There are a few things I know about connecting unconnected people. And let me tell you something. While there are definitely exceptions to just about every rule...if you can think of examples counter to these five you are thinking of exceptions. Build your ministry off the rule and not the exception.
I've said many times that unconnected people are one tough thing away from not being at your church. Loss of a job. Divorce or separation. A devastating diagnosis. A child in trouble.
5 things you need to know about connecting unconnected people:
1. Unconnected people have different appetites
Unconnected people have different appetites and rarely respond to menu items that appeal to the core and committed.
While long-term members may be interested in theology, doctrine, and discipleship, unconnected people are more likely to respond first steps that directly appeal to their front-of-mind needs and interests.
Not sure what those front-of-mind needs and interests are? Making it your priority to get to know a growing number of unconnected people will help. Learning to ask the right questions will help even more.
If you're finding it hard to connect beyond the usual suspects, you might need to take a careful look at the topics of studies you're offering.
2. Unconnected people are wary of long commitments
When you promote a short-term study that's 13 weeks long (Financial Peace, Experiencing God, some Beth Moore studies), you need to know that unconnected people hear "lifetime commitment." When your semesters are 10 to 12 weeks long, you need to know that unconnected people do not hear short term. They think three months (and they put an exclamation point on it)!
What's the right length? I've found that 6 weeks is just about ideal. Lyman Coleman has said many times that 6 weeks is short enough to commit to and long enough to help people begin to feel connected. Lyman is right.
3. Unconnected people respond to test-drives and putting toes-in-the-water
In addition to offering shorter short-term opportunities, making it clear that it's "just a test-drive" helps unconnected people feel more comfortable putting their toe in the water.
Think about your most recent trip to the car dealer. Or think about deciding to buy your first home. Or the last time you sat in on a time-share presentation.
Choosing to leave the anonymity of the auditorium and take a step into community is not often done on a whim. Showing up in a stranger's living room is a major step that requires courage and determination.
Choosing to leave the anonymity of the auditorium and take a step into community is not often done on a whim. Showing up in a stranger's living room is a major step that requires courage and determination. Click To Tweet
If they know they can have a taste and opt out if it's not for them, they'll be much more likely to give it a try. Language is so important. The power of the right words cannot be overstated.
See also, Test-Drives, Taste-Tests and Toes-in-Water.
4. Unconnected people connect easiest when the first step out of the auditorium is familiar and the time is convenient
If your connecting event can be held in a building or room unconnected people have already seen, they'll be much more likely to sign-up. If your connecting event is at a convenient time, they'll be much more likely to attend.
Listen to very many new attendees at your church and you'll often learn that just getting up the nerve to come to a weekend service was a real challenge. I've talked with many who've told me they drove by many times before they ever pulled into the parking lot. I've had a number tell me they made it to the parking lot more than once and couldn't get out of their cars. Want these same people to join a small group? Better give them a way to attend an on-campus study or small group connection as their first step.
Pay close attention to the connection between when your connecting event is held, who attends and most importantly, who does not attend. Convenience is in the eye of the participant. What is a convenient time for empty nesters and parents of teens may actually be an inconvenient time for parents of younger children (who have already been in your children's program for 75 minutes).
5. Unconnected people attend less frequently than connected people
This is a very important reality to acknowledge and anticipate. While most regular attendees are attending less frequently, unconnected people are attending even less frequently.
Has this reality moved to your front-of-mind yet? If you want to connect unconnected people you must pay attention to this current trend. To prioritize connecting unconnected people you will need to be alert to their attendance patterns. You will also need to be testing for the best ways to communicate with them.
Have a connecting opportunity coming up? If you want unconnected people to hear about it, keep in mind that promoting the event several weeks in a row is essential. Targeted email and/or text message invites, along with social media posts, has potential to reach a wider audience. If your church has an online service or campus, make sure you're promoting the event there as well and that unconnected people are able to respond to the invite as they hear about it.
What do you think? Have something to add? Want to argue? You can click here to jump into the conversation.
Image by Jan Nagalski