MINISTRY TO INACTIVE MEMBERS

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1 MINISTRY TO INACTIVE MEMBERS A Process For Congregational Leaders Prepared by: Pastor Bob Dealey Director for Evangelical Mission Central/Southern Illinois Synod/ELCA

2 Ministry to Inactive Members: A Process for Congregational Leaders The request for a resource like this originally came from a congregation that noticed that due to a variety of reasons, a large number of its members had become inactive. Congregational leaders and the pastor wanted to explore ways in which the congregation could develop a ministry to inactive members that included the following: A working definition of inactive members ; An overview/outline of a process (which involved telephone and in-person visitation) and training resources for those who were going to making the calls; A process that involved congregational leaders and was not dependent upon the pastor to make all of the calls and visits; A sample script of how to set up an appointment for the visit; what to expect during the visit; and a sample Visitation Sheet to record how the visit went and what next steps will be taken; Information about the identification, recruitment and assignment of effective parish callers; and What to do with the information received from inactive members. The material in this resource can easily be read and reviewed in a 90-minute training session. Sample role-playing exercises are included and can be used in conjunction with the training session. This resource, and the process it uses, is an opportunity for the members of your congregation to reach out with care and compassion to those who, for whatever reasons, are no longer active in the life and mission of the congregation. It opens the door for the possibility of reconciliation and it provides those who have been inactive with the opportunity to share with you what their intentions are. You may not get all of the inactive members to return, but you will never know unless you take the first step to initiate a conversation with them. May God bless you and your congregation s efforts to reach out and re-activate those who were formerly active members of your faith community. Yours in Christ, Pastor Bob Dealey, Director for Evangelical Mission Central/Southern Illinois Synod/ELCA 2

3 MINISTRY TO INACTIVE MEMBERS... WHO ARE THE INACTIVE MEMBERS? It is always easier to do ministry with someone if you know who they are. The following questions will help give you some insights into those with whom you seek to do ministry. 1. How does your congregation make a distinction between active and inactive members? What are the criteria for making those distinctions? 2. Who are the inactive members in your congregation? What do you know about them? Are they recent or long-term members? 3. According to the criteria used by your congregation, when did they become inactive? Is this something recent or has this been brewing for a long time? 4. Why did they become inactive? What assumptions do we make about them and what are their real reasons for becoming inactive? 5. Where do they live? Do we have current contact information for them? 6. Have they become active in another congregation? If so, what will you/your congregation do? 3

4 A SAMPLE PROCESS TO MAKE CALLS ON INACTIVE MEMBERS Someone will take responsibility for identifying the inactive members in your congregation and someone will take responsibility for assigning the names of those who will call on inactive members. 1. What factors will be used to determine when a call should be made? 2. What process will be used to assign specific individuals to call on specific inactive members? 3. Once assigned, what kind of time period is allotted for the call to be made? 4. What do you anticipate will happen during the course of each visit? 5. What kind of training will your congregation provide for those who are making visits? 6. What happens if an inactive member does not want to be visited? 7. What mechanism will be used to report what happened during visits? 8. After the visits have been completed, what will happen with the information that is received from inactive members? 9. What is the time-frame for all visits to be completed? 10. What arrangements will be made if follow-up visits are needed? 4

