Climbing the Assimilayas

Becoming Sherpas in people's journey to connect

Look who's comin' to Base Camp...

Greg CurtisComment

I am proud to have my friend Julie Liem, Volunteer Director at Eastside Christian Church, as a session leader at my Climbing the Assimilayas Base Camp next week at Crossroads Christian Church in Corona CA. This opportunity was made possible by my good friend Rob Meaux at Thrivant Financial.

Julie will be doing a session on how to recruit and onboard healthy volunteers. She has done a session like this at 2 of my Base Camps last year, earning the highest rated session by many of those attending. Julie's experience as a Marriage and Family Therapist has given her a keen understanding of people in her staff role at Eastside, especially when it comes to creating the process we use to place volunteers in a role that is a match to their gifting and passion. 

To hear a 20 minute podcast interview with Julie on "Unseminary" (with Rich Birch), click here

To learn more about the Base Camp she and I will be leading on May 11-12, click here.

Dan Ward, Guest Services and Assimilation Pastor at The Crossing Church (a church with a weekend attendance of 4000 in Las Vegas NV) said this about his experience at the Base Camp:

It gave me an opportunity to aspire to something greater than where we currently are. I now possess a much better understanding of what systems and processes are out there and what the benefits are.  

I'm really looking forward to that thing that happens when a focused group of Sherpa-type leaders like Dan get together to go the next level for the guests God is bringing to their churches.

Hope to see you there,

What to do when you want to see different results (3 of 3)

Greg CurtisComment

Kobe Bryant is one of the greats. He led the entire NBA in scoring for two whole seasons and ranks #3 for all-time season scoring. He is a phenomenon. 

He is also a conundrum. Despite being a record holder for dominating the basket, he is far and away the least valuable scoring champion according to win shares. His high scores simply did not produce the winning games and winning seasons that he and the Lakers would have thought.

This gives me pause as an Assimilation Director. Sometimes it is possible for our assimilation environment (our "one program") to be stuffed with people, lots of energy, and stellar evaluations and still not connect people to in a big way to small groups and ministry teams.

As Sherpas who lead people toward meaningful connections at your church, we need to keep this principal in mind: there is a difference between your program's scorecard, and your ministry's scoreboard. Forgetting this can make assessing the effectiveness of what is really happening in your assimilation ministry very confusing and complex. Remembering this can clear the air, provide direction, and move you into new results. 

There is a difference between your program's scorecard, and your ministry's scoreboard.

As in all team sports, an athlete can hold records in many areas and still have a team that is losing games. In assimilation ministry it is the same. At my church, assimilation is helping a first time guest become a connected serving member. Connected=in a small group (scoreboard 1). Serving =on a ministry team (scoreboard 2). It doesn't matter how great the stats are at Next Steps (my scorecard) or how many connection cards we receive at Guest Central (another scorecard). If guests are not becoming part of a small group and/or ministry team, we are not winning the game.

When your scorecard looks good, you may be in danger if you are not keeping your eyes on the scoreboard. When you want to see different results in your ministry, you have to ask the kind of questions that move you beyond personal and programatic satisfaction. Questions like:

  1. How many guest cards did we receive this year? 
  2. How many new people did we add to small groups this year?
  3. How many new volunteers did we add this year?
  • Divide number 2 by number 1 and you have your assimilation ratio for small groups (EX: 100 cards divided by 50 new people in groups=1 out of 2)
  • Divide number 3 by number 1 and you have your assimilation ratio for ministry teams (see previous example)

This is your scoreboard, regardless of how well attended your assimilation program is.

This provides the baseline for how to measure, and set goals to increase the number of people you assimilate. To see new results, keep your team's consistent focus here.

Here is an example of how scoreboard over scorecard focus can help you make decision that change results.

We had our largest Next Step Experiences ever in March. We offer Next Steps during 2 of our services. The energy from lots of people in the room resulted in the highest evaluations we have ever received. Guests loved it. However, in order to continue in my relentless pursuit of 1 out of 4 guests assimilated (think the results Jesus described  in the parable of the soils), we are now experimenting with the adding of a Next Steps offered during a third service. 

Some of our team members expressed concern that the positive energy that brought our evals up to 10 would decrease to an 8. Though I shared the concern, I realized it was scorecard thinking. So I added another Next Steps, knowing it would reduce the size of the others offered, with the hope of connecting more guests overall. The deciding factor became a choice between 2 potential realities:

Reality 1: Keeping Evals at a 10 but connecting less guests to small groups and ministry teams (Scorecard)

Reality 2: Reducing evals to an 8 but possibly connecting more of our guests to groups and teams (Scoreboard)

I chose reality 2 with a trial run where we can measure if in fact our scoreboard will be affected so we can actually win the game when it comes to the number of guests we connect. We'll evaluate over the next 2 months.

That's scoreboard thinking. It also means you don't have to be a Kobe to win the game.

Of course, good processes support and bring about the good results you are after over time. My next post will focus on the different kinds of process breakdown you may be experiencing and what you need to ask yourself to make simple and thorough repairs. 

To really see new results, join a select group of colleagues from all over the US to identify new strategies and shifts in your assimilation ministry on May 11-12 in sunny Southern California. This Base Camp will be a powerful way to affect real change on your scoreboard!

   

 

 

  • What is the scorecard on your assimilation environment right now? What stats are relevant on that card?
  • What are your current assimilation ratios? (Use formula listed above to see your scoreboard).
  • What dial turns could you make in your assimilation program that would better connect guests to your small groups? (Scoreboard 1)
  • What dial turns could you make in your assimilation program that would better onboard volunteers to your ministry teams? (Scoreboard 2)

What to do when you want to see different results (2 of 3)

Greg CurtisComment

If the definition of insanity is to do the same things over and over again but expect different results, then it follows that sanity would be to start doing more of the things that give us the results we want. 

As a writer, I have found that on days that I get up before the sun rises, I get a lot more written and my day tend to be more productive. I don't have that sense that I need to catch up. I feel I have somehow gotten ahead of the game and the momentum carries throughout my day. I hear runners feel this way.

I wouldn't know. I do know that when I realized that starting my day earlier with no distraction made me more productive, I attempted it more often. Guess what? I got more written and more done. I saw different results by just taking what was working for me and doing it more often.

If the definition of insanity is to do the same things over and over again but expect different results, then it follows that sanity would be to start doing more of the things that give us the results we want. 

That's what we started doing last year in our assimilation ministry at Eastside. It was a bold move.

Beginning in June 2016, we redesigned our 7-week First Step Experience (FSX) which was offered to guests quarterly and turned it into a 4-week Next Step Experience offered every week. This was bold because we were at the top of our game with FSX but were attracting more guests than we could assimilate at that frequency. 

So like a writer getting up early more often, or a runner training more often, we took what was going well for us and did it more often.

2 things happened that have amazed me:

  1. We went from seeing 1 out of 6 guests become volunteers to 1 out of 5. 
  2. We went from seeing 1 out of 32 newly baptized people at FSX to 1 out of 5.5 of our newly baptized people attending Next Steps. This was a massive positive change simply brought about by offering something a person just baptized could do next week, rather than wait a few weeks or a couple months to begin. 

You have to pick your poison though.

There were at least 4 prices we had to pay for these new results:

  1. We had to cut important content out of our assimilation environment to see something more important happen in number of guests connecting. We cut out 25% of our material, and put another 25% of it in the form of "Going Deeper" video assignments that they could watch at home, fill in the blanks, and get some cool prizes at their tables for filling in the blanks.
  2. We had to see the numbers go down at each gathering to see more people assimilated annually. Our quarterly FSX saw as many as 14 tables per session on Sundays and 7 to 8 tables on Saturdays during Fall and Winter sessions. This quarter we are now averaging 3 tables full on Saturday sessions, and 6 to 7 on Sundays. But because it happens monthly, well ....you do the math.
  3. We had to spend more money to provide the materials and freebies we like to give guests more often. So worth it.
  4. We had to invest more time onboarding volunteers to staff Next Steps on an every other month basis to see this happen every weekend. The good news: they come from the Next Steppers themselves, every month!

