From Attraction to Connection

Senior Pastor Andrew Hébert shares how Mobberly Baptist in Texas keeps the big things small.

What is your neighborhood like?

We are in a midsize town in East Texas. It’s a pretty rural part of our state, in the midst of a bunch of pine trees and lakes about two and a half hours east of Dallas. Our town has about 85,000 people in it, so it’s a little bit of an oddity to have a church as large as ours in a town that size. It’s diverse. We have lots of people who work in the oil fields, ranchers, farmers. We also have a university and a couple of large hospitals and major manufacturing plants nearby. So, mostly blue collar. 

What is your big picture about retention? 

The focus for us is how do we as a large church (we run over 2,000 on Sundays) feel like a smaller church where people can be seen and known? 

We have a sort of top-to-bottom, all-of-life kind of ministry. It doesn’t matter what age or life stage you’re in, we’ve got something for you. And it’s all done with excellence. So, people come because a particular ministry connects with them. It might be Upward Sports, our counseling center, Celebrate Recovery or GriefShare. Or maybe it’s the worship experience. These things are all attractional. But once people come, it’s really, really important for us to move from attraction to connection. I think that’s the key. 

What’s something new you’ve introduced in hopes of making that connection?

One thing that’s been a change for us in the past year is a shift toward texting. People can just text a word—our keyword is “next.” That allows us to instantaneously connect with them, and we can begin sending them a series of texts over time that introduces them to who we are and what we do.

We have videos that we send them—like a greeting from me. We’ll text them information about our connect groups or other ministries that they can get plugged into. It’s just a great way to really show them how to take some next steps. 

Also, the week that they visit, if we have their information, they’re going to get a personal contact from a staff member. Usually, they’ll get multiple contacts from staff members. If they have kids, for instance, they might receive a call or a card from a member of our children’s ministry staff. If they’re an adult, they will probably get a contact from one of our pastors or ministers. They might also get contacted from a connect group leader in the age or demographic they are in. But the personal contact happens basically the following week.

How else do you connect with people?

We do old-school visitations. Once a month we will go and make a home visit in teams of two or three. We bring a gift bag to the door of someone who has already visited our church. In that gift bag, there might be some goodies, candy, a mug—you know, some swag. But we’ll also include our church’s information, information about our ministries and also the gospel. We look for an opportunity at the door to pray for them, and that’s often a great moment. A lot of times we’re invited into people’s homes. If we find out that they don’t know Jesus, that’s a great opportunity to share the gospel. We’ve actually had people who’ve come to faith in Christ this year as a result of a home visit. I think in some contexts this might not be well-received, but in ours it is.

People enjoy, appreciate and are surprised by the face-to-face visit—also the individual effort that it takes to go to their home to say, “Thank you for visiting.” I think especially with a church that’s as large as ours, they don’t expect that. They expect to kind of blend into the crowd and not be known. We work really, really hard the larger we get to feel smaller. Those things have been very helpful to get people coming back.

Share an example of someone moving from attraction to connection. 

One family recently came because their daughter was drawn to our youth ministry and connected there. Because of that, the whole family started to come, and eventually we baptized the whole family—mom, dad, both girls. Now, they are members of our church. They’re in a connect group. They find ways regularly to serve. Their daughter still goes to the youth ministry, which was the first step of many next steps.

Heather Schnese
Heather Schnese

Heather Schnese is a contributing writer for Outreach magazine.