5 MINISTRY TO INACTIVE MEMBERS SAMPLE TELEPHONE SCRIPT TO SET UP VISIT Here is a suggested script that those who will be calling on inactive members to set up a time to visit may use. Please feel free to modify as best fits the needs of your congregation. Caller: Hello. I m (Name), a member of (Name of Church). The Church Council is in the process of visiting members to hear from their perspective about the church s ministry and I was wondering when there might be a convenient time for us to get together. I m guessing that the visit should not take more than minutes. At this point, inactive members will probably indicate to you whether or not s/he is interested in meeting with you. Possible responses include: My family and I are attending (or have joined) another church. My family and I are upset with..and haven t been to church in a while. We have been dealing with an illness/personal problem and no one has called on us. We can t stay in (and/or support) a church that teaches things that we believe are contrary to the Bible. We ve been busy and have just fallen out of the habit of making it to church. The church is always asking for money. The church has too many cliques. We don t feel welcome there. We re not being fed/we don t get anything out of the sermon. We don t like (Name of whatever the issue is). This isn t a good time for us to visit now. Sure. Why not come over next (day of the week) at (time). The sole purpose of the initial telephone call is to assess whether or not there is any interest on the part of the inactive member to take the time to meet with the person who is calling on them. The person who is making the call must think like a customer service representative or like someone who works in the Complaint Department. If the inactive member is or becomes agitated, angry or distressed, express appropriate Christian behavior, but remember: Do not argue Do not get defensive Do not get angry Do not be accusatory Do not tell the person how they ought to think or feel Do not tell them that they are stupid or denigrate them in any way Do not hang up on them unless they become belligerent or use abusive language At all times, show love and compassion Listen to their complaints and try to understand things from their perspective Be kind and affirming If they are not interested in visiting with you, ask them: Are there any specific issues and/or concerns that you have that you would like for me to share with the church council? Please be sure to write down whatever their concerns are in order that you can share them with the church council. After they have shared their concerns and as the phone call reaches its conclusion, please be sure to thank them for their time. If they are interested in visiting with you, ask: When would be a good time for me to stop by for a visit? Then set a time to meet with them. At the conclusion of the call, thank them for their time and say, I look forward to visiting with you on (date) at (time). Please be sure to give them your telephone number or address, in the event that they need to contact you to re-schedule the visit. 5

6 MAKING THE VISIT If you are unsure where you are going, please get directions in advance. Please plan to arrive on time. If you are going to be late, please call and let them know. Please pray about your visit beforehand. Introduce yourself. Hi. I m (name) from (name of the church). We spoke on the telephone the other day. State the purpose of the visit. As I mentioned to you when I spoke to you, we are conducting a series of visits to talk with people in order to hear their perspective on the church s ministry. I m not here to sell you anything, but rather, I m here to listen to you. Ice-breaker question (if the family is not known to you): I realize that we don t know each other very well. I have been a member at (name of the church) for years and I became a member when Tell me a little about you and your family. For example, How long have you been a member at (name of the church)? What attracted you to the congregation? Affirmations: One of the things that I have always enjoyed about our congregation is OR One of the things I have always appreciated about the congregation is How has that been for you? OR What have you enjoyed most about the congregation? Issues/Concerns: Obviously, in spite of our best efforts, things don t always go the way we think they ought to. What suggestions for improvements would you have? OR If you were in charge, what would you like to see happen? (This is where listening is crucial. Take notes, but try to focus your attention on what the person is saying). Do not interrupt or get defensive as they are speaking (even if you disagree with them). Allow them to express themselves. When they are done, read your notes back to them and say, These are the things I heard you mention. Is there anything else? I want to make sure that the church council hears everything that is on everyone s mind. If there are any further items, be sure to include them in your notes. Thank the person for their time. Thank you for allowing me to come and visit with you tonight. I will tell the council what you have shared with me. Once we have compiled all of the information gathered during the course of these visits, the council will then share that information with the congregation, in order that we can make adjustments to our ministry. Thank you for your input. Ask them if they have any prayer concerns. If so, ask: If you can pray for them (if you are comfortable doing so). If you can share those prayer concerns with the Pastor. Closing Prayer: Dear God, thank you for this person/this family and for the time we have shared. Bless them and their family that they might know the abundant riches of your never-failing grace. In Jesus name we pray. Amen. After you leave the home, complete a Visitation Sheet and return it to the person who is responsible for receiving them. (See Sample Below). 6