In an effort to see even more results, are actually doing a trial run this month of a noon Next Steps Experience, offering it during three of our our four weekend services. Will keep you posted on that one.

Now I know what some of you are thinking: "That's great when you are a large church with the volume to repeat things more often. A smaller congregation wouldn't have critical mass to pull off what you are recommending".

Good thinking. But you would be wrong!

Two of our campuses run between 200 and 450 in attendance. They joined us in offering our 4 week Next Steps Experience every weekend. They offer it just once per weekend, during the last service each Sunday. They see 5 to 12 guests attend each weekend. Doesn't sound like a lot of people until you begin to think of how a church this size could be strengthened with 60 to 144 new volunteers added every year!

It's not easy, but it is astoundingly simple. Like a runner or a writer, if you want to see different results, look at what you do that produces those results and do it more often.

In my next post, I will share the third thing to do when you want see different results in connecting guests at your church. It is something I have never thought of before, but it is informing my decision making often these days and helping me make quicker and more guilt-free decisions about our ministry. It has been making a difference in the number of lives transformed. I can't wait to share it with you.

Don't forget to check out my new Base Camp in May. Would love to have you a part of these real, enjoyable and higher-impact conversations on this topic. Click here to find out about it. 

  • What is your most effective tool, program or environment for connecting guests at your church? How often is it available?
  • What do you think would happen if you simply offered it more frequently? (Keep from saying "yeah but..." until the end of the conversation for best results)
  • Which of the 4 prices listed above are you most willing to pay? Least willing to pay? Why?

What to do if you want to see different results (1 of 3)

Greg CurtisComment

It's been said that your church's ministry is perfectly designed to produce the results that you now see. The pivotal question is, would you like to see different results?

Your church's ministries have been designed to move your church in a specific direction. That direction has results built into it. For example, your church's ministries have been designed in the prayerful hope that your church will...

  • widen its impact on individuals and families in your community
  • see people experience the transformation that comes from following Jesus together
  • connect well with the guests who God leads on to your campus and to its people.
  • engage people in Spirit-empowered, sacrificial initiatives that change the lives of people all over the world

When it comes to us "Sherpa-types" who help people connect with others on this journey, we must realize that our assimilation ministry is perfectly designed to produce the results its currently producing.

Concurrent Truth: Change the design, change the results. 

Would you like to see different results this Spring and exponential results by Fall? You totally can. It will require these three things:

1. Identify a new design clearly

Outcome determines design. What do you secretly wish was coming out of your assimilation ministry that currently is not.? That is not the wrestling of an unspiritual soul. That is God stirring in you for the sake of people he loves. This stirring, when brought to the right environment, will result in a new design or even direction for your assimilation ministry. The surprising thing is that in many cases it is not a new direction but a few dial-turns that turn a greater number of guests into connected, serving members of the body of Christ that you serve in.

In many cases, it is not a new direction but a few dial-turns that turn a greater number of guests into connected, serving members of the body of Christ that you serve in.

2. Make a plan to implement that new design, one step at a time.

Whether a dial-turn or a fresh design, every positive move toward a greater vision of connecting guests and engaging new followers of Jesus is a simple step by step process. It doesn't role out all at once. That is why I love helping people develop a Sherpa Action Plan that is up to 12 months in length and is strategically designed around the 3 annual bumps in attendance. This allows them to achieve the best assimilation results possible.

3. Enjoy the new results.

No kidding. Over the last four years I have been able to serve churches of 80 to 20,000 in attendance from 7 different countries and counting. I have seen that by bringing Sherpa-types together, putting them in a positively charged and specifically designed environment, the new designs, strategies and dial-turns materialize fast. Once each step is taken, results are celebrated almost immediately.

I recently got this from Mike Firsch from Yucaipa Christian Church. He attended my CTA Base Camp one year ago. The specifics of this touched me big time and I share it with his permission:

Hi Greg, 

It's Mike from YCC.  Hope you're doing well.  I wanted to take a moment and say thank you.  I really appreciate your investment in me and our church.  The time you have given and the content you have shared has been so helpful.  Here's what God did through your help:

Last year we had 176 contact cards filled out.

This year we currently have 786 cards filled out 

Last year we averaged 18 people at First Step

This year we are averaging 41 people at First Step

Our small group numbers are growing (71% of adults are in groups now) and we're pumped for the new year.  We have set some big goals and believe we will hit them soon.  

Thank you for sharing your insight and giving us the opportunity to learn from what you're learning.  I appreciate your friendship and I'm praying for you, your family and for Eastside today.  Grace and peace ...

Did you catch that? They are capturing the contact info of 4 times the amount of guests they were before, over doubling the participation in their First Step environment and now have 71% of their adults in a small group. That now have a contagious culture for guest to be drawn into for the sake of Christ's work in them. New results celebrated!

Want some new results to celebrate? Grab your team and me join me in Corona CA at my next Base Camp May 11-12.  This is a Thursday/Friday that will produce a day and a half of good food, new friends and colleagues, challenging content, round table discussions, and free resources, all in sunny Southern California. If you can stay over the weekend, attend my church and our Next Steps program and see some of the things we do.

More lives transformed by Jesus are around the corner for you, your church and your community. You just need to adjust the design of your ministry to see those new results.

Click here to come join me and let's do it.

Look for my next post where I will share how we went from assimilating 1 out of 6 of our guests to 1 out of 5 this year...without doing anything new!

  • How many of your guests are you currently assimilating? (One way to determine this: divide YTD Guest Cards by the number of new volunteers added YTD. Or if you track it, new people added to small groups YTD. Both of these are valuable indicators of your churches assimilation rate). 
  • How are these results directly ties to the design of your ministry? Be specific.
  • Brainstorm 3 dial-turns and one possible wholistic design change that could bring you the results you want. Try one for a trial basis to gage effectiveness.

The key to promoting your assimilation environment (Guest environment blast 3 of 3)

Greg CurtisComment

Your Yelp app is pointing to a new reality in how guests at your church make decisions about where they are willing to spend their time and why.

When you are yelping to find a restaurant you want to try, the features option has expanded way beyond seeing what's on the menu and the price range. Now people's choices about what restaurant they are willing to try is based on factors like... 

  • outdoor seating
  • pet friendly/kid friendly
  • "Hot & New"
  • liked by 20 somethings, 30 somethings or 40 somethings
  • has a TV
  • good for groups
  • PokeStop nearby

Have you noticed how Disney is marketing their theme parks these days? No longer is it about what the coolest rides are and when/how to get the best price on tickets. Now its all about staying at the resort, lodging by a body of water, a concierge making your kids dreams come true by introducing them to Disney characters, your family playing in the pool or at the beach together. It's about relaxing and having fun.

That's right. It isn't about the best burger, cheapest combo meal, discount tickets or most thrilling ride. People today are making decisions about where they go based on the experience being offered, not the content being communicated. In other words, the burger has to be good, and the ride has to work, but the environment that is created will be the deciding factor as to whether guest will come and whether they will return.

People today are making decisions about where they go based on the experience being offered, not the content being offered

This has informed how we promote the environment we have created for guests at our church in recent days. We call it the Next Steps Experience and we recently discovered what Yelp, Disney, and boutique Breweries opening up everywhere are discovering: Sell the environment, not the menu, rides and beer. The current trend of using images of people experiencing what you are promoting (rather than logos) is also a manifestation of this new reality.

Since last June, we began selling Next Steps by sharing its content. We said things from the stage like, "Come and find out everything you need to know to get connected at our church", and "Discover your purpose in life", and "Learn about Eastside's story and how you can become a part". Our attendance was dismal.

Then something happened.

