Monday, October 23, 2006

The Need for Connection

What is one of the greatest needs of Grace Church as we exist today? I think that it is assimilating new people into our ministry. We have seen dramatic growth in the past 2-3 years but have had no effective strategy to be sure that all of these hundreds of new people are getting plugged into our church so that they will be cared for and so that they will grow spiritually. Without a strategic system to see new people assimilated into our ministry, we will quickly become a large yet weak church.

But perhaps the word “assimilation” is not the best word to use to describe this need. A better word would be “connection.” Why is this a better word? First, the word “connection” is more understandable. The word “assimilation” can conjure up all kinds of impressions and perceptions that can have us all thinking different things. Second, the word “connection” is less threatening. Frankly, the word “assimilation” almost sounds painful. If you were to say to a guest at Grace, “We want to assimilate you,” they may become concerned. However, if you were to say, “We want to help you get connected,” that is a positive direction.

Connecting people to Grace begins with first impressions. It is the first 10 minutes of a guest’s experience at Grace Church that will often determine if we will ever get the chance to see them connected or not. First impressions are important, even at church. Most guests at church decide in the first 10 minutes, before the worship service even begins, if they are likely to return or not. In the mind of a guest, first impressions carry more weight than the worship service itself. That is why Mark Waltz in his book, First Impressions, speaks of the “First Ten Minute” Principle. According to Waltz, if guests to our church can’t say “Wow, I’m impressed,” within their first 10 minutes on our campus, then we’ve failed. Before the music ever starts and the message is ever delivered, guests should know that they matter to us before they hear how much they matter to God. That is what first impressions are all about…letting people know that they matter to us and to God.

It is for this reason that connection and first impressions begins in the parking lot, the very moment that a guest drives onto our campus. What about our parking lot could possibly create a negative first impression? Think through these issues:

• Are parking spaces easy to locate and accessible?
• Are regulars parking away, creating spaces for guests near the entrances?
• Are teams available to direct cars?
• Is snow and ice removed from the parking lot during the winter?
• How do guests stay dry from their car to the building when it is raining?
• Is anyone available to help single parents with young children?
• Is anyone stationed at the drop-off area to assist the elderly?
• Are there greeters at every entry point to our building?
• The big question is, “Does our parking lot impress or irritate our guests?”

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