Don’t confuse socially uncomfortable with spiritually immature.
Ministries that struggle to retain new people do not provide opportunities to explore their ministry without having to make a significant commitment. A person’s level of involvement must match their level of commitment in order to effectively retain and develop those in your ministry.
Here’s three ways to correct this problem:
1. Provide more social/fun events: I love evangelism training, all night prayer, and how to defend your faith seminars. But these kinds of events prove extremely intimidating for new people, and do not match their level of commitment to the ministry. Look at your last three months or upcoming three months–How many activities are new people friendly?
2. Measure new people by their attendance, not their commitment. Just because you take your ministry seriously does not mean that new people have to. I have seen ministries indirectly exclude people because they do not get it. Who knows what God can do in the life of your students in years to come? I’ve found it helpful to hold off discussions about new people’s commitment levels until they have been involved for over a year.
3. Promote students by their attendance. Similar to number 2, but if a new person comes to everything they should strongly be considered for a leadership position or leadership training over a more spiritually mature person who attends sporadically. That may sound counter-intuitive but I cannot tell you how many times I’ve watched spiritually mature but sporadic attenders fade away within a year of stepping into leadership.
To sum up:
- Give new people plenty of opportunities to explore your ministry without committing to anything (directly or indirectly)
- Measure their value by attendance not spiritual maturity
Do you have any solid ways to diagnose and correct this problem? I’d love to hear about them!