by Rick Chromey
It’s funny what a walk in the woods can do.
Take George de Mestral, a Swedish electrical engineer in the 1940s, who was fascinated with burdock seeds and how they attached themselves to his dog and clothing. George studied the special “hook” design of these seeds and subsequently created Velcro.
Velcro is sticky stuff. The tiniest patch has substantial strength and countless uses. You can hang pictures. Seal clothing from cold or rain. Secure shoes and batten down covers. You can even use Velcro to stick a body against a wall. Velcro is a lot of fun.
Ironically, when Velcro is separated and isolated, it loses all its stickiness. It’s just a patch of nylon hooks and polyester cloth with the potential for connection.
Humans are like Velcro. Isolation happens, but like snowflakes, watch what happens when we stick together. We get stronger. We last longer. We seal and secure. We even have fun. God specially designed humans for connection and community. We have relational hooks. In fact, if we don’t belong, it’s so long.
I’ve introduced my “Rule of Threes” before but let me expand and explore these principles because they’re markers that guide social “stickiness” (attraction and retention). It’s what draws, pulls, invites, joins, and caps.
3 MINUTES (FIRST-TIMER): It only takes minutes for a visitor to decide if he or she will return. It’s why guest relations or “front-door evangelism” are key. A visitor has only two needs to scratch: security and pleasure. First-timers (regardless of age or context) want to know if your church is a safe place—physically and emotionally—and will it be an enjoyable experience. Failure to meet this need produces discomfort, and that’s enough to look elsewhere (one and done).
3 VISITS (FOLLOWER): Returning guests usually need just three experiences to decide to “camp.” By now they feel good about your church but are carrying a different need to feed: belonging. Does the guest sense connection and community? Are they making friends? Failure to meet this need produces disconnection and a potential exit.
3 MONTHS (FRIEND): The path to “membership” solidifies at the three-month mark when guests now view themselves as “regular” members who sense community. At this point the need shifts to new wants: grace and dignity. The new member desires to feel freedom (“Can I be me?”) and value (“Am I important?”). Too many churches like to rush these new “friends” into leadership roles for which they’re ill-prepared or ignore them as they refocus on attracting and retaining “newbies.” However, failure at this point produces disappointment and that can create bad attitudes and unexpected departures.
3X3 or NINE MONTHS (FAMILY): Usually by the nine-month mark, a regular attender is ready for leadership roles. They’ve attended long enough to understand routines, core beliefs, traditions and values. They feel a part of the family. The need now shifts to empowerment. Is this a place where I can grow, contribute, and make a difference? Failure at this juncture introduces disengagement and retreat.
3 YEARS (FAN): Productive contribution and leadership is what creates a raving fan. As Jesus modeled, it takes this long to disciple a core member to reproduce the vision and values of your church. If this doesn’t happen, the individual will likely give up and move on. A “fan” is a church’s best evangelist, worker, and leader. Fans draw attention and affection. Fans invite others into the vision. Fans fan the flame that grows attendance, enthusiasm, passion, and commitment.
The Rule of Threes.
Like Velcro, they’re the hooks for true connection.
And they’re always working.