jumps out at you every time you see it (and when you don’t see it).
What do you think? Have a question? Want to argue? You can click here to jump into the conversation.