Many church leaders spend a great deal of time and energy in developing programs designed to bring new people into the church. That is a good thing. However, too few think about the structures needed to sustain the growth that comes. If there are not intentional structures the assimilate new people into the life of the church, what one is left with is a big front door and a big back door.
Larry Osborn of North Coast Church in Vista, CA calls this the sticky factor. He is the author of The Sticky Church. Interestingly, North Coast does not put huge attention on the programs to bring people in. They do put much emphasis on the sticky factor, or the structures that will keep people there once they come. As they have been intentional over the years, they have seen the congregation grow to over 7,000 in multiple venues.
A key structure for assimilating new members is a quality, well led, small group that is focused on relationship, prayer, care and learning together. People crave authentic relationships and personal significance. That is provided in the context of small groups that are well designed and well led. The larger the percentage of adults a congregation has in well designed and well led small groups, the higher the sticky factor for those who come. It is one of the key structures that will keep those who come coming back and integrate them into the life of the church.
Programming without the requisite structures to support growth - numerical and spiritual - are a waste of precious time, energy and resources. More important than the programming designed to bring people in is the sticky factor of your church to keep them if they come. The first without the second is not very productive. The second - even without much of the first - is highly productive.