By Lyle E. Schaller
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Extra info for Assimilating New Members (Creative leadership series)
Our callers have been trained to be able to identify the good prospects in one visit. In that first call we try to identify the needs of that family and to match them with the appropriate group or class or organization in our church. If they don't respond to that call, we write them off. If theyr'e interested in the church, theyl'l respond. If they're not interested, there's nothing we can do by continuing to call on them. This congregation reached its peak in size in 1953 and has been on the decline ever since, although the rate of decline has been slowed since they began this visitation-evangelism program in 1971, Slightly more than a mile away is the meeting place of another congregation of the same denomination, The lay volunteer in charge of their visitation program described it in these words: Our goal is to have one or two of our members call on every newcomer to this community within ten days after they move here.
The background theory is that every congregation can be described in terms of two concentric circles. The larger outer circle is the membership circle. Every member is within that outer circle. The smaller inner circle includes the members who feel a sense of belonging and who feel fully accepted into the fellowship of that called-out community. Most of the leaders come from persons within this fellowship circle. By contrast, many of the workers who do not have policymaking authority may be drawn from among the members who are outside the fellowship circle.
One condition is the "welfare syndrome" or sense of dependency. Another is low morale. A third is a low level of congregational self-esteem. Another is passivity. A fifth is a sense of powerlessness or lack of control over the destiny of the congregation. A sixth is a fostering of the belief that a larger subsidy and more money will solve all problems. Another is focusing attention on the congregation-denomination relationship rather than on an evangelistic outreach. This pattern can be seen very clearly by contrasting the relatively large financial subsidies provided The United Methodist Church or the United Presbyterian Church to its home mission projects with the relatively modest financial subsidies provided by the Southern Baptist Convention to its new home missions and examining the growth rates of these missions.