This past week I asked our International Director, Bro. Burks, to put together a list to help struggling chapters retain visitors in tough times. The list he provided is based on phone calls that he and his staff have fielded; discussions with successful directors; and several years of his own personal experience as an RU Director in Virginia. The main focus of this week’s report is how to turn visitors into students. I trust that you will consider implementing these proven strategies in developing your God-given, extremely sensitive and important visitors into active, participating students. It is the first step to achieving any hope of turning the addicted to the God’s support group—the local church!
Issue 1: The Friday Night Atmosphere!
The official itinerary is integral to creating an atmosphere that portrays a consistent message to every visitor. That message MUST contain the following key ingredients:
- “No matter your struggles, we are an addiction program that can help you or your loved one.” This message usually takes place twice. Once in a profound statement of sorts in the tri-talk introduction and more importantly, and with definition, in the weekly New Beginnings class.
- The New Beginnings group leader (who should be a type A, sold-out, RU promoter) should explain the success rate of local chapters of Reformers Unanimous all across America. Some chapters may be very small in attendance compared to others. Credibility will be established if you give them a glimpse of the success rate. Jay Griffin, a Director in Milford, Ohio tells me, “of the students that completed the Stronghold book in their chapter, they had a 93% success rate.” You can safely say there are over 20,000 people any given week attending an addiction program that use the RU materials. Our RU program graduates simply succeed and that needs to be “hammered home.” If not, doubt sets in to the validity of a church and Bible-based program in the minds of new students.
- They should also reiterate this again when they make their mandatory visit on their visitors that week. Yes! Mandatory visits are expected. If you sense your New Beginnings class teacher is ineffective, you should replace him quickly. But until you can, the Director should make those visits instead to ensure the student can speak up about any mis-perceptions.
- An environment of transparency is needed during the first and second talks for this program to be effective. If a student comes to a chapter and the church members are perceived as perfect people without problems, it will be an immediate turn-off to potential students. I cannot stress the importance of everyone on our leadership teams viewing ourselves as student’s first, servants second, and teachers third. By our own participation in all aspects of the program and curriculum, it will create an example for students to follow.
Issue 2: We must remember that Reformers Unanimous is a milk ministry, and avoid serving strong meat.
- It is necessary to remember that Reformers Unanimous deals with heart issues and not issues of outward conformity. We should avoid discussing hot-topic issues that would be considered strong meat and stick to the modus operandi that we are here to turn their hearts toward the Lord. Standards, for the most part are for the leadership staff to know and follow but not teach as part of RU training. Of course, some exceptions may apply; but if so, we encourage individual coaching over entire class teaching. When faced with a student who is newer and inquisitive of such things as listed in number one above, a leader should use phrases such as, “That’s a good question, see me after class and we’ll talk about that, but right now let’s stay focused on issues we faced this week in our recovery.” Or perhaps even the phrase, “That’s a great question, let me give you some verses after class to look into that,” in order to turn the conversation in a right direction.
- Directors should avoid attacking Christian or political figures or denominations and their leaders on Friday night. This will only tear down any influence that you may have in their life, especially those who are new. Warning the flock is the responsibility of the Pastor, not the RU leaders.
- It is good for the Director to occasionally remind the students that as their attendance increases, so does the chance that they will hear truths which may take as offensive. Encourage them to allow God to use inside persuasion of His Spirit and the outside pressure of the Word and authority to guide them in right truth.
Issue 3: Reactivate the 2-3-4 Plan and ensure that it is happening every single week.
- Again, I repeat that every first-time visitor should get a visit by the director or the New Beginnings class leader before the next Friday night. I can remember those early days inviting students, from Friday night, on Saturday afternoon to come on Sunday morning to the second class and taking them to lunch with me on my dime to encourage them to return the next Friday. I had more students join our church as a result of this than any other.
- One big mistake is the transition between the Beginner’s class and the challenge groups. It should be understood that every person that walks through the door is in the New Beginnings, or Beginners, class and are an active part of the 2-3-4 Plan. I have heard of 2 options to make sure this happens. The first is that the burden is on the Beginner’s Class leadership and Director to make sure the 2-3-4 Plan is implemented on every visitor until they get in a group. The second option is to assign every first time visitor on their second wee, to a group, whether they return or not. The leader will actively pursue them for their class. It is often true that a student doesn’t care what we know until they know that we care. A visit shows you care.
- Use the RU official FastTrack software to track the 2-3-4 Plan properly and hold each leader accountable to the calls, postcards, and visits every single week. If a student misses several weeks in a row, and receives no contact from the leadership, the enemy will plant seeds of doubt that we don’t care and are not concerned about their recovery. Please be sure to communicate quarterly to inactive students.
Issue 4: Encourage curriculum participation for every student.
- The best way to encourage students to do challenges is for the leadership to have completed challenges.
- If a student seems to be resistant in doing challenges, it is time for that leader to meet with them privately and find out the root cause. If they have memory problems or get stuck on particular challenges, then creatively find a way to shorten or go around those challenges to keep a student motivated and participating.
- Have a dynamic award ceremony. If the award ceremony is not exciting it may come across as something childish for a brand new student. This is a time we praise our students for doing what is right. It can be extremely profitable and a motivational technique in keeping visitors who never get good news. Have all students come up front to get their awards and have them stay until awards are completed and a final applause is given. Encourage participation to those still seated who may not be progressing but sensing conviction as a result. Be careful not to condemn.
- If you cannot have an exciting awards ceremony every week, postpone it some weeks or have it faithfully every two weeks.
Issue 5: During the third talk, the director’s message from the Nevertheless I Live Textbook should be relevant to the struggles people face while in their addiction.
A recent phone call into my office by a student who attended an RU broke my heart. I began to feel his pain for help but having not received it at a local chapter in which he had placed his initial hope by attendance. At this particular chapter, the director has chosen to preach sermons lasting sixty minutes while pupils fall asleep (these were his words). When I suggested he purchase our Nevertheless I Live syllabus for his own learning, his words were, “If the director of my chapter would have used this text book and taught it from his heart I know I would have gotten the help I need.” Directors, I would rather you have a 25 minute message from the RU Textbook and share 5 minutes of your heart to help the addicted every week than have you present profound truths that challenge your most matured students but lose your beginners. With the RU Friday night class being live streamed in Rockford and available for download later, there should be no excuse for each of you men to fine-tune your teaching and preaching skills by listening to the Founder and President every week in Rockford. Brother Curington has now taught through the textbook 9 times in 14 years. He is currently on a pace that will take him two years to go through it once. It’s getting more relevant each year, not less. That’s God…not the outline or the teacher.
1.) Read something from the Founder of RU every day. Have you experienced the blessing of Today I Lay, Umbrella Fella or his newest book on Peace? They are relevant for YOU to be relevant to them.
2.) Read or listen on MP3 to the whole chapter that you’re teaching every Friday night that you are teaching it. If a chapter takes three weeks, read that chapter three times (once weekly). Then prepare days before you preach that chapter portion. Use second talk in order to distribute and collect 2-3-4 plans and to encourage students. A five minute refresher before you preach would be helpful at that time too.
3.) Ask God to give you wisdom on how to effectively present the Hidden Life message to your people.
4.) Always give an invitation for salvation and spiritual development.
Many chapters are successfully getting visitors weekly through the “Battle is ON” outreach, along with other techniques they have found successful. If you struggle to get visitors, please, call our office today! (815-986-0460) If your struggle is to keep them, then heed these listed checkpoints.