Having recently moved to the Nashville area after almost 20 years serving churches as an Education Pastor in DFW, I am surprised at how careless some of the churches I’ve recently visited are concerning their assimilation process. I try not to be an “armchair quarterback” on Sundays as I search for a new church home (the entire family arrives this coming weekend, so we’ll be together again after 5 months of being separated) but some of the churches I’ve visited act like they don’t care that I might be trying to find a place for myself and my family to get connected to new friends. That’s not the case at every church I’ve visited, but it is the overwhelming case. What’s going on out there!?
As I prepare to lead a workshop at Sunday School Week on Assimilation, I am reminded all over again at the importance of assimilating people through a small-group strategy like Sunday School. The dictionary defines assimilation as “to make similar; to absorb into the culture of a population or a group.” An insight I gained in the book 10 Best Practices (published by LifeWay) is that assimilation is more than just becoming a member of a group. In fact, a person may be a member but never be assimilated into the body. The goal is to help people feel they are wanted, that they belong, and that they are needed (p.155). Don’t you know people who tried to assimilate into your church, only to become frustrated because of cliques? Haven’t you heard them say, “I just can’t make any friends here”?
Here are a couple of quick insights about assimilation in the church today:
- Assimilation is more like a marathon than a sprint. The average family is taking up to 18 months to join a church (Membership Matters, p. 95)
- Patience and follow-up are keys in helping people get connected to a Sunday School class
- Higher assimilation churches have strong Sunday School organizations (High Expectations, p. 37)
- Sunday School is neither neglected nor accidental in the churches that are closing the back door (High Expectations, p. 33)
In a future blog post, I’ll share 9 reasons why the Sunday School is a great choice for assimilating people into your church, 7 indicators a person is being assimilated, steps a class can take to assimilate people, steps a church can take to assimilate people, and a series of 4 tips on how to assimilate people. Stay tuned!