Child abuse! Child neglect! Just the mention of this type of abuse makes us cringe! But what about the neglect and abuse of newborn babes in Christ?
That is, those who have come into the church through evangelistic meetings or personal Bible Studies. It is tragic to bring new converts into the church only to see them "die" shortly thereafter because we have neglected them. God has called these new members to His family, and as a spiritual family we need to welcome, nurture, and support them.
I've been privileged to do evangelism as a church pastor and as a full-time evangelist. Looking from both vantage points I've noticed over and over again that if time, planning, and money are put into the follow-up as well as the evangelistic meetings, many more new converts in Christ would be preserved to become strong Christians and productive disciples of Christ.
So much of our time, energy, and money is needed for the pre-work and the evangelistic series itself that the matter of putting in place resources for follow-up and nurture is usually sadly neglected. For this and other reasons, when designing an effective follow-up plan, it is vital that the church understand that this work is largely the responsibility of each individual member. It is not just the work of the evangelist and the pastor.
The pastor and evangelist are the "obstetricians." They help in the "delivery" process. The church members are the "pediatricians," and the church is the "nursery" where the new babes are to receive all the tender, loving care possible!
Here are seven keys to a successful follow-up program:
Set up small group ministries
Start small groups within the church at least six months before evangelistic meetings begin. Groups meet preferably in members' homes once a week. Choose a night of the week which doesn't conflict with other church pro grams. Divide the small groups so they meet in various geographical locations around the city. The more convenient the location the easier to place the new converts in the groups.
During the evangelistic meetings, the small groups will not meet. It is vital that the small group members attend the evangelistic meetings. This is where they will begin to get acquainted with the new converts. But as soon as the meetings are over, the small groups be gin meeting again, as they initiate the real reason for their existence.
After the evangelistic meetings have ended, place all new converts in a small group. Great care should be taken in placing these new converts. Try to match the individual with the right group.
Develop and present a short series of sermons on how to relate to new converts
This series should be presented just before the evangelistic meetings begin. The sermons (3-5 of them) should be preached at worship services on Sabbath mornings, so that a majority of church members are reached.
Each sermon must help the church members to realize they have a vital part in the holding and nurturing of the new converts.
Conduct a special class on relating to new converts
Make a strong appeal for members to join a special class on human relations and consciousness raising when it comes to new members. These classes maybe held on the Sabbath afternoons following the 3-5 sermons that are preached on the Sabbath mornings. Have a sign-up sheet to be distributed to the congregation with dates and times that the classes will meet.
Each session should meet for one hour members only. Select the best night and time for the best attendance, if not meeting on Sabbath afternoon. If meeting on Sabbath afternoon, plan a light soup and sandwich meal after church and before the class. In the class urge members to:
* Be encouragers and not discouragers of new converts.
* Focus on the inner adornment of their heart and not their outer adornment.
* Be positive about the church and the pastor.
* Make a special effort to greet new converts at church and at special events.
Hand out printed material to those who attend the class on being a spiritual friend to the new convert. Obtain a commitment from each person who attends that they will be spiritual friends with or to the new converts.
Conduct a Daniel Seminar class
As a follow-up to the evangelistic series, conduct a Daniel Seminar class for the new converts. Daniel is an excellent book to study; it is both practical and prophetic. New believers love prophecy! Prophecy is probably the reason many came to the evangelistic meetings to begin with.
This class works best if it begins two weeks before the evangelistic meetings are over. It maybe held on Saturday mornings during regular Sabbath- School class time. All visitors to the evangelistic meetings are invited to at tend. The class may meet twice a week, once during the Sabbath class study, as suggested (this will help them with their church attendance) and one other night during the closing two weeks of the evangelistic series.
Be enthusiastic, using visual aids to help make this class exciting. Have study guides available to help with the study.
"Welcome To The Family" banquet
This banquet needs to be planned for the first week after the evangelistic meetings. (I've found the best time, if possible, is the next Saturday night after the meetings end.)
Send out special invitations to all the new converts and spiritual friends that have been selected. Also invitations should be extended to all those who lead out in the various committees during the evangelistic meetings. Invite the church board members to attend.
Though the banquet menu does not need to be lavish, plan a sit-down dinner. Place new converts and their spiritual friends next to one another. If necessary, everyone should wear a name tag. Get the youth involved. Have them serve the meal.
Plan a short orientation program for after dinner. Give a brief history of the beginning of the church and it's organization, from the local church to the conference, union and General Conference. Show a mission spotlight video sharing the worldwide mission of the church. Talk about such things as the tithe envelope, church expense, and mission offerings. Use as many visual aids as possible.
Present those who led out in the various committees for the evangelistic meetings a special certificate of appreciation.
Give to each family that has become a part of the church a special book such as, Welcome! Your Church Family Album. 1 Along with this, give each new convert a special packet containing items such as the church directory, information about the church school and ministries offered by the church such as Pathfinders, community services, small group ministries and the church newsletter.
Have all the new converts fill out a special form entitled "My Service for Christ." Listed on this form are areas in which they would like to be involved. Discipleship class, repairs at church, greeting, music, youth, teaching, community service, etc.
This special banquet will have a highly positive impact on the new converts and the leadership of the church.
A lack of communication will kill any relationship! Especially that of those who have just become a part of the church. All during the meetings these individuals may have been receiving letters from the evangelist. Letters to remind them of the upcoming lectures and letters of encouragement. How much more will they need to receive these encouraging letters when the meetings have ended. Send a letter or a postcard at least once a week for the first month after their baptism.
Have their spiritual friend give a short, friendly call at least once a week. Make sure the new converts have a church calendar of events. Encourage them to attend the social functions of the church.
Be positive in all the communications!
In all this it is vital for the pastor, Bible worker, and/or an elder to visit the new members the week after their baptism. Every new member needs at least one pastoral visit every other week for the first month after their baptism and then once a month for the next six months. All visits should be brief yet sensitive to the new member. As individuals make these visits it is good to give them a little book such as Steps to Christ or 2000 and Beyond by Mark Finley. As the pastor, make sure you know what literature is being shared with the new convert.
Remember, people come into the church family because of the beautiful truths they have learned from God's Book and their love for Christ, but they stay in a church family because of the love, concern, and fellowship they find there.
1. Ken McFarland, Welcome! Your Church Family Album (College Place, Wash.: Color Press, 1997).