Gene Appel our Senior Pastor asked guests from the stage on New Years Day to make it a "new year's resolution" to come to Next Steps. But he didn't lead with the content of the program, he led with what they would experience. He said things like, "Your journey at Eastside begins at Next Steps", "Because following Jesus is about a journey and not a class, you'll get a backpack when you arrive and a new piece of equipment each week to reinforce the training we are giving you", and "You'll be at tables with other people new to our church, discussing relevant issues and competing for some cool prizes". 

Our attendance at Next Steps more than doubled the following weekend!

Guests having a blast while connecting at out Next Step Experience

Guests having a blast while connecting at out Next Step Experience

He dd it again 2 weeks ago and we saw another significant bump up, our largest attendance of Next Steps yet. And here;s the kicker: not one person who attended was a recipient of our mass video email that week to guests who have been attending for 3 to 4 months but have not been to Next Steps. Not one!

All this leads me to a potentially shocking conclusion: I really don't think guests care that much about the content of our assimilation programs. "Oh, but Greg, we share that they will discover what they were born to do, how to know their purpose in life, and how they can make a difference through our church". Sorry to break it to you, but most of your guests feel like trying to make a good living, holding a marriage together and raising good kids is enough purpose for them. I am not saying this is their ultimate purpose and source of fulfillment, but I am saying that what they care about when you invite them to your assimilation environment is what they will be experiencing there, not the bullet points of the content in your program. If the environment you've created is awesome, they will connect with the content, whatever it is.

So here's what I'm learning about promoting our assimilation environments:

  1. Promotion that works is driven from the stage
  2. The Senior Pastor has to be the promotor either monthly, or at least quarterly during months with high worship attendance.
  3. Here's the key: Promote what they will experience not the content of the program

So take a cue from Yelp, restaurants, theme parks and breweries: They know that their content (menu, rides, even prices) is secondary to the guests they target. If you create and promote the experience you've crafted for them, this environment will allow whatever is on your menu content-wise to be absorbed well and to transform their lives.

That's what the right environment does. 

I hope this 3 day Guest Environments Blast has been helpful to your cause. If you want to learn more about environment architecture, onboarding guests into small groups and volunteer teams, and form an up to 12-month plan for implementing more effective strategies for assimilating guests, bring your team and join me for a day and half Climbing the Assimilayas Base Camp May 11-12 at Crossroads Christian Church in Corona Ca. You'll be processing this information at tables with other church staff from around the country. Great food, laughs, free resources, profound insights and exercises will leave you ready to increase the amount of Guest you connect to your church by Fall. Looking forward to meeting you and your team there.

  • Examine the promotional content of your assimilation environment (the One Program you want all guests to go to). Are you selling the content or the experience?
  • What is being said from the stage, bulletin, web page and by email that lets them know about the kind of environment that you are inviting them to instead of the content you want them to know?
  • What is the one change in promotion that you could road test next month to evaulate its effectiveness?

 

 

 

Design this right and assimilating guests will happen automatically (Guest environment blast 2 of 3)

Greg CurtisComment
The view from my backyard with the 2 chairs that made others enjoy it to the fullest.

The view from my backyard with the 2 chairs that made others enjoy it to the fullest.

I have learned something about entertaining in my home: people don't always sit where you want them to. 

I am grateful to live in a small home with a big view. I love being outside to enjoy it whenever I can and naturally expected others would too. Surprisingly, my patio table and chairs weren't enough to get people to venture out 10 yards to see the "bigger view" where a small lake appears with wildlife and a golf course surrounding it. I had to coax them to the edge of the lawn. They would be taken in by the expansiveness of the view once I led them there, but they seldom stayed out there to enjoy it.

Thats when I became a genius in my own mind and bought some $17 chairs from Lowe's and dragged 2 of them to the edge of the lawn along with a small table I made to hold drinks. All of a sudden when people came over, they bee-lined for the best view in the house, the one they would consistently forfeit before. Why? Because I unwittingly created an environment that made it hard for my guests to resist what I wanted them to experience and easy to do the thing I knew they would love if they gave it a chance. The reward? Seeing this:

I hard to crop 2 photos together to try to share as much as my greedy eye could take in! This is what people enjoy when they sit in the 2 chairs I put out on the edge of my lawn that cannot be seen from any other place in my yard.

I hard to crop 2 photos together to try to share as much as my greedy eye could take in! This is what people enjoy when they sit in the 2 chairs I put out on the edge of my lawn that cannot be seen from any other place in my yard.

I unwittingly created an environment that made it hard for my guests to resist what I wanted them to experience and easy to do the thing I knew they would love if they gave it a chance.

Peter Bregman's book 18 minutes is the best book I have ever read on focusing your time and leadership to produce results. Instead of using messaging, vision or compliance, he talks about altering environments as the key to changing your own behavior as well as the behavior of others. Relative to this, I see 2 principles we need to keep in mind when it comes to the guests of our church:

1. Environments dictate action

When my children were young, we lived in a home with a large great room in the front, and a large kitchen with a cozy den and fireplace in the back. The previous owners had told me they never used the great room, which had the largest square footage of any area in the entire house. They gathered where most of us do in our homes these days: where the food and the TV are. 

I determined that we would use ALL the square footage I had purchased in this home. So I did something the previous owners didn't. I placed the TV in the great room instead of in the den next to the kitchen. Since people always gather where the food and comfortable seating are, the den would always be used, and it would be used for what I wanted to see happen most during meals: conversation. Likewise, the great room would always be used because it contained the holy grail of any modern society, the television. In this manner, I was able to accomplish what the previous owner could not.....all by moving a TV. Changing the environment, changed how we lived in that home because environment dictates action.

 “If you want to help other people, think about what you want them to do and whether the environment around them supports the behavior.” -Peter Bergman, 18 Minutes.

What are the unintended consequences of the environment you invite guests into? What actions do you want them to take in order to begin connecting? What objects, technology or furniture could you rearrange to dictate those actions?

I know that at my church when we went from rows to tables in our assimilation environment and added table hosts, what we had been trying to tell guests to do, just started happening. Which leads to an amazing principle that you can take advantage of:

2. Environments make change automatic.

When I moved the TV into the great room, I never had to ask my family to talk to each other as we ate in the den. I never had to ask them to laugh till they cried, talk about their day or share what was bothering them. They just did. I never had to ask them to use the great room, or watch shows on our only television with their friends or with our family. They just did. The environment made what I wanted to see happen, happen....automatically.

“Don’t fight yourself to change your behavior in the midst of the wrong environment; just change the environment.” --Peter Bergman, 18 Minutes.

When was a time in your life where you acted in a way that you are most proud of? What environment were you in? In what ways did that environment produce those actions? What environment would help guests automatically experience connection rather than trying to program it?

One thing is certain: your current environment for assimilation is perfectly designed to produce the results that it does. The question is, are these the results you are seeking?.

Take some time with your team to talk though some of the questions in this post as I restate them below in the "To chew on as we . In my last post tomorrow, I'll talk about how environment holds the key to promoting your assimilation strategy.  In the mean time, I think I would like to see more people enjoy my back 40.

Guess where I put some more chairs?

I have more people gathering here now than I can recount. "If you build it, they will come..."

I have more people gathering here now than I can recount. "If you build it, they will come..."

  • What are the unintended consequences of the environment you invite guests into?
  • What actions do you want guests to take in order to begin connecting?
  • What objects, technology or furniture could you rearrange to dictate those actions?
  • When was a time in your life where you acted in a way that you are proud of? What environment were you in? In what ways did that environment produce those actions?
  • What kind of environment would help guests automatically experience connection rather than trying to program it?

How wine tasting is affecting liquor stores and what it means for your church (Guest environment blast 1 of 3)

Greg Curtis4 Comments

Really?! Wine tasting?

Yep. Welcome to the first of a 3-day blast on the architecture of assimilation environments and the impact they have on the number of guests we connect at our churches. Now, back to wine tasting...

My wife and I love to go wine tasting, especially up the Central Coast of California not far from where we live. We like going from place to place, to see the atmosphere wineries have created to sit and try what they have produced from the fields just outside. Some of our favorites have stone outdoor patios and caves to taste in. Others have retro-modern or mid-century decor under huge oaks surrounded by green mountains. Still others are rustic and feel like you have walked into someone's ranch from a couple generations ago. 

