Our Church New Member Gathering Agenda

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Here’s the first step in the process for new folks in the church to start getting connected. It’s called the On Ramp Gathering.  I know not every idea translates to the unique culture and context of each church, but here’s an idea that might spur you on in regards to the first step to connecting in your church.

The On Ramp Gathering is scheduled once every month or six weeks through the year.  It’s a lunch with the pastors, staff, new folks and a handful of regulars.  It typically happens right after Sunday morning worship at 11:30 and concludes no later than 2:00 pm.  Child care is provided and the meal is complementary.

 

On Ramp Gathering Operating Principles:

Get To Know New People

For us, the goal is to get to know the new folks.  Though we spend a bit of time talking about the church and ministries, the bulk of the On Ramp is visiting over lunch and telling stories of introduction and how people have gotten connected to the church.

Focus On Questions

What questions do you have for the church, for the pastor or for the staff?  We have a meeting outline, but many times, depending on the questions, it takes a different shape.  The On Ramp Gathering is people driven, not agenda driven.

Share Expectations

People respond to clear expectations.  During the On Ramp Gathering, the definition of church membership is described and expectations for church members are shared.

Schedule and Recruit

Most often, people respond with an RSVP to the On Ramp because someone, usually the pastor, has reached out to them and invited them.  A residual affect of the On Ramp Gathering being advertised on a constant basis is that there is always an immediate entry point and it builds a culture of expecting new folks!  The On Ramp is scheduled out for several months and in addition to publicizing the opportunity, we specifically invite people to attend.

Have a Critical Mass In Attendance

Though there may only be a handful of new members attending the On Ramp Gathering, there are several more people in attendance during lunch. Most of the staff usually have lunch and meet and a few of the staff families will have lunch and not attend the meeting. A few church members will also have lunch and meet with the group. The childcare staff will usually have lunch and then head over with the kids. It all works together to build a critical mass for the event.  It would be hard to build energy with just six or eight new people.

Clear Closing Invitation

At the end of each On Ramp, we give everyone a sheet of paper and invite them to indicate where they are on the spectrum ranging from “Yes, sign me up, I’m ready to join” to “No, I’m not ready” and all the potential answers in between including, “I’d like to talk with you further” or “I think we are planning to join, but we’re still talking about it”. This really isn’t a sales pitch style event, but it’s one of the best opportunities to give people an option to commit to church membership.

 

The On Ramp Gathering Agenda and Details

Meal

The meal has been done a variety of ways, from volunteers to catered. Currently, someone from the church takes care of the meal and it is usually along the lines of lasagna, pizza, salad, etc. Though it doesn’t have to be fancy, it needs to be good – and always is!

Around Tables

There aren’t assigned seats, but informally, we make sure that there is a pastor/staff/key leader at every table where someone new is sitting for lunch.  Often, there are between 5-12 new folks at the gathering and then another 6-8 leaders.

Meeting

After the meal, we usually clap for those who have provided the meal, invite kids to go with the child care leaders, and then begin the session.

Stories of Introduction

This starts with the pastor who shares about his life, family, hobbies, etc.  Then others are invited to share their stories including what they do in life, where they live, their families, how they got connected to this church, etc. This always produces “It sure is a small world” kind of connections, with someone around the table almost always being able to connect to others.

Basic Faith Concepts

During this portion of the session an overview of salvation, grace, and holiness, are shared. What is a Christian?

Nutshell Denominational History and Local Church History

The story of the denomination and our church are both fascinating to tell. Our particular church goes back to 1843, fourteen years before our town was even officially organized.  Though there is a rich history, over half of the members have joined since the pastor has been here. Though our church building is situated in Troy, IL more than half the members don’t live in the Troy zip code.

Responsibilities of Church Members

Church membership is unique.  Even without being a member you can attend worship, get married, use the building for an event, take part in groups, classes, activities and ministries and request the pastors and staff to call during illness or other life issues. So, why become a member?  Membership is a responsibility.  When you become a member of the church, you are now asked to shoulder the load, take on a posture of service, and help move the mission forward. One prime practical examp includes parking farther away from the door, leaving the prime spots for guests. Another example is taking part in a ministry, using your gifts to serve through the church.  Unlike country club “membership” privileges, church membership is about responsibility, helping to make disciples.  This combination of expectation-invitation-mission is motivating and people respond.

Additional church membership requirements are discussed.  As a member, you are asked to uphold the church with your prayers, presence, your gifts, your service and your witness.  During the On Ramp, these are hashed out a bit – we’re asking you to be give to the church and grow toward giving ten percent, we’re asking you to be present in worship every week you’re in town, and we are asking you to find a place to use your gifts and to use them regularly in ministry.

Closing Opportunity

At the start of the session, an information sheet was passed out, where basic info is collected.  At the close of the session, a clear, concise, low pressure invitation is given. We would love for you to become a part of the church. Before the information sheets are collected, please indicate where you are in this process.  It could be “yes, we’re ready this Sunday” or it may be “No, probably not” or anywhere in between.  Maybe you’d like to indicate you’d like to have another conversation with the pastor or you have a question about baptism, etc.

By the time the instructions are given, most people have already filled out their answer and are turning it in. More often than not, most people who have connected through the On Ramp wind up becoming members in the next couple of Sundays.

What people need is the clear path to finding out the what, why and how – and the On Ramp Gathering serves that purpose for our church.

Tour

At this point, the On Ramp concludes, usually before 2:00 pm and a tour is offered around the building.  The tour is always fun and offers opportunities for people to visit while they see some of the little known parts of the facility.  Not everyone chooses to take the tour and for those that do, it takes another 15 minutes before the event concludes and is all wrapped up.

 

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