We were doing a really good job getting people to show up for services. We had tons of guests each week. Advertising, word-of-mouth, and inviting…those things were all clicking pretty well.

The problem was getting people to stick. We were great at attraction, but bad with connection.

People liked the service, but they didn’t seem to connect with small groups.

We tried a new members class, but new people didn’t really sign up. We tried formal events and informal activities, but we still couldn’t crack the assimilation challenge.

As we started talking about why, we realized we didn’t define a clear outcome. “Connected” or “assimilation” were vague terms without any real meaning. We knew we needed to do a better job of assimilation, but it was all feeling.

We wanted people to get connected, but we couldn’t define what that meant. There was no real way to measure it.

Over the last five years, I’ve talked to dozens of pastors who lead churches struggling with the exact same thing. People don’t stick and there doesn’t seem to be a good sense of why. Guests say they like the service, but struggle to get involved.

And when I talk with these pastors and go back to the beginning, very few have a clear and direct definition of what “connected” means.

Is it simply being a member? An attender? A volunteer? A donor? In a small group? In the pastor’s cell phone?

If you’re struggling to connect people in your church, I want to suggest you start at the beginning. Define what connected means in the first place.

Get clarity on the term, and get everyone on the same page.

Here is exactly how you can do this.

Step #1:  Brainstorm a list of all the great steps you would like people to take.

Pull your staff or some key leaders together and describe the problem. List out all of the things that people could do in your church that lead them into a deeper church relationship. If you have a new member class, write that down. If you want people to give, put that on the list.

What do you want people to do?  I’m sure the list has more than a few things–so just write them all down and talk about why they are important.

Step #2:  Reduce it to the most important or most essential.

This is the tough part, because while there are a bunch of things you want people to do, there are some that will be more important than others.

So what are those most important things?

At our church, we whittled down our list to just three things.

  1. We wanted people to be in a group.
  2. We wanted people to serve on a volunteer team.
  3. We wanted people to give money.

There were other important things, but we decided these were the most important. And the kicker was that each of these things was measurable.

We could know if someone was in a group or a volunteer team or not. We could run a report and know if someone was giving. There wasn’t any ambiguity to these three things.

We decided that if someone was doing 2 of the 3 things on our list, we would consider them connected. We’d call it a win.

Your list and your three things might be different. In fact, it probably should. But I would push you to define and measure each item.

Step #3:  Design a simple process that points to those outcomes.

Once you know what connected looks like and everyone agrees on the simple and clear definition, you can design a process.

If you don’t define the win, you will design a process to nowhere. You’ll create a bunch of activity that leads to no measurable outcome.

But with connected defined, you’re ready to build a process.

If you want people in groups, what is the single best way to launch them. We’ve got a master class on this inside Church Fuel One and we talk about it in-depth in The Systems Course.

If you want people to volunteer, how are you going to systematically recruit, train, and pastor that group?

If giving matters, what is your plan from moving people from the non-giving category to the giving category? You don’t have to be weird or pile on guilt in order to be intentional about something that is important.

So many churches want and need to get better at connecting people or assimilating them into the life of the church. But before you work on your process, work on your definition.