From Visitor to Participant: What Can We Do?

This is a post for churchpeople, so I recognize not every regular reader of this blog will care about the following discussion. You’ve been duly, and respectfully, warned! 😉

I enjoyed a good conversation this evening with our son Trevor and his roommate and Regent College classmate James Allaway about a fundamental challenge in churches and, indeed, in any Christian institution larger than about 100 people (e.g., a student fellowship such as Inter-Varsity, a college, and so on). The challenge is this: What intermediate structures or programs can help to welcome people and enfold them into the life of the congregation between the initial “welcome to visitors” on the first Sunday morning (whatever form that takes) and the invitation to join a small group–which is a relatively large commitment and fairly intimidating to many?

Alpha and similar courses can help, particularly for those new to the faith. But what else can we do to connect newcomers with others in the church–and, again, especially in churches (or other groups) that are > 100 people and thus have a large group dynamic, a dynamic that keeps people isolated no matter how many times they attend a Sunday morning service?

And can we make sure that those visitors who want to stay quietly anonymous while they decide how much they want to get involved can get their wish?

What have you seen that helps people connect with others in a church between “Hi! You’re new here!” and “Small group registration takes place today after the service”?