Is implementing effective programs to engage guests frustrating for you right now?

When it comes to connecting with guests at your church, adapting and implementing good strategies from other places and conferences can be challenging, even frustrating.

Next Steps at Eastside. TOP LEFT: Week 4 Unleash Compassion Game. TOP RIGHT: Gene Appel telling his story in Week 1. BOTTOM: A winner table holding gift cards after a competition.

Next Steps at Eastside. TOP LEFT: Week 4 Unleash Compassion Game. TOP RIGHT: Gene Appel telling his story in Week 1. BOTTOM: A winner table holding gift cards after a competition.

In 2016, my church's assimilation engine was nearing the point that it could no longer meet the needs of all the guests we were attracting. Our First Step Experience was  offered quarterly, ran for 7 weeks, and required that guests attend 6 out of 7 sessions. We were committed to the format of an "experience" versus a class. An experience included these 3 elements that a class does not:

  • Friends-meaning at tables, not rows, with discussion times built in
  • Fun-tables competing against each other for cool prizes
  • Faith-training in following Jesus, not information about it with a backpack, assignments and equipment given for the journey.

What we were not committed to was the quarterly 7 week approach. So we trimmed it into a 4 week experience called "Next Steps", offered it every month, and offered incentivized "Go Deeper" opportunities to include material from the 7 week version that we though would still move the ball forward for our guests in connecting with God, our church, or both.

Our struggle to implement something new was not seamless. It struggled for the 1st 6 months until we figured out how to promote it differently. When we did, it took off! The next 6 months of Next Steps saw triple the amount of guests that the 1st 6 months did. This year, the attendance is up 26% from even that, and just in time: The amount of new guest cards we are receiving is up 91%!

I recap this for you as Sherpas because you are helping guests make the climb to full connection with God and your church. I share it so you know that it is not always easy to implement something new to connect guest, and that you have to be creative.

With that in mind, I want to take the next four posts to share some creative things that 4 different churches have done in creating environments and processes that connect guests to God and their church.

Let's start with Cross City Fresno.

Cross City letter.JPG

Cross City was a church of about 2900 in attendance when I did a Base Camp their with its staff in March of 2017. With a great culture and an enviable facility, this place had lots of energy but wanted to do better in connecting the guests that were showing up on weekends. At that time they were seriously considering "Rooted" as their main play for connecting guests into groups and engaging them in ministry.

The Base Camp produced a series of discussions that led to:

  • Moving their One Place to meet guest and receive their cards to a more noticeable location, including areas trafficked by young families who are checking-in and picking up their children.
  • Reimagining their Discovery Class, making it more into a "front porch" experience for guests to get into their best connection environment. 
  • Repositioning their plans for "Rooted", moving it from their potential front-porch experience for guests (their is a charge paid by each guests that is required in order to participate in Rooted) to their main small group launching experience (Basically, moving it from their One Program for guests in their strategy to leveraging it as their main Small Group Placement Process). 

The results?

  1. They have grown by almost a thousand in attendance.
  2. They became the 92nd fastest growing church in the U.S.!

Here's a letter I got from my fellow Sherpa Joe Gustafson the end of last year:


I am encouraged to see Eastside as the 2nd fastest growing church in America. As I am sure that you probably know, we were able to crack the top 100.

I just wanted to write and say thanks. Thank you for coming out last Spring and sharing your insights on assimilation. Your time here helped us refocus and fine tune our assimilation engine. These techniques have helped us shepherd the guests God is bringing us every weekend. Thanks again for all the help and joining with us to expand the kingdom in Fresno-Visalia! 

Best wishes to you, Gene, and the whole Eastside crew,  Joe


Joe, Ashley and Emmy.

Joe, Ashley and Emmy.

(Joe Gustafson is the Guest Services Pastor at CrossCity Church in Fresno Ca and a new dad!)

I would love to meet your staff as well. If you would like to find out what that entails and looks like, click here. In the mean time, look for 3 more posts about churches of different sizes and even more creativity in forming their church-wide assimilation strategy. They will instruct and inspire you for sure!

To chew on while we climb:

1. Have you ever tried to implement something you saw in another church and it went poorly? What was it and what did you learn?

2. Have you ever customized something for your church that went well and was effective? Identify three principles that made that experience different from the one that went poorly.

3. What could you take away from Eastside's experiment in adapting what they did previously to a 4 week Church of the Highlands format that would help you in development of your churches assimilation strategy?

4. What ideas come to you from examining CrossCity's thinking and implementation process?

5. What's your church's next bold move when it comes to assimilation?


Greg CurtisComment