are burned? Now Tobiah the Ammonite was by him, and he said, Even that which they build, if afox go up, he shall even break down their stone wall" (Neh 4:1-3).
Strategies for Assimilation
How then is assimilation best accomplished? To what does the pastor have to give personal attention andwhat can possibly be delegated? Gary McIntosh and Glen Martin in their book,
Finding Them and Keeping Them
list five noteworthy strategies for keeping them. Assimilation strategy one deals with helping peopledevelop friendships. Assimilation strategy two deals with helping people become involved. Assimilationstrategy three involves helping people belong. Assimilation strategy four involves helping people work together. Assimilation strategy five deals with helping people grow in their faith.
These strategies get rightto the best point of attack. How do we process these strategies and what are some of the pitfalls?
Friendship cannot be programmed or legislated. We can, however, learn from the behavioralsciences that people form friendships based on commonality and trust, such as being in the same geographicallocation, and having common needs and desires. The mere fact of being new members gives them somethingin common with other new members. They are all new members in a new church looking for friends andrelationships and seeking to fill a spiritual void in their lives. However, the growth-oriented church cannotrisk leaving friendships to be formed based on happenstance. Friendship formation should be intentional. Oneway of accomplishing this is to have a goal in the new member orientation class that each new memberestablish at least two friendships that the new member did not have before joining the church. The primarypurpose of the new member orientation class should, therefore, be assimilation, not an introduction todoctrine. Most declining churches' new member classes focus on denominational polity and doctrine. At thispoint, however, assimilation is more critical.Friends and the ability to make friends are closely akin to God's greatest commandment of love. Alan LoyMcGinnis writes:People with no friends usually have a diminished capacity for sustaining any kind of love. Theytend to go through a succession of marriages, be estranged from various family members, andhave trouble getting along at work. On the other hand, those who learn how to love their friendstend to make long and fulfilling marriages, get along well with the people at work, and enjoytheir children.
God is love and love is God. Loving and caring are the heart of assimilation. The busy pastor cannotguarantee that love will be demonstrated by all of the members, but he can assure new members that as God'sundershepherd, God loves them and he loves them. Because God is love, God blesses loving relationships. Abiblical example is the love story of the book of Ruth.Ruth was a Moabite girl who married an Israelite boy who had come to the land of Moab because of thefamine in Bethlehem. Ruth's first husband died, but Ruth had established a loving bonded relationship withher mother-in-law, Naomi. When Naomi decided to return to Bethlehem, Ruth insisted on going with her. Thescripture recalls her loving desire, "whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thypeople shall be my people, and thy God my God:" (Ruth 1:16). Naomi and Ruth moved back to Bethlehemwhere Ruth met and married a rich Israelite and they lived happily together. Later they had a baby boy namedObed. Obed had a son named Jesse, who became the father of King David. Many, many years later, inBethlehem, another baby was born named Jesus, a member of the family of Ruth and Boaz. Because of herlove and her faithfulness, a Moabite girl, who was willing to leave home to live with her mother-in-law,brought the greatest love known, for Jesus is God, and God is Love, and Love is God. Likewise, because of the undershepherd's (pastor) and the leadership's faithfulness to indiscriminately protect, love, and care for allthe new members, the church is perpetually blessed with additions to God's family.
Involving New Members in Role/Tasks.
The second strategy for assimilation deals with involving newmembers in role tasks. Win Arn defines role/tasks as "a specific position, function, or responsibility in thechurch (choir, committee member, teacher, officer, etc.)."
In behavior pedagogy we learn to monitorstudent classroom behavior in a category called "on task" or "off task." The technique calls for the behavior-oriented teacher to define the behavior "on task" and then select a method of observation that woulddetermine in a given classroom period the percentage of students who were on or off task. A certainpercentage of students on task is used as a criteria for evaluating teacher effectiveness. Something similarneeds to be established in the church to evaluate this area of assimilation. The basic premise for involvingnew members in task-oriented ministry is that the involvement edifies and satisfies the members. People wantto feel useful. George Barna concurs by saying, "Unless you become involved in the activities of your church,