The thing they all have in common is you don't have to buy a single bottle. For a nominal fee, you can taste a small pour of many different kinds of wine, snack on cheese and crackers and sometimes even keep the glasses you are sipping from. If you fall in love with something...buy it, take it home, and relive the experience, an experience Michelle and I repeat around 3 times a year.

As a result, we never go to liquor stores, some of which are seedy, and where you have to buy something at a price that usually is marked up more. Because you haven't tasted it, you are not even sure about what you are getting. That's why the wine we enjoy, we bring home from our wine tasting excursions at our leisure. We can also join a club from our favorite winery and have it delivered if we choose.

This is how a lot of people select and enjoy wine today. It's also how many people select and enjoy churches.

Like those who go wine tasting, many people visiting our churches want to...

  • get a feel for something before they commit to it
  • be in an environment that helps them experience what they are being encouraged to commit to.
  • be able to relax and feel comfortable with the pace of that exploration.
  • jump in when they are ready

Psalm 34:8 says to "taste and see that the Lord is good". God loves to invite people to experience a part of him, confident that when they do, they will want to go deeper. The question is, how can we create an environment where we offer that experience to our guests? Here are 10 ideas:

  1. Have a special place where guest can give you their information, receive a gift, and not stand in any lines. Comfortable furniture is a must.
  2. Invite all your guests to connect at an environment with food, and where you sit at tables.
  3. Don't require a multi-week commitment to get involved, Just create an environment that is so engaging and pleasant that they will want to return.
  4. Offer a program for guests where their experience at tables allows them to taste what a small group would feel like before they commit to finding one..
  5. Offer an All Access Tour for guests only, with special access badges that allow you to take them behind the scenes of your ministries (wine making) and hear from volunteers who love to serve in each of them... before you ask them to volunteer,
  6. Have Community Serve Days, Compassion Trips and select volunteer positions that guests and others in your community can be a part of, even if they haven't been on your campus yet.
  7. Have small group expos where open groups serve food and visit with people looking for a group of friends to explore or follow Jesus with at your church.
  8. Have links on your group finding web page that form a simply worded email for them to inquiry about about a group when they press "contact a leader".
  9. Wow them with a free gift or resource that they could use to "taste" some aspect of the kind of life your church casts vision for.
  10. Give them something free in the mail that they can use next time they come to your campus.
Guests at Next Steps drinking coffee and playing the Get to Know Each Other Game with dice. This is very similar to the opening questions shared when a small group is new. It gives them a taste of community that many times leaves them open or even wanting more.

Guests at Next Steps drinking coffee and playing the Get to Know Each Other Game with dice. This is very similar to the opening questions shared when a small group is new. It gives them a taste of community that many times leaves them open or even wanting more.

Wine tasting is the new way of purchasing wine. Getting a taste of community and purpose is the new way of deciding if a church is for you or not. Knowing you have the Spirit & mind of the best wine-maker of all time, what other ideas would you suggest? Comment on this post. Take some time to chew on the questions below with your team to develop more of a "taste and see" experience for your guests.

Wine tasting is the new way of purchasing wine. Tasting community and purpose is the new way of deciding if a church is for you or not.

Look for the 2nd post in this series where I'll share how creating the right environment for your guests can make things happen automatically, even things that you have not been able to make happen no matter how hard you try.

  • What new thoughts come to mind when you think of your Guest Service Team Members as "Sommeliers"? What church do you know of that comes close to offering that kind of service?
  • Brainstorm to identify any "taste and see" moments in the ministry of Jesus and his followers. What moments stand out to you and why?
  • Which of the 10 ideas shared in this post makes you think of a dial turn that could be a game changer in your own assimilation strategy?
  • What is one "taste and see experiment" that you could road test in the next 4 weeks?

Consider bringing your team to my 2 day Climbing the Assimilayas Base Camp May 11-12 at Crossroads Christian Church in Corona. Look for registration to open this week.

 

May your heart be guided to these 2 places

Greg CurtisComment

I woke up yesterday to this Verse of the Day on my YouVersion Bible: 

It was perfect because my days and weeks don't always go as I envision them:

  • My wife tells me I can be unrealistic about how much time it takes to accomplish a certain task. 
  • If tasks take require many team members to accomplish it and have multiple moving parts, its easy for one "ball drop" do cause the whole project to miss its completion date for optimum results.
  • The needs of other staff and guests at my church come to my desk with unpredictable flow.

Leading people on the climb toward full assimilation is not easy. That's why this Sherpa smiled when he read the verse about his heart being directed to 2 places: God's love and Christ's perseverance. I believe that when I am full of God's love, I outlast my challenges and see results that come from pressing forward with an energy outside my own. 

That's what I experienced just last week in 2 different settings:

1. Northside Christian Church in Fresno

Lunch with the Staff Team at Northside Christian Church in Fresno.

Lunch with the Staff Team at Northside Christian Church in Fresno.

I did a 2 day Base Camp for 24 staff at this awesome church last week. I fell in love with this team and with this church. Fresno is a blessed place to have a faith community like this one with Sherpas in it like these men and women. We challenged each other, laughed big, and identified new and robust strategies to help guests connect in small groups and volunteer teams at new levels. 

I also also came down with some serious campus envy. Check out this outdoor baptistry and coffee house:

Northside's outdoor amphitheater, baptistry Frappe House and outdoor seating. 

Northside's outdoor amphitheater, baptistry Frappe House and outdoor seating. 

When we do outside baptisms, we set up a doughboy. This one would be my office and personal jacuzzi. Just sayin'.

Northside runs about 3000 on weekends. With a steady flow of guests coming in, the discussion about more intentional processes and environments to increase the number of guests who stick, find community, and a personal ministry was electric. In the words of Brent Deffenbacher, Northside's Pastor of Teaching and Discipleship: "As a Ministry Team Leader, this provided a great learning environment for our Discipleship Team which has now given us a common language for discussion and evaluation". I was pretty excited to be a part of that.

"This Base Camp will make us more intentional about creating pathways as opposed to cul de sacs; experiences rather than classes". -Mike Osborn, Pastor to Life Groups/Couples at Northside.

All this makes me excited for my next Base Camp which I should be able to announce by the beginning of next week.

2. Next Steps at Eastside

Now that we have transitioned from a quarterly 7-week "First Step Experience" to an ongoing revolving 4-week experience called "Next Steps", I have wanted to see a greater number of guests coming into that connection environment than ever before. This has been a greater challenge than I anticipated. 

Last weekend there was a breakthrough: we did 3 things different that resulted in exponential attendance at our other 2 campuses and a 40% increase in our attendance at our broadcast campus in Anaheim. I'll share these 3 things soon on a future post after I share them in my Sherpa's Forum (a group for Base Camp Alumni where ideas get better and sharper before sharing!).

Michael is one of our new young adults at Eastside. He just graduated last month after attending all 4 steps of Next Steps. We give graduation certificates that Gene and I sign to all those like Michael who graduate and I am blown away at how much they love them. Check out Naomi's reaction...

That is how you want people to look when they leave the One Program you ask them to attend!

That is how you want people to look when they leave the One Program you ask them to attend!

Back to Michael. He showed up last weekend 15 minutes before Next Steps was to begin at our 10:30am service. He asked if I needed a table host for this month's sessions. Everything looked fine to me but then a shiver went up my spine: was God providing me something I was going to need? I told him to stick around. He had no job description or training other than having attended last month's Next Step Experience. When I went up to kick off the session we were all good....until a second flood of guests arrived. We were scrambling to find chairs, tables, another table host, backpacks, Bibles, and sat them 10 to a table. Michael was literally a God send and is now a member of our team.

We are fortunate to serve a God who cares even more about guests and what we do with them then we do. I love that.

Because the environments we create for guests are one of THE most important factors in seeing them connect, I'll be kicking off a 3 part "Assimilation Environments Blast" next week, one post everyday for 3 days. including discussion questions for your team to explore. 

