Help People Find Their Unique Seasons of Growth

A personalized approach better equips people to take the right next step.

The Church: Hosanna Lutheran Church, Lakeville, Minn.
The Challenge: Help people connect with the mission of the church.
One Key Idea: Develop a nonlinear process to help people identify the spiritual season they’re in and what their next steps are.

Outreach spoke with Spiritual Formation Pastor Ryan Alexander, who says helping people identify their unique season of spiritual growth facilitates connection.

What is Hosanna Lutheran’s strategy for retaining guests?

Worship. Grow. Impact. We’ve become increasingly clear about what we expect from people, and it’s not just worship. Our lead pastor, Bill Bohline, talks about it as the three-legged stool, and each leg is equally important. We don’t want people to just come worship, but to grow. And not just grow for the sake of growing, but growing to make an impact in the lives of others.

How can a person grow at your church?

We know people are bombarded with options and opportunities. They’re asking, “Where do you even start?” So to that question we developed an online portal into the growth process. We have lots of courses, small groups and experiences for people outside of our weekend worship, but we needed to make it simpler to get connected to those opportunities. And that’s GROWlink. It’s not a course or program, but an entry point, and it has two parts.

First, people self-identify the season of spiritual growth they’re in. Second, we help them figure out the next best step in their spiritual journey. Someone once likened it to a smartphone app. When you see an app on your phone, you don’t think about the complexity of making that app. You just hit the button. Similarly, with GROWlink, you don’t have to understand everything about growing spiritually at Hosanna. You just hit the button, and it takes you into an experience in the way you need based on the season of spiritual growth you’re in.

What are the seasons?

Instead of a cookie-cutter approach to discipleship that assumes everyone is in the same season, we’ve recognized and identified six seasons: awakening, connecting, strengthening, refining, empowering and immersing.

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And how can a person tell which one her or she is in?

For each season, we offer an explanation—what the season may look like, what someone in it may be experiencing. We have a video to capture what it looks and feels like. We’ve intentionally avoided a linear message because it’s not necessarily a progression. Life isn’t like that. It’s messy and unpredictable. So it’s intended to be more organic. In fact, you may return to a season a few times based on life circumstances.

What happens after a person identifies his or her season?

We suggest Hosanna courses or classes that are appropriate for that season of growth, online resources, as well as books they can find in our bookstore. We encourage them to choose one or two “next steps” to take in their spiritual growth.

Can you share how GROWlink has worked in an individual’s life?

We’ve gone from 782 GROWlink visitors when we launched in September 2011 to 4,915 visitors a year later. One of those people is a man, newer to Hosanna, who felt like God was calling him to do something, but just didn’t know what. He came to GROWlink. Went to the Empowering season. His mom had struggled with dementia, and he ended up connecting with the staff at the new senior living facility we’re building on campus. He is going to reach out to residents and their families struggling with dementia—using his own experience. And you can see, that’s where the “link” part comes in. It’s about growing, but it’s also about linking people to the right places. His link happens to move him right into an impact opportunity.

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Launched: 1980
Weekend Attendance: 5,072
Key Connection Points: Six spiritual growth seasons through one online portal
A 2012 Outreach 100 Church: No. 54 Fastest-Growing

This article originally appeared in the January/February 2013 issue of Outreach magazine.