I like to say that one of our purposes at NCC is to turn atheists into missionaries. That kind of transformation is nothing short of a miracle and a work of God.
But we also have this core value: Pray like it depends on God and work like it depends on you.
So, while we know that turning atheists into missionaries is ultimately something that only God can do, we also realize that there are some things we can do as a church to bring people into our community and help them find their place in the body of Christ. We need to turn first-time guests into second-time guests into regular attenders into fully devoted followers of Christ into disciple-makers.
Most churches call that process "assimilation." Quite frankly, we are terrible at that process. Our front-end marketing is great (getting people into the church door for the first time). And our back-end leadership development is good (turning people into disciple-makers). But the in-between stuff-- moving people off the movie seats and into the game-- not so good. And it's on my radar screen right now.
If you are looking for assimilation help, I would highly recommend resources from The Journey Church in New York City. Their Assimilation Seminar has been really helpful. I would also recommend the book First Impressions by the guys at Granger Community Church.
If you know of any good resources to help us, please use the comment thread below or email me.