We needed a strategy. Northeast Christian Church had been doing a fairly good job of getting people to our weekend services, and the leadership of the church believed strongly that real life change happens best in small groups. The problem was that we were not effectively getting people from the large group events to small group community.
Two things were needed: a small groups pastor (the church had been without a point person for the small groups ministry for some time) and an assimilation strategy that worked. In Fall 2001, the church hired me to serve as Small Groups pastor, and at about the same time, the adult team found an approach we thought would work for our church when we visited North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, Georgia. There we discovered the strategy of using environments "where people are encouraged and equipped to pursue intimacy with God, community with insiders and influence with outsiders." (See their web site at http://www.northpoint.org for more information about the church and their strategy.)
We decided to adapt this model to our situation, using the three environments: Foyer, Living Room, and Kitchen. On our website at http://www.necchurch.org, we describe these environments like this:
If you have attended one of our weekend services, you have experienced a foyer environment. The key word in the foyer is "guests." At Northeast, we are expecting guests every weekend and we try to tailor everything we do during our weekend services to demonstrate that readiness. We also have other "foyer" events that are simply events that provide an entrance into Northeast. If you are currently in the "foyer" we welcome you and we want to encourage you to take the next step into connecting at Northeast. ...