Looking forward to it.

 

 

 

If those serving guests at your church did this one thing...

VolunteersGreg Curtis2 Comments

My 30th wedding anniversary was last year. I know I don't look old enough to have done anything for 30 years (just roll with it), but this milestone snuck up on me.

As part of Michelle and I's celebration, we were given a gift certificate to go out to a nice dinner and we choose The Red O in Newport Beach. I made the reservation using the Open Table app on my iPhone and when it asked the reason for the reservation, I typed in "My 30th wedding anniversary". I didn't think this would amount to anything as I wasn't dealing directly with the restaurant. 

I was wrong.

When we got there, we walked through a fairly crowded entry room that resembled The Museum of Tequila and gave our name to the host. He caught me off guard by saying, "Happy 30th Anniversary Mr. and Mrs. Curtis. Please follow me". I thought to myself, "I didn't know they actually read the fine print on those online reservation forms" as he cut through the crowd and immediately brought us to our table. 

Red-O-Newport-Beach-Interior_Dining-Room.jpg

This table. A table for 8. As we scooted into the plush, sofa side complete with pillows, I asked him if he really wanted to seat the 2 of us at this large table when there was such a crowd. He then removed all of the place settings but 2, and took away all the chairs. "There. A private table for two Mr Curtis". 

The surprises were not over. Our waiter brought us complimentary Champagne to toast our anniversary with. After an incredible meal, we ordered a dessert they were known for, Butter Cake, and the dessert was comped again in honor of our 30 years together.

I had never heard of The Red O before. But as I waddled out of the this restaurant, back through the Tequila Hall of Fame, I thought one thing: I want to go back there for Valentines Day.

As one who envisions, trains and deploys teams of Sherpas to help guests "Climb the Assimilayas" at our church, I am reflecting on what it was about the staff at the Red O that made such an impression on me. I am coming to this conclusion: If we want to help guests trust us and to desire to become a part of our churches, those who serve them must become experts at creating positive, unexpected relational experiences.

If we want to help guests trust us and desire to become a part of our churches, those who serve them must become experts at creating positive, unexpected relational experiences.

I see this dynamic in the New Testament as it chronicles what our Movement looked like in the first century when....

  • A woman came to a well in Samaria and asked a man for water and instead got a surprise relational encounter with the Messiah.
  • A Roman Jailer expected to see an empty cell after an earthquake and instead found two prisoners willing to stay in their cell and share with him news that would forever change he and his family.
  • A paralyzed beggar asked Peter and John for some money and instead received the ability to walk in Jesus Name.

Mark Waltz, in his book First Impressions: Creating Wow Experiences in your Church, discusses the difference between Guest Satisfaction and Guest Engagement. He says, 

A guest can remain rather disconnected from the business or organization and be quite satisfied. Engaged guests have a relationship with the people who make up the organization. 

He goes on to describe the positive unexpected relational experiences that move guests beyond satisfaction to fuller engagement. He calls it "Wowing" them. He also says:

The challenge is to create an environment that allows spontaneous happenings consistent with your desired outcome.

The wait staff did that for me at the Red O. What might that look like at Guest Central at my church? I think it would look something like these 2 incidences where I saw a volunteer bring a guest from satisfaction to engagementI:

Incident 1: A guest asks where our children's ministry is.

Guest Satisfaction: Our volunteer gives her directions with a smile.

Guest engagement: Our volunteer introduces themselves to their child, tells her she is pretty, asks how old she is, and invites mother and daughter on a tour of the room where her program takes place. Introducing her to her teacher while her mom meets the leader of that ministry, the room is incredible and the leaders winsome enough to win mother and daughter over. They will be back next week but the daughter will attend the children's program instead of adult worship and bring a friend with her.

Incident 2: A guest shares that she was moved by the message, confides some of her back story and wants to know how she can sign up to be baptized.

Guest Satisfaction:  Our volunteer has her check the baptism box on her connection card and turns it in for her.

Guest Engagement: Our volunteer calls one of the pastors to see if he can open the baptistry right now after church. Clothing is handed out, a volunteer is asks to jump in and clean/heat up the baptistry. She has a conversation with the pastor to discern her readiness, she confesses her faith and is baptized with our Guest Central volunteer there to hug this tearful guest when she gets out of the water. Another volunteer grabs a bag and puts a new Bible along with an invitation to Next Steps in it and hands it to her when she leaves. One more hug and her first church experience in many years is complete.

What I witnessed in both these instances was a positive unexpected relational experience that caused these 1st time guests to return the following weekend. I experienced that at the Red O and want to return, not just for the food, but for the experience. Imagine what could happen when the Spirit of God leads volunteers who are willing to go off script to go beyond just satisfying guests and begin more fully engaging them!

A restaurant. A well. The Beautiful Gate. A Prison Cell. Guest Central. A Kidside Room. A Baptistry. It can happen anywhere. And when it does, everybody wins.

Share a Wow moment you've seen between a volunteer and a guest at your church:

Name
Name
Have you witnessed an unexpected relational experience with a guest at your church? Share it here. I'll include these stories to stimulate ideas in my next post.

Build into your team by discussing these questions...

  • Have you ever been "wowed" at a restaurant in an unexpected way? What happened that left such an impression on you?
  • Have you designed a guest experience where your team has the freedom to do the unexpected? What have they done? What could they do if you envisioned them?
  • What would you want a guest from your service to say to a co-worker on Monday about their visit to your church?  Are your guest services and worship designed so that conversation will take place? What are three dial turns that could be made to begin moving in that direction within the next 1 to 4 weeks?

Do you have a Director of Volunteers?

Best PracticesGreg CurtisComment

We do. 

This isn't a "Neener, Neener", but I do have to say I think it is super cool to have a person like Julie Liem in this role in my church. I absolutely love working with her, and not just because we grew up in the youth group at Eastside together. At our church, the Director of Volunteers...

  • Oversees and speaks into the processes that place volunteers in every ministry of our church
  • Trains admins in every department to be champions of volunteers for the staff of each department so no one falls through the cracks.

Of course she does even more, but the encouraging thing to many churches looking to add a role like this is that Julie does it as a part-time staff person. She is actually a marriage and family therapist which also informs the way she understands, recruits and relates to those who serve as "Changemakers" at Eastside. 

With that said, if you are curious about learning ways to recruit, train and place volunteers while eliminating the silo approach among church staff, watch or listen to this 20m podcast with Rich Birch from unSeminary (one of my favorite sources for ministry learnings right now.

You will be glad you did.

Julie also speaks at my Base Camps and leads one of the highest rated sessions. You can contact Julie at jliem@eastside.com should you want to connect with her.

 

 

Four ingredients of assimilation

Greg CurtisComment

There is an episode of "Friends" where Monica and Phoebe are desperately trying to recreate Phoebe's grandmother's cookie recipe. It is beyond words.

The girls try baking cookies using dozens of recipes and when none of them have the taste of "grandma's cookies", Monica asked in frustration where Phoebe thinks her grandmother got the recipe. Phoebe replied with confidence, "She got it from her grandmother, Neslet Toulous". When Monica realizes that meant Phoebe's "great-great-grandmother" was Nestle's Tollhouse, she almost loses it. Phoebe just thinks Monica is an American who "butchers the French language". They end up buying some Nestle's Tollhouse cookie mix, bake a dozen, a lo and behold: Grandma's cookies!

This scene from America's favorite friends shows us that sometimes the most elegant and powerful realities boil down to a simple recipe.

Sometimes the most elegant and powerful realities boil down to a simple recipe.

