Many people have asked, how we manage to keep people after they come in through an evangelistic seminar. The answer I give is a plan we’ve developed through much trial and error. But it hinges two key things: 1) building friendships and 2) confirming what they’ve learned.
1) FRIENDSHIPS: It’s been reported that when new people come to church, they need to make 7 close, personal friends within the first year if they are to stay. So, we’ve tried to capitalize on that in many ways. This is what we do.
- We assign each person a spiritual mentor (usually a husband and wife team, but not always), who visits them, delivers gifts from the church, invites them over for food, and spiritually mentors them by answering basic questions about church, the Bible, and prays with them.
- We get them into a small group where they will make close friendships. We usually start 2-3 small groups after every seminar filled mainly with new people and few people who can help guide them.
- We have social events that get people together to play, where friendships can be made
- Plenty of potluck a during and after the seminar doesn’t hurt either
2) CONFIRMING: In an evangelistic seminar, we cover a lot of ground in a few short weeks, so we do some things to go over again the information that they’ve learned. This is what we do.
- We begin a Bible Marking class immediately after the seminar where people are encouraged to open their Bibles, ask questions, Mark their Bibles in a chain reference fashion so they can find it themselves and share it with others. This class lasts 12-15 weeks.
- We utilize our newly started small groups to also teach some of the same information. Some think that’s overkill. Yet, the new people are excited about what they’ve just learned and cannot seem to get enough. But we aren’t rigid about this, the groups can study other things. However, we do find that the groups that study some aspect of Bible prophecy tend to keep going longer.
- Our mentors pass out materials on a schedule that will help people. We give books like “Desire of Ages,” “Great Controversy,” or a variety of books that will help them grow spiritually or doctrinally. Both are important at this stage. Books that are passed out, magazines, DVDs, etc. can be handed out every few weeks that gives the mentors an excuse to go visit and gives them something to talk about.
- We also challenge people with a specific area of discipleship that fits with the new people in our sermon series immediately following an evangelistic seminar.
What we’ve found, is that if we can get people over a three month hurdle (12 weeks) that they are more prone to stay. So the big thrust of this is within that time frame, but it lingers beyond – the friends, the socials, the small groups. With these in mind, our 1 year retention rate hovers around 85-90% and our long-term retention rate hovers around 65-70%.