7 SAMPLE VISITATION SHEET Name of Family: Date: Address: Telephone: address: How long have you been a member/members of the congregation? What attracted you to the congregation? What have you enjoyed most about the congregation? What suggestions/ideas for improvements do you have? Do you have any prayer concerns For which I can pray for you? That you want me to share with the Pastor? Parish Caller s Observations: How would you describe the member s/family s overall reaction to your visit? What are the member s/family s intentions regarding participation in the congregation? What is the next step that the congregation needs to take? Is a follow-up visit warranted? If so, by whom? What other information needs to be shared with the church council and/or the pastor? Parish Caller s Name: Telephone: address: 7

8 THE PARISH CALLER 10 Desired Characteristics of Parish Callers 1. They are in touch with their faith and can articulate it; 2. They have time to train for this ministry and time to make visits; 3. They like people and are non-judgmental; 4. They are good listeners; 5. They know much about the church; 6. They are clear about what is expected of them; 7. They are able to maintain confidentiality, when necessary; 8. They relate well with people of varying ages and backgrounds; 9. They are willing to be trained to call on inactive members; 10. They are able to work together with other people for the good of the congregation. Identifying & Assigning Effective Parish Callers Who would be the best person to visit this particular member/family? Why? What connections does the parish caller have with this particular member/family? Would those connections have a positive or a negative impact on the visit? How well would this parish caller be able to relate to this member/family? What can the congregation/church council do to equip the parish caller to visit congregational members? 6. What other additional resources would help parish callers to make effective visits? 8

9 MINISTRY TO INACTIVE MEMBERS A SAMPLE OVERVIEW OF THE PROCESS 1. The congregation and/or church council determines a need to visit inactive members. 2. The church council develops a list of inactive members. 3. The church council develops a list of people who will be trained to visit inactive members. 4. Training opportunities are provided for those who will be visiting inactive members. 5. Each trained parish caller will be assigned the names of those to be visited. 6. The parish caller will contact the members to be visited and will set up a mutually convenient time for the visit to happen. 7. In the event that members do not wish to be visited, that information is conveyed to the church council and/or pastor by the parish caller. 8. When the visit is made, the parish caller will: a. Introduce him/herself. b. State the purpose of the visit. c. Ask an ice-breaker type question, if the inactive member and the parish caller are not wellacquainted with each other. d. Affirm a particular congregational ministry (one that the parish caller finds to be meaningful) e. Ask for input regarding the congregation s ministry. f. Ask if the member/s have any other issues and/or concerns that they would like to share. g. Ask about any prayer concerns that member/family might have. i. Pray with the member/family (if appropriate to do so). ii. Ask if the prayer concerns can be shared with the Pastor. h. Offer to conclude the visit with a prayer. 9. After the visit, the parish caller will: a. Complete the visitation form in a timely fashion (usually 1-3 days) and return it to the appropriate person for review. b. Share any immediate concerns with the pastor. c. Be available for clarification of any items on the visitation form. d. Continue to pray for the inactive members/families. 10. The person who receives the visitation form from the parish caller will: a. Review the reported information. b. Ask for further clarification, if something is unclear. c. Refer any issues/concerns to the appropriate parties (e.g. the pastor, church council, etc.) d. See that appropriate action is taken regarding specific requests (e.g. removal from membership, membership transfer, follow-up visit by pastor, etc.) e. Report the results of the visitation forms with the church council. 11. The church council and the pastor will do appropriate follow-up, if necessary. 12. The church council will provide progress reports to the congregation. For reasons of confidentiality, no names and/or identifiable information will be shared. 9