I experienced the truth of this when I was in Chile last November. I was teaming with Gene Appel to encourage and equip 80 pastors, from 4 countries, in the area's of outreach and Assimilation. These incredibly devoted leaders shepherd churches that range in size from 80 to 400. In settings like this, I usually share about how my church assimilates guests:

I quickly realized that our way of assimilating guests as a mega-church by greeting them at Guest Central, inviting them to Next Steps, connecting them to small groups, and onboarding them as a Changemaker (volunteer) may not be a transferable strategy to smaller congregations in other cultures. It had to boil down to a more simple recipe:

1. Have one place that you invite guests to after services

The day after the conference in Chile, one of the congregations in the Santiago area had an outreach dinner for the community. 84 people showed up, 19 made 1st time decisions to follow Jesus, and 14 of them went to their newly installed Guest Central...their one place (Learn more about your one place and what to do with it). They gave them free coffee there in exchange for their contact information so they could add the next ingredient in this simple recipe:

2. Invite them to only one program to connect with your church

I had the privilege of coaching a 2 year old church in Wisconsin that was 80 people strong with a vision of reaching many more. they decided to offer just one program for guests. they chose a "Pizza with the Pastor" type event. After it took place, the leader of this effort called me almost in tears: they had 24 people show up, 19 people make 1st time decisions and 15 got baptized afterward. I am convinced that these amazing results would have not taken place in their worship service as this event was an environment that was specially designed for guests to get to know the pastor, the church, and the Jesus they followed. At this point, another ingredient must be added:

3. Engage them in 2 defined processes to find friends and a way to serve

I don't care how small or informal your church is: if you have...

  • a small group sign up sheet, 
  • a box to check on your welcome card for someone to follow up on
  • you rely on people in groups to invite guests into their groups, 

        ...that's a process! (learn more about processes here, learn about our process for onboarding volunteers here)

The opportunity in front of you now is to discern if your process is the best process to connect your guest and to clearly define that process for the whole church in an ongoing way. One church of 5000 in Illinois became a church of 6500 fueled by inviting their guest to a 6 week Sunday night bible study at tables and then launching these tables as small groups when the study was finished...and with an almost 100% success rate! That's a process too, but any assimilation processes must have 2 final ingredients to fully connect your guests to your church:

4. Have 2 places you want all your guests to end up: one for community and the other to serve.

At our church it's small groups and ministry teams. At other churches, it may be Adult Bible School Classes or a mid-week believers event of some kind. Wherever community is in your church, know that a guest is not assimilated until a process you have invited them into places them there. Where do people serve and make a difference in and through your church? Know also that your guests have not been assimilated into the life of your church until they are volunteering there.

Wherever community is in your church, know that a guest is not assimilated until a process you have invited them into places them there.

As a Sherpa helping new people reach the summit of becoming connected serving members of my church, I am convinced that these 4 ingredients are practically universal to assimilating the guests God is drawing to your church regardless of its size or context. 

Just like grandmas....

Just like grandmas....

 

Coming Soon:

  • A video podcast from Julie Liem, Director of Assimilation at my church (and my partner in crime) on volunteer processes for onboarding volunteers.
  • Ways I can join you and your church staff this year for a 2 day Climbing the Assimilayas Base Camp at your church.
Cliff MOJO_Logo_DC_FN_(2).jpg
  • What are the current ingredients of your assimilation ministry?
  • How would you define most clearly your process for connecting guests to a small group?
  • How would you define most clearly your process for placing guests in a ministry?
  • Discuss what it would mean to build a strong assimilation strategy based on these 4 ingredients. Hint: Identify the ingredient your church is missing starting at the left side of the chart. Then move right to the next ingredient, once each is added.

Where I've been and what's coming up...

Greg CurtisComment
Not me but I wish....

You may have been wondering where I've been the last few months....

  • The beach?
  • A Witness Protection Program?
  • Unemployed?

Actually, none of these. Where I have been is on an interesting journey that has revolved around two activities:

1. A redesign of our assimilation strategy at my church

At Eastside Christian Church where I serve, we experienced an unprecedented growth of 1600 more people in attendance at the beginning of the year, a jump that required a new wineskin to pick up the pace and volume by which we connected new people God was bringing to us.

One of our baptism services this Fall, giving us more people to care for and connect.

One of our baptism services this Fall, giving us more people to care for and connect.

We also launched another campus and are getting ready to launch a third one--campuses that need an assimilation process that is able to be duplicated easily and is not "Greg centric". 

This required a herculean effort, redesigning, re-recruiting and retraining an outrageous army of volunteers (whom we now call "Changemakers") to put a new way of assimilating guests to the test over the last 6 months.

2. A deeper understanding of what drives the process of assimilation beyond a specific program so I could help churches around the world

After months of planning, Gene Appel and I were invited to Chile to last November to lead a church growth and assimilation conference for 80 pastors. These pastors were from churches up and down Chile, Ecuador, Peru and Sierra Leone. This was one of the most fruitful kingdom investments I have had the privilege of being a part of and it forced me to clearly identify what the universal principles of assimilation are, regardless of culture or context.

A Church in Santiago Chile experiencing immediate results from working these assimilation principals in their context.

A Church in Santiago Chile experiencing immediate results from working these assimilation principals in their context.

The challenge of redesigning what we do and the clarifying of the principles which drive any changes in assimilation has taken my energy and attention away from blogging, but now has returned me full force in 2017 to bring you the following topics in January:

  • My understanding of what the 4 principles are that govern assimilation, no matter what program or strategy you choose.
  • A recent podcast from Julie Liem, our Volunteer Director, on how your guests can become connected serving members.
  • New book recommendations (both from the church and business worlds) that our informing my understanding of assimilation right now.
  • Real stories from some of the 19,000 people we are connecting who just attended our Christmas services.

All this and more in January...as we climb the Assimilayas together. Stay tuned, this is gonna be fun.

The Power of Process (part 2 of 2)

Greg CurtisComment
A process is a set of interrelated activities that interact to achieve a result.

In my last post on this topic, I shared this definition of a process and acknowledged the top two reasons why we are suspicious of implementing them in the church:

REASON #1-PROCESSES ARE USED TO PRESERVE THE STATUS QUO.

REASON #2-PROCESSES ARE USED TO FILTER OUT THOSE WHO ARE DIFFERENT, NOT ASSIMILATE THEM.

I also shared that processes are expressed through systems. Systems are not artificial: they are what cause your body to function. Processes/systems in Christ's Body do the same. Without them, we are "dysfunctional".

In this post I want to reveal a volunteer placement process from the pages of the New Testament and to share the 2 factors exposed there that must be present if a process is going to be healthy.

In the opening of Acts 6, we see a need for volunteers that was becoming chronic: more volunteers were needed to insure the widows from Greece were getting enough food in the distribution. The apostles were leaders with a dilemma: "Should we add this to our growing list of personal responsibilities? We don't even have time to recruit these volunteers!". 

In the language of today's topic, the apostles performed a leadership function and initiated a process. The process was elegant in its simplicity:

  1. Define what the job description was (serve food to the Grecian widows at tables-vs 2)
  2. Discern what the qualifications were for this volunteer position (men full of the spirit and who possessed wisdom-vs 3)
  3. Communicate these qualifications to those in the church who identified the need-vs 3.
  4. Ask them to recruit the volunteers-vs 3-5
  5. Pray for them and lay hands on them to authorize these volunteers to do the job-vs 6.

The result of this healthy process? 

So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith. -Acts 6:7

There are two factors revealed here that make a process healthy and organic, just like the processes in the human body.

1. The process is based on need.

The process the apostles designed and implemented was not based on preferences, politics or privilege. It was based on a need. It was critical that the Grecian widows not be neglected when food was distributed. A process that didn't need to be managed was essential given the apostle's function in the Body. Which leads to the 2nd factor that makes for a healthy effective process.

2. The process is automatic.

By empowering those who brought the need to them, the apostles created a process that would continually work as long as the need existed....without their direct oversight. this is what I mean by automatic.

I was driving my daughter Carly home to California when her freshman year of college was over in Arizona. On the long drive home, I was discussing my thoughts with her about this blog post on processes (she can volley better than I can on most topics). She asked me, "Dad, how do you keep assimilation processes from becoming stale, cold and boring?" I answered, "By basing them on real needs, then making them automatic". I went on to explain that when guests fill out a connection card at our church...

