Over the past couple of decades, many churches have intentionally worked on ramping up their hospitality. They have formed hospitality teams. They have attended workshops, read books, and continuously tried to improve the culture of hospitality.

In addition, many churches have been working on creating intentional discipleship plans.  They have realized that attending worship and Sunday school does not a disciple make!  There needs to be a much more intentional process and an understanding of what a disciple is and how the church helps people mature in their discipleship journey. So again, many church leaders have attended workshops and training, read books, and worked to create pathways of faith development.

While many churches still have work to do in both the areas of hospitality and discipleship pathways, there is at least some awareness of the need.  And, many churches have invested at least some resources into working on these two areas.  However, there is a big black hole that is often missed.  And, it is actually a hole which normally occurs for people new to a faith community that they fall into between hospitality and a discipleship pathway. Often leaders “think” the process is covered in hospitality or discipleship, but more times than not, it is instead a big, dark, deep, black hole.  This black hole is a connection process.

The connection process is an intentional way of building relationships with people.  Think of hospitality as the first impression and the discipleship pathway as engaging in ministry.  Connection is the bridge (and safety net) between the two.  Most often it needs to be a separate process and team outside the other two (hospitality and discipleship).  It should also be lay-driven – not pastor.

To get your started, the process should address the questions/situations:

  • What happens when someone visits for the first time while they are onsite?  The follow-up?  What about online?  Are there gifts, surveys, connectors, mentors, etc.?
  • What if they don’t return, what is the next step and when does it happen?
  • When they do return again, what happens?
  • How are they connected with other people?
  • How are they connected with ministries?
  • How do you make sure the connections stick?
  • How does your connection process help reconnect with people who haven’t connected with the faith community for a while?  What is the timing?  What is the process?  Who takes care of the step(s)?
  • How are the steps monitored for connection and reconnection?  What is the accountability process?

In my book, Gear Up: Nine Essential Processes for the Optimized Church, I address how there are certain “gears” that every church needs to be a well-run organization.  Each gear (process/system) interrelates to another one.  If one gear is jammed or is missing, the other gears don’t function well or sometimes they don’t function at all. For more information on a connection process, check out Gear Up.  Which gears are running smoothly at your church and which ones need some tuning up?  Maybe it is time for your 50,000-mile maintenance check-up before your church is left stranded on the side of the road!

Also, check out this webinar on the connection process titled, Connection is Key: Stop Losing People in the Black Hole, A Guide to Connecting People Relationally in a Faith Community.

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