We had about 24 adults receive the Holy Ghost and were baptized last year. However, out of those, only six are still coming. How can we retain more?
In past columns I have outlined a simple, yet comprehensive new convert care program involving three key elements: instruction, fellowship, and involvement. Churches that cover these three areas adequately often see their retention rate stay at around 50-70%, or even higher. However, let me make a few additional suggestions that space would not allow me to address in the past.
One of the most important aspects of discipleship is instruction. New converts will naturally be very hungry for the Word of God. All converts should be placed into a new convert’s class taught at the church on Sunday Morning as a Sunday school class. All converts should also be strongly encouraged to complete a ten-week home Bible study taught in their home.
But in addition to these two very important teaching times, many find it helpful to do what some call ‘first-week counseling.’ This involves a visit to the convert’s home by either the pastor or other person qualified to answer the many questions that a convert often has. It can also be done in the pastor’s office if a home visit is not possible. It should be done as soon as possible after their baptism or infilling.
This counseling session covers four areas: (1) What has just happened to you. In simple terms the convert needs to understand the power of the New Birth process and what Grace is all about. Their past is now under the blood and, like a baby learning to walk, they will steadily grow in spiritual strength. (2) The importance of church attendance, daily prayer and Bible reading. They need to know you have service three times a week and that missing even a single service can be harmful to a newborn Christian. They also should set aside time each day to pray (explain that prayer is not reading from a book of prayers or counting beads). They should also read the Bible during their prayer time. Give them a Bible reading chart that begins in the Gospels and takes them into Acts. If they don’t have a good KJV Bible, give them one. (3) The devil’s attack. They should be warned of Satan’s tricks. Every baby stumbles when learning to walk. If they stumble, they should simply ask the Lord to help them not to do that again. The devil will try to bring up their past, he will question their experience, and tell them they cannot overcome weaknesses. Warn them of these lies and share God’s truths. (4) We care and are here to help. Let them know they must not struggle on their own. Call us, day or night! A newborn needs much attention and care.
Before you conclude the visit, give them a cassette or CD of you, the pastor, teaching a good 45-minute Bible study (just take a Bible study night and record it as you teach it to the church) on ‘The Successful Christian Life.’ Cover these topics and more.
Also consider giving them a good new convert’s booklet. Either write your own or use one of several that can be purchased from PPH such as, ‘Ready, Set, Go!’ by JoAnn Cook.
This counseling time can help the new convert to ‘get off on the right foot’ as they begin their wonderful new life in Christ. It will also increase your overall retention rate.