  • Tuesday morning volunteers with computer ability and a gift of service enter them into Eastside Connect (our database morph of Church Community Builder). this happens automatically, every week
  • These guests are dropped into a first-time visitor process queue where they are automatically sent a email or letter from our Senior Pastor welcoming them and inviting them to First Step with Gene (Pizza with the Pastor). 
  • When they click on the link to register, they are automatically dropped into a queue to immediately receive a confirmation email and another "last minute details" email sent a few days before the event.
  • When they sign up for our 7-week First Step Experience at First Step with Gene, they are automatically dropped into another queue.
  • The same type of thing happens when people sign up to volunteer, join and attend our small groups, make a first time decision to follow Christ, or are baptized. All these processes are trackable and noted on people's profiles.

Carly said, "Wait a minute. You said they weren't stale and boring". I told her, "Because they're automatic, they're not. They are in place and running all the time. I don't have to think about them and neither do our guests at church. What I get to do is just be with them in Guest Central, visit with them over pizza, enjoy them at the First Step Experience. These processes help move them from the auditorium to First Step and ultimately to a small group or volunteer team".

I went on to tell her how her body and mine have healthy processes that work the same way: automatically and invisibly. I asked her...

  • When was the last time you willed your heart to beat or your lungs to take in air?
  • Did you decide or try to grow in height when you were in elementary school?
  • Did you have to eat because you knew you should or because you were hungry?
  • Did a fire burn you because you knew it was hot or because you felt it was hot?
Just like our nervous system, circulatory system, digestive system, endocrine system and respiratory system keep the processes that accomplish these things happening automatically, your church Body needs automatic, need-based processes to be healthy and help guests become connected serving members.

Our volunteer onboarding process for our Kidside ministry has 5 steps to it, including background checks. That didn't make it stale for Mike-it helped him make a difference in the lives of kids.

Healthy processes. They worked to onboard Mike as a Kidside volunteer at my church. They worked to provide volunteers to feed the hungry in the church of the first century.

What are healthy processes providing for your church right now?

  • Where are some of your key process breakdowns at your church?
  • What tool do you use to help create processes? (EX: Church Community Builders)
  • What other processes to you see in the life of the early church, especially in Paul's letter? (Don't miss the process Jesus designed for dealing with division in the church in Matthew 18:15-17)
  • If you were to pick just one need-based process to design and automatize for assimilating guests, what would it be?

What's on my mind on the last day of April...

Greg CurtisComment

4 things are on mind today:

1. How awesome my Base Camp was at St John's in Orange CA these last two days.

Incredible people, great discussions, productive strategizing, specific prayers, and delicious food. Great investment of all our time together. We had leaders from Oregon, Nevada, and California present. Can't wait to stay in touch with these fellow Sherpas in the season ahead.

CTA Base Camp at historic St John's Lutheran Church. I look like I'm calling someone out right how but I swear, I wasn't....!

CTA Base Camp at historic St John's Lutheran Church. I look like I'm calling someone out right how but I swear, I wasn't....!

2. My next post, part 2 on the Power of Process.

I gained even more thoughts and momentum on this topic at the Base Camp. Super important stuff coming on this in the next few days.

3. Inviting new and old Base Camp alumni to the new Sherpa's Forum

This private group is a facebook page to ask questions, share recourses, and team more effectively as Connectors for our local contexts in the future.

4. My first blog post, one year ago this month.

This is the post that started it all one year ago. Give it a once over if you have forgotten it or someone missed it when you joined us in this journey that by now has included many phone conversations, Base Camps, brainstorms, as well as visiting your church and mine. 

Looking forward to the future...

Last minute registration for Base Camp: 10% off

Greg CurtisComment
Climbing the Assimilayas Base Camp
199.00
Quantity:
Register now

Enter the discount code "Coming" when registering for 10% off to join me and other Sherpas like you from California, Nevada, and Oregon. We will increase the effectiveness your assimilation ministry by Fall 2016. Here's what Kim said when she joined us in January:

I really enjoyed listening to what other churches are doing, as well as hearing what Greg does to generate and engage people at Eastside. Lots of wonderful ideas on how to develop experiences which encourage and spur on guests and attendees to a deeper understanding and love of Jesus by drawing closer together in community.

                 -Kim Barrett, Director of Connection and Volunteers, Yorba Linda Friends Church, Ca.

Oh...and there will be fun too. Hope to see you there.

Base Camp is Coming...Early Registration Price Ends Midnight Tonight.

Greg CurtisComment

Here's what alumni are saying about Climbing the Assimilayas Base Camp:

Sean Badeer, Community Life Pastor, Lifebridge Church, Longmont Co, 3000 in attendance:

"Greg's perspective on assimilation is encouraging and compelling. He presented assimilation concepts and ideas in an accessible and collaborative way that has me excited for the coming year."

Andy Salonen, Pastor of Engagement and Connections, Lifebridge Church, Longmont Co, 3000 in attendance. 

"This time together allowed for space to network with peers, encourage one another, exchange ideas and ask questions. Greg and his team effectively presented not only their strategy, but shared their hearts for God and others. I appreciate Greg's willingness to be authentic with each one of us! I look forward to heading home and debriefing."

Sarah Verheyen, Director of Guest Services, Canyon Ridge Christian Church, Las Vegas, NV. 6000 in attendance.

"Before the conference I knew I had issues in my ministry but did not know the best way to deal with them. After, listening to Greg, Julie, and others I have the confidence to move forward."

My Next Base Camp is April 28-29 (Thursday/Friday) in Orange Ca. 

Early Registration price ends at midnight tonight.

Click here for details and to register.

The Power of Processes (part 1 of 2)

Greg CurtisComment

Processes in ministry. Not something we naturally enjoy thinking about. We would rather take them for granted-but that's exactly what a good process does. A good process becomes something you can take for granted. Processes are essential to the health of any church and they are the spine of any assimilation ministry.

Here is what a process is by definition:

A process is a set of interrelated activities that interact to achieve a result.

Processes are expressed through systems. Systems are not artificial:: they are what cause your body to function. Processes/systems in Christ's Body do the same. Without them, we are "dysfunctional".

Our bodies continue to live only because of processes expressed through systems:

  • The Endocrine System enables the growth process and more
  • The Circulatory System sustains the oxygenation  and healing processes
  • The Respiratory System sustains the respiration process
  • The Nervous System allows the processes of mobility and sensory functions to exist
  • The Digestive System sustains the digestive process which feeds the body and eliminates waste.
I believe that a core reason the church is revealed to us as a "Body" in the Scriptures is so we in leadership would know that the Body of Christ's very existence is dependent on processes expressed through systems--multiple sets of interrelated activities that achieve the results God has purposed for it.

Which leads us to this question: Why do many church bodies lack healthy processes for assimilating guests into themselves? I believe it is because we fear that having set processes in the church are....

  •     Organizational and not organic
  •     Institutional and not intimate
  •     Regulatory and not relational
  •     Artificial and not authentic
  •     About control and not about community.

Lets acknowledge the two reasons that processes have a bad reputation in the Church:

Reason #1-Processes are used to preserve the status quo.

These are churches that have moved from functioning like a body to functioning like an organization. While bodies adapt and respond to change, organizations do not. they exist to do what they do, the way they've always done it, which leads to the next reason we distrust processes in the Church.

Reason #2-Processes are used to filter out those who are different, not assimilate them.

Our statements of faith, membership processes and volunteer placement processes are designed to keep those who think or behave differently out, rather than invite them in, so that they can connect with us and be transformed along with us.

This doesn't mean that processes are bad or non-essential. It means we often use them for the wrong thing.

 

On a personal note, I am dealing with one of the first real potential health crisis of my life. I am pre-diabetic. I am feeling all the symptoms and I am sick of it. My frustration is coming from the realization that I have been misusing my digestive system and now it is impacting my endocrine system which monitors how sugar is processed with the help of insulin. I am addicted to sugar and carbs! 

