In the spirit of the 13th Article of Faith, I would like to spend some time looking at retention strategies in the Evangelical church, and especially those of Nelson Searcy as outlined in “Fusion: Turning First-Time Gests into Fully-Engaged Members of Your Church”
Nelson Searcy is an evangelical Minister and founder of the Journey Church, which has grown from 1 to 1000 members from 2002 to 2007. Nelson is a prolific writer in the evangelical mega church planting movement, and prior to starting the Journey, worked with Rick Warren on the purpose driven stuff.
Compared to some other books rotating around retention from the Evangelical group, I found Nelson’s book much more up front and realistic. Also, I liked that Searcy quoted Stephen Covey in a good way (compare this with “Sticky Church” , another evangelical book on retention, which only mentions Mormons as part of it’s nebulous list of enemies). Regardless of those points though, the question is, does Searcy’s program he outlines in fusion have any meat to it, and further, can the LDS church use it at all? The answer to the first question is yes, and the answer to the second, is maybe.
First, Searcy says the key to “stickyness” (assimilating and retaining members) is relationships. In Nelsons words “Connections with the Body of Christ [like in the Pauline epistles] are the most effective adhesive for keeping your gues and your church bound together.” He recommends three types of situations which I think could be implemented without a change of program in the LDS
1. Small Groups- Small Groups are a foundational component in mega churches (and by the way, this is the one note that the book “Sticky Church” plays over and over again) as they are really the environment for building relationships in their large church. I think in our church, FHEs, Home Teaching, and 2nd and 3rd hour classes could be tweeked slightly to be more conducive to this sort of model. Searcy says his small group model is to break out the groups into 3 month chunks, to give new people more regular jumping on points, as no one wants to start in the middle of the year. I thought this was a great idea.
2. Fun events- Three ingredients here- Low Commitment, Low Pressure, Lots of Fun!- I think this is something the activities committee is supposed to already be accomplishing. Sometimes I think we need to focus more on the “Lots of Fun” part. One idea mentioned in the book Id s church movie night, were members just go to a normal dinner and theater together as a group (as opposed to a Mormon movie…)
3. Service Teams- My favorite line here is “God can use your newcomers to serve others even if they personally don’t know him yet.”I think we already offer a lot of this via our program of offering callings. I am sure we could make some tweaks to tune it though, like in “Growing an Engaged Church”
Second, Searcy in the end offers 7 suggestions that a church can do right now to immediately boost retention. As the last one is to have a church team read the book by Searcy, I’ll forgo that one, but these are what I found really interesting.
1. Start writing and mailing hand-written follow-up notes to your first time visitors, thanking them for attending.
2. Have a Communication Card that is simple and to the point to get contact information from guests (different than the long and tedious “new move in form” most wards have)
3. Put up signs to direct people toward bathrooms, children’s areas, etc.
4. Take a hard look at your building- improve the landscaping, pick up clutter, paint a sign, improve lighting, etc.
5. Start offering generous enticing refreshments (This was my favorite suggestion, but also the one I think least likely to get cultural traction in the Church)
6. Place smiling friendly greeters at the outside doors to church (as opposed to the chapel doors, as seems customary in the church)
So, do you think retention would improve simply by getting a few hundred Krispy Krème Donuts and some Hot Cocoa and Juice every Sunday?
How are the relationships in your ward?
Any thoughts on Fusion?