10 WHAT TO DO WITH INFORMATION GLEANED FROM INACTIVE MEMBERS? Now that inactive members have been visited, what do you do with the information that you have received from them? 1. Assess the possibility as to the likelihood of each inactive member to become re-activated. Develop a list according to the following categories: a. Most likely to become re-activated (and give reasons for that assessment) b. Unsure if this person/family is likely to become re-activated. i. What steps need to be taken which will help determine the possibility of their reactivation? ii. Would another visit be helpful? If so, by whom? c. Least likely to become re-activated (and give reasons for that assessment) 2. For those who may be re-activated: What needs to be done in order for that to occur? 3. For those who have left the church and will not be back: What can be done for them? (e.g. letter of transfer; letter of dismissal, etc.) 4. For those who are unsure as to whether or not they will be back: What needs to be done for their sake? 5. What programmatic/congregational changes can be made to address the needs/concerns raised during the course of the visitation? a. Is this suggestion/recommendation for improvement realistic? b. Is it doable? c. To whom does this suggestion/recommendation need to be referred? d. What will it cost to implement this suggestion/recommendation? e. If this suggestion/recommendation is desirable to be pursued, what will be the timetable for completion? f. What happens if specific suggestions/recommendations are ones that the congregation and/or church council is unable and/or unwilling to undertake and/or enact? 6. How will this information be shared with the congregation (active as well as inactive members)? 10

11 MINISTRY TO INACTIVE MEMBERS ROLE-PLAYING EXERCISES In groups of 3-4 persons, complete the following role-playing exercises. Each participant should have the opportunity to play the part of parish caller, inactive member, and observer. Instructions are provided in each scenario below for the parish caller and the inactive member. It is the responsibility of the observer to take notes and to share observations AFTER the scenario has played out. The observer is NOT to interrupt during the scenario. Making the Initial Telephone Call Scenario 1 Scenario 2 Scenario 3 Scenario 4 Scenario 5 The Parish Caller (PC) is telephoning the inactive member to set up a time for an initial visit. The PC may refer to the Sample Telephone Script To Set Up a Visit. The Inactive Member (IM) is receptive to the request for a visit. The IM has legitimate reasons for not attending church and is glad that someone from church is calling them. The PC is calling to set up a time for an initial visit. The PC will try to convince the IM that a visit will be helpful. The IM is embarrassed that someone from church is calling them. The IM is slightly reluctant to a visit. As the PC calls, the IM is upset/hurt, because no one from the church has called him/her until now. The IM is hurt and upset because it seems that the church does not care about him/her. The PC encounters open hostility on the part of the IM, who chooses to vent his/her anger/frustration with the church to the PC. The IM is angry/frustrated with the church for a variety of reasons and is eager to the let the PC know how angry and frustrated s/he is. When making the initial call, the PC encounters an IM who does not want any contact from the church. The IM wishes that the church would just leave them alone. 11

12 MAKING THE INITIAL VISIT Scenario 1 Scenario 2 Scenario 3 Scenario 4 Scenario 5 Scenario 6 The PC arrives at the appointed time and is warmly received. The PC expresses concern and compassion for the IM. The IM is very open and honest about why s/he has not participated in congregational activities. Some of those reasons are personal, while others are the result of a division which occurred in the congregation15 years ago. The PC is running about 30 minutes late and seems distracted. The IM is already frustrated with the church and the PC s tardiness is another reason not to return to the congregation. The PC loves everything about the congregation and does not understand why everyone does not feel the same way. The IM is upset with the congregation and feels like the PC is not taking what s/he is saying seriously, which, in turn, upsets the IM even more. The PC is being pushy in an effort to manipulate the IM to return to the congregation. The IM resists the PC s manipulation attempts and becomes defensive. The PC patiently listens to the IM s complaints and then tries to justify things that have happened in the past. After venting to the PC, the IM becomes upset by the PC s explanations. The PC tries to explain the purpose of the visit, but it is clear that the IM has already indicated that s/he will not be returning to the congregation. The IM is emphatic that s/he will not be returning to the congregation. The IM has requested a letter of transfer to a neighboring congregation. Questions for Observers 1. What message was the PC trying to communicate? How well was the message received? 2. What were the IM s needs and how well did the PC respond to those needs? 3. How did you feel as you watched the scenario being played out? 4. If you were the PC, what would you have done in this situation? 5. What kinds of things would you include in the Visitation Form? 6. In this scenario, what is the next step for the congregation/church council to take? 12

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