As I work through this, I am reminded of how the church so easily misuses its assimilation processes for conversion, membership, small group connection and volunteers placement so that it slows or halts the process of growth and wipes out the Body of Christ's natural ability to adapt to change.

We should call this kind of process-breakdown by its clinical names: Dysfunction & Disorder.

Next week, I will look at some of the processes we see in the New Testament and share the 2 characteristics that make any assimilation process organic and healthy.

Until then!

  • What is the general attitude of your church toward processes? Favorable? Suspicious? 
  • Name 3 to 5 processes that are at the core of your church's ministry function, especially when it comes to assimilating new people into the life of your church.
  • Are any of these processes designed to preserve the status quo or filter out undesirables? Why would that be?
  • What is the healthiest process in your church right now? Why do you think so?

 

 

 

What's coming up for Connectors over the next two weeks

Greg CurtisComment

Ever wonder what's out there for people life us who live to connect people to each other and to Jesus?

I have 3 things coming up for you over the next 2 weeks:

1. two Posts on "The Power of Process"

I have been percolating some new thoughts on how vital processes are to our bodies and how vital they are to assimilating people into Christ's Body. I have also been pondering what makes us afraid of designing and implementing processes in the church and what we can do to sell them, secure them and shine in light of them. Expect one post this week and one post next week.

2. A day and half "Climbing the Assimilayas Base Camp" 

Here's what Tommy Carreras, Groups Director at Mission Church in Ventura California said about the last Base Camp we enjoyed together in January:

"This gathering gave the ideas rolling in my head some concrete expression! The ideas that I am walking away with gave me an incredible starting point for contextualizing and customizing the experience that I want my people to have."

Cost of registration for my next Climbing the Assimilayas Base Camp in Orange County California will increase on Friday April 22nd at midnight. Register now to get the best rate and to make big steps to increasing the effectiveness of your church's ability to connect well with guests.

3. A new "Sherpas Forum" Launching on Facebook

In 2 weeks, I will launch a private facebook group for those who have been to my Base Camp. It will be a forum for us Sherpa-types to road-test the new ideas we are applying, network with each other, share resources, and find out about each others challenges as well as propose solutions for them. Looking forward to that kind of connecting in a big way.

Stay tuned and see you at the Summit.

One last thought to add to my "Top 3 mistakes churches make when assimilating guests" series

Greg CurtisComment

In my last post I shared that the 3rd most common mistake I see churches make when assimilating guests is putting a teacher in charge of their primary connection environment (thus making it a content driven class by default). 

The solution to this mistake is to put someone in front of that environment whose primary strength is "Winning Other Over" (has WOO in their top 5 strengths on Gallup's Strengthfinders test).

I want to expand the playing field on who that type of person may be....

Because we think "class" when assimilating guests (Mistake #2), our default vision for a person leading this connection environment leads us to someone who possesses one or more of these strengths on the Strengthsfinders Test:

  • Ideation-fascinated with ideas (theology and church philosophy)
  • Intellection-love intellectual discussions (can defend the faith)
  • Learner-desire to learn and drill down to the particulars.
  • Analytical-Can think about all the applications (of God/doctrine)

My solution to improving connection with our guests at church is to lead them to a "Connection Experience" led by a a front man or woman who can win others over, and does not have the drive to "teach doctrine" or conduct a Chatechism of any kind (though this will happen by default if the environment is designed well). In addition to WOO on the Strengthsfinders Test, profiles that include these strengths also represent people who win guests over and connect them well:

  • Positivity- have enthusiasm that is contagious
  • Includer-accepting of others and focused on those who may feel left out
  • Connectedness-have faith that we are all connected in some way
  • Communication-are good conversationalists and presenters.

The Bottom Line: Recruit people to lead  your connection environment from up front who win others over because they possess key relational/influencer strengths on the Strengthsfinder Test, not necessarily because they are a great Teacher or Expositor. 

An important reminder: Cost of registration for my next Climbing the Assimilayas Base Camp in Orange County California will increase on Friday April 22nd at midnight. Register now to get the best rate and to make big steps to increasing the effectiveness of your church's ability to connect well with guests.

Hope to see you there!

One last common mistake church's make when assimilating guests

Greg CurtisComment

Mistake #3 Putting a teacher in charge

I am a good driver. I have a good record. In part, that is why my friend Mark lent me his brand new tricked out trailer to take my family camping in at Big Sur near Carmel on the California Coast. It's my family's favorite place to camp and site #63 is our favorite site: 5 colossal redwoods are on it and there is forest on 2 sides of it. When we arrived, I asked my dad and my wife Michelle to get on either side of the trailer so I could back into the sight with the help of their direction. As I was responding to their audibles, my wife got distracted by a cyclist and stopped directing. I took that to mean "proceed".

That's when I heard the grinding.

This was the sound of the retractable porch awning being slowly ripped off by a redwood that I was now rubbing up against. My dad began yelling, "Turn the other way!" which of course I took to mean "do the opposite of what I previously asked you to do". That's not what he meant.

That's when I heard the snapping.

This was the sound of the black water pipe cracking over a large rock the trailer was now straddling. My dad's next directive was unmistakeable: "Get out of here! Get out of here!". I proceeded to do so: driving along the campsite loop, leaving a trail of black water behind me and along the the front of every campsite in the loop. 

That's when I heard the cursing.

The Curtis' had arrived. Their good driver, with a good record, was no match for the unfamiliar task of backing in a large trailer into site #63. 

Site #63 at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park in Big Sur CA.

Site #63 at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park in Big Sur CA.

Now take a hard right with me. Sometimes guests at your church are returning, loving the environment you've created for them to worship and explore their faith. It's becoming their "Site 63" for pursuing God. They even want to bring their family members. Then they sign up for the class that connects them to the church, its beliefs and its ministry and something unexpected happens: a grinding sound of sorts, though not the sound of wood against metal. Its the sound of the class being led by a good Bible teacher as opposed to someone who engages their trust and involvement.

You see, just like it takes more than a good driver to back in a long trailer into a obstacle ridden campsite, it takes someone different than a good Bible teacher to lead people through an experience that connects them well to their new church.

What kind of person does it take?

I will answer using the vocabulary of Gallups Strengthfinders Test. It takes WOO. WOO is a strength in the form of an acronym that stands for "Winning Others Over". The description for this strength is as follows:

You enjoy the challenge of meeting new people and getting them to like you. Strangers are rarely intimidating to you. On the contrary, strangers can be energizing. You are drawn to them. You want to learn their names, ask them questions, and find some area of common interest so that you can strike up a conversation and build rapport. Some people shy away from starting up conversations because they worry about running out of things to say. You don't. Not only are you rarely at a loss for words; you actually enjoy initiating with strangers because you derive satisfaction from breaking the ice and making a connection. Once that connection is made, you are quite happy to wrap it up and move on. There are new people to meet, new rooms to work, new crowds to mingle in. In your world there are no strangers, only friends you haven't met yet -- lots of them.     -Clifton StrengthsFinder Theme

This strength means that no matter what the agenda is at your connection environment, guests attending will likely be engaged, "won over" to your church, keep coming to all the sessions, and feel a sense of trust for the leadership and vision as a whole when they are done. That's what the WOO factor can do.

So if the mistake here is putting a Bible teacher in charge, the solution is this:

Use someone who will win them over.

Of course this person has to have sufficient Bible knowledge. But in the hands of  someone with WOO, you will decrease attrition and increase connectedness. I think this is important enough to consider using the Strengthsfinder test on candidates who will front your connection sessions. 

It will be like having a parking expert back your trailer in while camping...it just fits.

  • Who is your front man or woman for the sessions of your connection class/experience? What kind of environment does that person's influence create for your guests?
  • If you could pick any person at your disposal to front these sessions, who would it be? What would it take to equip them to engage your guests at this level?
  • In your opinion, why would a Bible teacher have potential challenges leading your sessions with guests? As you answer, consider attrition and some of the factors in the last post on giving guests an experience instead of a class.