Creating the Right Assimilation and Path for Discipleship

Improving the weekend experience helps you expand the “front door” of your church. But on-ramps and next steps are what “close the back door.” In ministry, the word “assimilation” is often used to describe the process of integrating a new person into the life of a church. A good assimilation process provides a path for people to take. Most assimilation processes flow something like this:

  • First time guests are sent to the welcome center for a gift where their contact info is gathered.

  • The church sends an email or text to follow up, usually sharing more information about the church and its programs, or an upcoming event, like a Bible study.

  • If they return, they are asked to mark "Returning Guest" on their card.

  • If they take that step, the returning guest is usually asked to attend a class, at which the church invites the guest to become a church member.

Do you notice any issue with this process?

There’s an subtle but underlying assumption in the steps and their progression that the goal of connecting with this new person is to make them a church member.

But what if that guest was an unchurched man, unsure about faith but still willing to seek out the truth? What if she was a single mom, going through a life crisis and wandering into your church looking for hope? What if that person were anything but a long-time Christ follower looking for a new church home?

Two Streams

Imagine walking down a stream on a warm sunny day. In the beginning, the water is shallow. It's easy to walk and navigate. However, as you continue to walk you notice the water becomes a little deeper.

Eventually you come to a bend where another stream merges with the one you’re in. Now the current is a little swifter and there’s more depth. This is how assimilation should flow. It begins with people taking simple, shallow steps; steps they can navigate in their own time. Eventually, however, their steps must lead to relational opportunities where there is depth and current to help guide them to follow Jesus more deeply.  

If your assimilation process ends with a membership class, chances are you'll make a lot of members, but few disciples. And the unchurched man or woman who needs hope probably won't make it to your class. You must determine a place where simple next steps begin to merge with another stream that has deeper relationships and intentional movement.

If membership classes and Bible studies made disciples, our churches would be full. There is no shortage of either in most churches. This is why your assimilation process must eventually merge with a discipleship pathway. More on that in next month’s content, but you can lay some groundwork for improving your assimilation process today.


Evaluate your current assimilation process and path as a leadership team. A few questions to get you started: 

  • What is “the win” for your assimilation process? Does your path make sense for an unchurched person?

  • Are the first time guest steps simple and do they match what a first time guest actually needs? 

  • Are you using clear language that would make sense to someone with no church background? 

  • How many new guests are actually filling out a card or going to a designated place? How might you improve that number?

Get more helpful resources on this and other topics at The Unstuck Group.


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