In Part 1, I shared that in some churches nearly half of church members are inactive disciples. Many have not attended in years. In Part 1 and Part 2, I shared six ways to start the restoration effort: pray, make a commitment, place someone in charge, preach a sermon or series about restoration, gather a team, and prepare and conduct research.
In Part 3, I will share further steps for the Restoration Team in the effort toward restoration. I gained much help for Part 3 from Ingathering: Reclaiming Inactive Church Members (which is out of print). Consider the following:
What Can Be Done?
STUDY COMMUNICATION AND LISTENING. Besides prayer, the most significant tool in the restoration effort is effective listening. This includes understanding communication that is verbal, nonverbal, tone, and body language. Learn to listen nondefensively. Listen for feelings and allow silence. Develop an outline with key questions. Listen with care. Practice these skills during learning sessions so they become as natural as possible.
REVIEW POSSIBLE LIFE CRISES OR TRANSITIONS WHICH INFLUENCE INACTIVITY. A list with every reason for inactivity could fill a book. Some of the reasons include personal and family crises, life transitions, shift of priorities, interpersonal conflict, burnout, immoral behavior, problems with church leaders, problems with the church, church conflict, or a move to another community. Some inactivity may be unintentional and other intentional.
SEEK CONTACT INFORMATION UPDATES. Ask active church members for updates and contact information about people on the inactive list. Check with Sunday School leaders, Deacons, and other church leaders.
PLAN CONTACT METHODS. Face to face is best for expressing care. Poor contact information may make appointments for visits challenging. Team members may hear that a visit is not convenient, necessary, or wanted. When an address is missing, use whatever contact means is available with prayer and care. The Team may make the first round of contacts completely by visits followed by phone calls when visits have been unsuccessful, etc.
MAKE ASSIGNMENTS. Determine the plan. If the number of inactive disciples is large, the Restoration Team may need to enlist and train additional people to help. After training and preparing the Team, they receive assignments. Team members go out in pairs to visit inactive disciples of the same gender. Teams attempt to complete their visits by a deadline. Schedule times for progress reports.
MAKE VISITS. Disburse in teams to make visits. Be prepared to make multiple attempts on different days and times. A doorstep conversation is acceptable as long as it is not rushed. If more time is needed, it may need to be scheduled. Avoid making promises or commitments you cannot keep. Make a good written report of each visit. Take minimal notes during the visit so as not to distract.
FOLLOW UP. Check in with the Restoration Team on progress and any adjustments necessary. Also follow up with the church on requests made by the inactive disciples. For example, a visit may indicate a desire to plug into a Sunday School class. Another visit may inform you that they have joined another church. And follow up with inactive disciples as needed or expected.
God entrusted these disciples into the care of your church. They have grown inactive. Jesus criticizes poor care of the sheep in John 10. We must do our part to care for and restore where possible those inactive disciples. Make (and keep) disciples!