Today I want to talk to you about closing the back door. Really about understanding advanced systems, but if I say that you probably won’t listen. But it’s really more important to your church than you might think. Most churches spend a lot of time, effort, and energy — sometimes even money — getting newcomers through that front door, and ultimately, assimilated into the church. Some are fairly intentional and will even have a monthly newcomer’s dinner or host a meeting after every service and have a team do follow up. But at the end of the day I wonder how many take the time to look at the system that’s ultimately responsible for whether or not they connect to the church.
If you did a little reading on systems thinking, you would come across the idea of stocks and flows. A stock is anything that exists within a system, like people, palm trees, or pineapples. I don’t know why those all start with “p.” I guess I used to preach a lot.
Flows are actually the feedback loop between the stocks, or the change in stock over time. It’s like how air moves through your house when you open a door. I can nerd out on a lot of examples, but let’s keep this moving in a helpful direction.
Believe it or not, a lot of time and writing on this topic is about bathtubs. Bathtubs, I know. Stick with me. The analogy goes like this. The bathtub is a stock that water flows through. There is a source or input, the water faucet. And there is an outflow, the drain. Water is the stock that is measured, and how it flows through or moves through the bathtub based on different variables, like the plug or the tap, and how much water’s coming in and flowing out. You measure this change over time based on water that comes through the tub.
When is the last time you measured the number of people that came through your church over the last year versus the ones that flowed straight through? What does this difference reveal about your newcomers processed and what may need to be improved upon?
Now that you know and understand systems and stocks and flows, what are you going to do about it?