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The I.P.I. Principle
by Tom Goodman
September 17, 2010

It's amazing what happens when you set your expectations high!

A man named Norm Whan used to teach pastors to use the telephone to launch new churches.  He contended that 20,000 phone calls would yield 2,000 people who would express interest in getting more information on a new church start, and a mailing list of 2,000 would yield 200 people at the first service.  It worked over and over again.

Think of that.  Two hundred people who had never met each other became a congregation in a single day.  How did the church planter make that happen?

It happened because of the high expectations placed on the folks coming in.  The two thousand people who had expressed interest in getting more information about the new church would receive a mailing every week for three weeks and then, one week before the new start, all two thousand would be called and reminded about the start date.  Now, here's the interesting part:  If anyone said, "I'll be there," the church planter would then say, "Great!  Say, we need some help setting up chairs an hour before.  Can you make it?"  Or he would say, "Listen, we're asking 20 people to bring a plate of cookies so we can have a fellowship after the service.  Can you bring a plate?"

Even before they had come to the first service, they were being put to work!  The question of whether they were Christians had not even been raised, let alone the question of whether they planned to join the church.  But scores of people would gladly sign up to work for a church they hadn't even attended -- flattered to be asked for help.

Now, what can a long-established church like Hillcrest learn from these new church starts?

Too often we don't ask newcomers to do much of anything in our churches.  Oh, we mean well.  We think, "It's not polite to ask guests to do anything."  But think about what that really means.  What we're unintentionally saying is, "You're not one of us yet."

Instead, we need to put people to work as soon as they're willing.  I call this "The IPI Principle" -- Involve People Immediately.

Obviously, positions involving leadership and teaching should be tied to membership, but a lot of church work falls outside these roles.  As soon as we sense that someone feels "at home" at Hillcrest, invite them to join you in your work!  Give them a stack of bulletins and ask them to help you serve as a greeter... invite them to come help you paint the classroom... ask them if they have the time to help you volunteer in the church office.  IPI -- Involve People Immediately.

This principle extends even to those who haven't made a profession of faith!  Throughout my ministry I've had a lot of "near-believers" attend church because they liked what they were experiencing, and I've put them to work as soon as I could (in appropriate places of service).  A lot of these folks eventually become believers.

There's a saying that's spreading in church work:  "Belonging precedes believing."  This doesn't mean letting people become members before they become believers, but it does point out how important it is to make people feel "at home" at Hillcrest.  And there's nothing that makes a person feel like he belongs like asking him to contribute to the work of the group!

I hope you'll look for ways to Involve People Immediately at Hillcrest!  Treat them like they belong -- and they will!

Thanks for your leadership-partnership with me!


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