This is an excerpt from Purpose Driven Campaigning, available to download in full from the Commons. The resource is based on Pastor Rick Warren’s bestselling book The Purpose Driven Church.
Rick Warren focuses on five ‘circles of commitment’ – community, crowd, congregation, committed and core, and argue that it’s important to recognise where your supporters fall in these categories, and develop processes to move them from the outside in.
The Circles of Commitment
The goal of your organisation is to move people from the outer circle (low commitment) to the inner circle (high commitment).
- Your starting point
- Hottest prospects
- Everyone who shows up
Believers and non-believers
- Official members of your organisation
- Having more attendees than members means the organisation is being effective in attracting the unconverted; similar to having more new people signing an online petition than the existing list members.
- They pray (act), give (donate), and are dedicated to growing in discipleship (training).
- They are good people but they have not yet gotten involved in ministry (volunteer coordination).
- Without these people your organisation would come to a standstill.
Listen to the community and earn their trust
‘I wanted to listen first to what they thought their most pressing needs were…I’ve learned that most people can’t hear until they’ve first been heard. People don’t care how much we know until they know how much we care. Intelligent, caring conversation opens the door for evangelism faster than anything else I’ve ever used…
Jesus was able to ask for commitment from the crowd only after demonstrating his love for them and earning their trust.’
Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Church
Growing from the outside in – and avoiding a single focus on the core
Begin by moving the unconverted from the community into the crowd.
“The problem with an ‘inside-out’ approach is that by the time the organisation planter has ‘discipled’ his core, they have often lost contact with the community and are actually afraid of interacting with the unchurched.”
It’s easy to get what Peter Wagner called ‘koinonitis’ – developing such a close-knit fellowship that newcomers are afraid or unable to break into it.
Too often, a core group planning a new organisation spends so long in the small group stage that they become comfortable with it and lose their sense of mission. The fire of evangelism (recruiting new people) dies out.
The problem with most small organisations is that they are all ‘core’ and nothing else. The same fifty people come to everything the organisation does. They’ve all been converted for so long they have few, if any, unconverted friends to convert.
Design programs for each group in the Circle of Commitment
- For the community, focus on bridge events. Designed to build a bridge between our organisation and our community. They are usually quite large in order to capture the attention of the entire community.
- For the crowd, ‘seeker’ services. (Services for people who are open and seeking new ideas as opposed to those already connected.)
- For the congregation, small groups
For the committed, training
For the core, leadership development
“I can tell you how to build a balanced healthy organisation but I can’t tell you how to do it quickly. Do you want your organisation to be a mushroom (six hours to grow) or an Oaktree (sixty years).”
“The first year, about all we tried to do was build a crowd and introduce them to Christ. Just as it takes an enormous amount of energy to move a rocket off a launch pad, it requires an incredible amount of effort to gather a crowd out of nothing. Our focus was very narrow.”
“The second year I began turning the believers in the crowd into a congregation – continuing the focus on reaching out to the community and increasing the size of the crowd, but also adding a strong emphasis on building relationships. We focused on converting attendees into members.”
“The third year I instituted a plan to raise the commitment level of our members. I added staff to assist me in leading regular meetings for training.”
Growing your crowd
Create an atmosphere of acceptance. For your organisation to grow you must be nice to people when they show up.
Saddleback monitors its effectiveness on a weekly basis by asking first-time visitors to give us their frank anonymous, first impressions.
Offer something they can’t get anywhere else.
Develop a seeker-sensitive service
We must be willing to adjust our practices when unconverted are present.
In reality the needs of believers and non-believers often overlap.
What really attracts people to an organisation is ‘changed lives’ [added by Australian Progress: personal narrative!]
Turning attendees into members
Assimilation is the task of moving people from an awareness of your organisation to attendance at events to active membership in your organisation.
The community talks about ‘that organisation’. The crowd talks about ‘this organisation’. The congregation talks about ‘our organisation’. Members have a sense of ownership – they are contributors, not just consumers.
Before people commit, they want to know:
- Will they make friends?
- Are they actually needed?
- What is the benefit in joining to them?
- What is expected or required of them if they join?
Important to position the organisation as a family/ community rather than an institution. Since the 1960s, Americans have become increasingly anti-institutional – yet people are also longing for a sense of family and community.
The manner in which people join your organisation will determine their effectiveness as members for years to come.
Having ‘inductions’ is essential because it sets the tone and expectation level for everything else that follows. The best time to elicit a strong commitment from your members is the moment they join.
Make the members feel special.
Create opportunities to build relationships – friendships are key to retaining members. People might join because of a leader, but they stay because of new friends.
Saddleback’s weekend retreats have been the most effective tool for cultivating new friendships.
Download the Circles of Commitment Worksheet from Australian Progress and use it to map your organisation’s circles.
- Base building
- Group skills
- Leadership - Distributed
- Members and Supporters
- Members_Supporters - Activate
- Members_Supporters - Events
- Members_Supporters - Ladder of engagment
- Members_Supporters - New
- Members_Supporters - Recruitment
- Organisational effectiveness
- Organising - Community
- Organising - Models
- Scaling up
- Team building
- Volunteers - Management