The One Call to Action Your Service Needs (it’s probably not what you think)

We talk all the time about having one clear call to action for websites, copy, social media, and email. But what about when people actually show up at your church? We give them a MILLION things to do next!

Fill out an info card

Join a small group

Give money

Donate your firstborn

But what if there were only one thing we were asking them to do? From there, they could choose the next step to get involved, but what if there were just one first step?

Let me just get the Jesus-Jukers settled first. Of course, I know the first call to action is for salvation. But if you’re a church that doesn’t do an altar call, this is a good solution.

I believe the one call to action should be your next steps class. Call it a first step class, membership class, your church name 101 class, I don’t care. It’s the class where they can find out what they should do next. So the Next Steps class is actually a great first step!

Let’s find out what should be in a great Next Steps class.

First, Some Logistics

You’ll need to decide when this class meets, how long, and how often. As a disgruntled introvert with a busy schedule, two kids, and dreams of my own worth following no matter what my guidance counselor said, I’m a fan of the one-class-at-one-time format. It’s easier.

I know many will want to do classes that go on for 2-6 weeks, asking people to come back at the same time every week, but I personally won’t do that. I’m not coming to church then staying after an extra hour and a half to listen to you read from the binder.

Which reminds me, if you’re asking people to commit to multiple weeks of this class, you’d better commit to some stand up comedy classes or throw in a one-act play in the middle or something! Otherwise, even the most compelling vision statement gets boring after week 3, hour 5 of it. Make it worth their time (and no, just “getting a better picture of your church” doesn’t cut it as compelling).

Which reminds me-reminds me, be careful who you choose to run it. If watching glue dry is more interesting than your presenter, then have a heart and at least pass out some glue.

Last on the logistics list is think about what you will give them for completing or attending the class. It doesn’t really have to be a big gift bag with a t-shirt, a mug, and a video of your pastor’s greatest flubs on stage (a big hit on YouTube), but something. Maybe a pin or a medal or something else that isn’t lame?

People like rewards, even if they’re essentially meaningless. Weight Watchers gives you gold star stickers and keychains for hitting goals. No lie.

What do you talk about?

Let’s get into the content of the class. Here’s a list of typical topics discussed in many of these classes:

History of the Church

Pastor’s Bio

Mission Statement

Vision Statement

Value Statements

Baptism opportunities

Membership

Volunteer opportunities in kid or student ministries

Growth opportunities like bible studies, classes, men’s and women’s ministries

Spiritual Gifts Tests

Serve opportunities for missions

I’m sure you could think of more. But is it any wonder why our classes require four, 1-hour classes to cover it all over a period of 4 weeks? There’s so much to cover!

Here’s where I make you mad a little bit.

It doesn’t need all that.

Think about a first-time guest or even someone who has been at the church a while but hasn’t really plugged in yet. This is overwhelming.

These classes typically overwhelm because they are all about information. I say, make them more about inspiration. The goal of a next steps class should be that someone leaves it inspired to find their next step. What good is having all the information if they don’t care about it?

Inspire vs. Inform

It may be hard to believe, but I’m not an idiot. I know you’re going to have to include some information in these things, but here’s what I’m getting at…

Have you ever been to one of those meetings where you suddenly realized that this meeting could have been put into an email? Then you could have read it in 5 minutes, absorbed the info, and gotten the other 55 minutes of your life back?

Next Steps classes go off the rails when what you’re presenting could have been sufficiently put into an email. Try running your content through that lens and be honest. If you can email it, don’t cover it in depth in the class. I’ll stay two hours longer if the class is interesting and there’s pizza.

If you’re going to read to me from the stage, I’m out. If you’re going to give me a handout and then read and talk about each headline for 10 minutes, I’m out.

But if you’re going to hand me a flyer that has all the service opportunities on it while telling me how your church is changing the community with the love of Jesus, I’ll lean forward for that.

Don’t tell me what you offer, tell me why I should care. Give me a reason to volunteer with students beyond “they really need you.” Why do they need me? “Because the second most influential voice in a teenager’s life is a non-family member/mentor. They need to talk to people outside of their parents (who are number one) and to know that someone cares about them who doesn’t have to.”

I’m in.

A Sample Class Flow

So, here’s what I would do for a next steps class:

Welcome everyone

Open with a story of how someone in the church has lived out the vision

Talk about the vision briefly

Describe the kinds of people who go to church here with several examples

  • Mark and Austin serve in student ministry and have for 4 years. They say the greatest thing about it is the pizza.
  • James is a single adult lookin’ for love (don’t say that) in our single’s ministry. He struggled with questions of faith all through college until his friend invited him here. Now he is our church barista serving Christian coffee (probably a Lifeway product) on Sunday mornings.
  • Here’s Tank and Alicia (because I’m picking the names) who have 2 kids in our kid’s ministry. They’ve used our Parent Cue every week to disciple their kids. They went on their first family mission trip to Hawaii this year.

Discuss membership by directing them to the back of the booklet you gave them where they can sign the covenant. If you can’t discuss the points of your covenant in 5 minutes, you need to write it better.

Tell anyone interested in signing the covenant of membership where to turn them in (or have them talk to one of your trained volunteers to meet them, answer any questions, and pray with them one on one after the meeting is over).

Work the promos for your ministry opportunities into the stories and just hit the 4-5 that you think would most appeal to your target demographic. The rest of the details is in the really sweet brochure you gave them with all of the other stuff you would have talked about. This is a great opportunity for an automated email campaign, too.

You may add things like baptism in there, but honestly, it depends on your church culture. Some might think that’s too fast, but it may work well for others. Your call.

The thing to remember is that no two next steps classes are exactly alike. You have to make them work in your context. I kid and joke, but in all seriousness, the next step class should be where all of your Sunday calls to action lead people and, from the class, all your volunteers are found. I think it’s that important.

I’m sure you have things to add, so please do in the comments! Thanks for reading!

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