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As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17
By Chris Elrod
This is the fourth installment of a series of posts in “Reaching the Hard To Reach.” As I close out this series of posts, I want to concentrate on follow up once the hard to reach have attended your church.
1. Follow up when you get the information. This is HUGE and often overlooked. People far from God want reassurance that they have been accepted. When we get a “first time guest” card we make sure that there are three “touches” in the following week. One of our volunteers sends a hand written card thanking them for attending which usually arrives on Tuesday. I send them a personally signed letter inviting them for coffee which arrives at their house on Wednesday. Our Discipleship Pastor sends out a letter outlining our small groups opportunities which arrives by Friday. Notice that we never make a call or visit their home. Since 9/11 people DO NOT want you to drop by for a visit. Due to sales calls and bill collectors they also do not want to be contacted by phone. Pastor – let go of tradition and embrace new ways of contact!
2. Keep great records. Follow up and continued contact is paramount in taking a person far from God to the point of being a discipled follower of God. The only way to really keep up with this process is a great church management software program. They are expensive, in depth, time consuming and NECESSARY. Put this in your budget and culture as a non-negotiable. Jesus didn’t tell us in the Great Commandment just to reach people and baptize them – He also told us to make disciples. This is not possible without good record keeping and followup processes.
3. Offer multiple routes for discipleship. Sunday School is great. Small groups are great. Special discipleship events are great. None are effective by themselves in discipling the hard to reach. People far from God, new to church or young in their Faith need multiple opportunities at multiples times to be properly discipled. In essence, they need options. If your church is able to offer small groups, Sunday School and special events, then do it. The hard to reach will not attend all of them – but will normally attend one of them. Embrace the idea of one message – but multiple avenues for sharing it.
4. Walk with folks. Over the last 50 years the Church has done its best to streamline or fast track the discipleship process. Ultimately I feel we have failed. The only real example of discipleship in the Bible is taking a small group of people and walking with them daily for several years. It doesn’t matter if your church has Sunday School or small groups – discipleship is relational and NOT program-based. People far from God take a BUNCH of time to truly disciple. They will make mistakes, drop the ball and try to drift away. It is only by being a part of their lives in an intimate nature that a leader can actually disciple someone.
5. Not everyone will follow through. This is the hardest concept to accept as a pastor. You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink. Reaching the hard to reach means that quite a few will get past the initial excitement of “finding Jesus” and turn back to the life that they came from. Others will still attend church on a regular basis but never take the proper discipleship steps in order to grow in Christ. They make a decision to stay babies in their faith – and there is very little you can do about it. Pastor, don’t sweat that. It is the work of the Holy Spirit that drives people to grow in the knowledge of the Bible and faith in God. My uncle – who was a tremendous pastor – used to say, “Dance with the one that shows up.” There will be those that fall away, but there will be many more “hard to reach” that will chose to be properly discipled. Put your work into them – and your faith in God for the others.
A big thanks to Chris Elrod for sharing his insight on reaching the hard to reach for Christ.
Talk back! Tell us about your experiences with the unchurched – how do you reach out and follow-up?