Redefining Your Member Journey: Church Assimilation vs. Church Nurture

Redefining Your Member Journey: Church Assimilation vs. Church Nurture

When someone walks through your church doors, what happens next? How does a visitor become a member? How do you encourage members to give or give more? What are the strategies your church uses to reach and engage the most possible people?

These are questions every church should answer differently because your answers depend on the people you’re trying to reach, the tools and resources you have at your disposal, and your church’s unique mission and vision.

Unfortunately, many churches today are still using generic, one-size-fits-all strategies, which make it difficult for people to feel known, seen, and valued enough to participate.

How you define your member journey is crucial to your church’s growth. And that starts with the terms you use to describe this process.

Church assimilation vs. church nurture

When churches talk about their member journey, “assimilation” has been a helpful way to explain the process of “bringing someone into the fold” or making them part of your church family. 

But the language of assimilation implies conformity, and it often leads to cookie-cutter strategies that don’t treat each person as an individual. At Pushpay, we believe your member journey should feel like a series of personal experiences, not an assembly line. And that’s why we’ve adopted the language of church nurture to describe this process of developing and strengthening relationships with the people who set foot in your church.

If you want to turn visitors into members and see those members become committed worshipers, servers, and givers, you need to nurture each individual. Help them mature, and find relevant ways to make their experience personal. 

The best way to do this is obviously through relationships. But what do you do before someone develops meaningful relationships with people in your church? And how do you create personal experiences at scale?

It starts with an intimate understanding of who your church is reaching.

Know your audience

Who your church is called to reach should completely change what you focus on in your communication with visitors and members. This is about translating your mission into their context and helping them navigate their unique challenges and aspirations.

What do these people want? How much do they already know? Where are they in their personal faith journeys? Where does the gospel of Jesus Christ intersect with their desires, interests, and problems? What are the unique motivations that will lead them to take the next steps with your church?

Your church needs to able to clearly articulate your answers to these questions, for each of the groups of people you’re trying to reach. You also have to identify the best ways to communicate them.

To discover how to identify the people you’re best positioned to reach and develop a strategy for connecting with them, download our free Persona Worksheet today.

Identify the best strategies to reach your audience

Your church nurture strategy needs to include a plan to increase the touchpoints people have with your church—but you also need to identify the best channels you have to reach people. 

This goes beyond developing a short-term follow up plan for visitors. It’s about finding the most effective strategies to distribute relevant information and drive your desired behavior—no matter what stage of the member journey someone is on.

If you have a church app, for example, that’s a convenient access point for people to: 

  • Explore basic information about your church
  • Learn about upcoming events and serving opportunities
  • Get involved in small groups
  • Read devotionals and other content you’ve created
  • See the impact of your ministries
  • Watch sermons
  • Give

The wealth of things someone can do in your app, coupled with the ability to send push notifications, makes your church app an ideal tool for creating custom experiences, and an important part of a modern church nurture strategy. No matter what stage of the member journey someone is on, your app lets you send them relevant notifications that direct them to whatever is next for them and highlight the aspects of your church that fit with where they’re at spiritually and in relation to your church.

Say someone gives a one-time gift to a specific fund at your church to support your missionaries overseas. Odds are pretty good that they’d be interested in knowing more about the impact of that ministry and seeing what your church is doing with their dollars. That kind of communication is highly relevant to them because it’s based on something specific that they did, but it’s also a chance to capitalize on the momentum of their most recent action: You encourage recurring giving, and keep the value of their donation on their mind.

Once you decide what communication channels have the most potential with your audience, you need to focus your efforts on promoting and developing that channel (such as driving app downloads through email, blogging, church announcements, or social media).

Create personal experiences

It’s certainly important to talk about broad, overarching techniques your church will use to engage people, like fostering a welcoming church culture or prioritizing small group involvement. But developing a church nurture strategy requires you to think about who you want to reach and how you’ll reach them on a deeper level, connecting what you know about someone to the most appropriate next step. 

If your strategy looks the same no matter who you’re trying to reach, maybe it’s time to redefine your member journey, and start exploring how, specifically, you can nurture the people in your church.

Get started today by determining who your church is best positioned to reach. Only then you can create an effective process for nurturing those people along next steps of faith and deeper engagement with your church. Download the free Persona Worksheet today and discover the process for researching and creating personas for the people your church wants to engage.

Ryan Nelson

Ryan Nelson has been a volunteer youth leader with Young Life for nearly a decade. He writes in the Pacific Northwest, where he lives with his wife and twin boys.