There is perhaps no other area more difficult to make tangible than assimilation. Assimilation is providing clear opportunity for new or lost attenders to receive personal help with spiritual movement and community in Christ. Moving first-time viewers of your online worship service along assimilation pathways can prove to be challenging. It is much easier to stay anonymous online compared to live attendance, and it will require greater care from church ministry staff to move the needle. It is also much easier to declare the online view does not count as real attendance and move on without offering help. The scope has shifted—do the hard work of answering this change!
Further, a slower rate of return to physical attendance is compounding the challenge of encouraging spiritual growth. Church leaders are now tasked with moving people deeper into their faith and local church connection with fewer on-campus moments. The truth is that decreased frequency of physical attendance was already happening before COVID-19. The past few months have demanded that the church flex their assimilation systems to meet this challenge or risk becoming a totally detached content machine. There will need to be a “both/and approach” when considering online and physical assimilation pathways.
Another major shift is the type of attender churches are now responsible to help. There are those who began attending online and stay online. Some will begin online and walk into your building at some point — do you have a process to identify those people? Yet others attend only physical services. This increased stream of responsibility is now an opportunity to release your best people toward an effective assimilation effort. If you desire to be effective with everyone the Lord sends your way (digital or physical), this will change where time, talent and treasure are invested.
What is not different is each person’s need to come to faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Each person has a need for community in the body of Christ and clear instruction on how to enter into that community through a particular local church. Clear and simple steps must be planned and communicated to move people beyond just watching a worship service. Now is the time to invest heavily in the area of assimilation. Do not wait on them to attend—take spiritual movement opportunities to people!