Whiteboard: Assimilation Lessons From Toy Story


Some churches struggle to incorporate technology into their assimilation processes. In this whiteboard session, Rodney explains how you can simplify assimilation—drawing from Toy Story.

Video Transcription

Hi. Welcome to Elexio Whiteboard. If there was a top ten list of Christian buzzwords, I feel certain ‘assimilation’ would make the list. It’s something that most churches are talking about, strategizing about, thinking about, maybe keeping pastors up at night.

Today in the Elexio Whiteboard we’re going to talk about how you can use technology to leverage the assimilation process.

When I think assimilation, I think Toy Story. Now stay with me. Toy Story is actually, in my opinion, a movie in many ways about assimilation. You’ve got this guy, Buzz Lightyear, who joins a group of toys and he feels like a foreigner.

We’re going to talk about three scenes from Toy Story that can help us see how technology could leverage the assimilation process.

The first one is Apps. As we look at it, actually the second one’s Apps, and the third one is Apps. We’ll get to that. It looks like I don’t know how to spell, but stick with me.

The first one is Get A Process. I think of the scene where Woody calls all the toys together and he’s got this crucial concern that the family is moving and he doesn’t want any toy to be left behind.

I love it because in his speech he just says, “If you don’t have a buddy, get one” and I would say the same thing as a church. Before you can use technology to leverage the assimilation process, you have to get a process.

The next thing I would say, once you get a process, is to Document a Process. This is, again, also not technology necessarily, but it’s getting down on paper with the key leaders at your church not just big ideas about what we’re going to do in generalities, but very specific things that we are going to do as a church and as a church leadership to make efforts towards assimilation.

Get a process, document a process.

Now, it’s Automate a Process. Really, I say that comes in three main ways. Automated communication in the form of letters, emails and phone calls.

You may be thinking we’re doing all those things right now, but if your process heavily depends on somebody, church staff or church volunteer, remembering to do these things, if you’ve documented that you want to make sure we send a letter in the first week, an email in the second week and a phone call somewhere in between, but you don’t have any automation supporting that, you certainly run the risk of the best intentions not happening.

If we think in our Toy Story terms somebody’s going to get left behind simply because automation didn’t help you in the process.

This really does start to speak to what technology does your church have to be able to automate the processes you’ve come up with? Again, letters, emails, phone calls.

The automation process is going to depend on having technology that is flexible. Some software packages you may have or other technologies you have at your church, you may hit brick walls where you’ve got this wonderfully documented process, but you’re not able to really translate it into automation because you’re stuck with potentially terminology that is foreign to your church or processes that are very rigid in the technology.

The ability to automate it and then avoid those brick walls is going to be a real key to being able to leverage technology to serve assimilation.

Finally, the final thing says App and I’m reminded of the scene in Toy Story where Buzz arrives for the first time. As I said, that’s the whole concept of the movie, there’s this new toy, he comes.

When he first arrives, he’s looking around and everything is very different to what he’s used to and the other toys are looking at him and thinking you’re very different. I can’t help but think about how that is for people who visit churches.

Churches themselves are different. Your church may be very different than what this person grew up with if they didn’t grow up in a church at all, and your church is serving communion and reciting prayers. There’s a foreignness that has to be bridged and really that is at the heart of the assimilation process.

We have our documented, our automated, now a real enhancement to that can be and now I’m using the term properly here, gaving a church app. Having a church app is going to help you be, by default, relevant.

The degree and quality of your app is going to certainly say more and more, but just having one alone is going to help you in our culture be relevant. Getting the church app in the first place is the first step. It’ll show some relevance.

I’d say the second thing that if your app, if you already have one or if you’re looking to have one, the thing that you want to look for is can we communicate who we are as a church through the app? Can it say something about our church culture?

I’d say one of the great ways to do that is with video content. I think when people like Buzz, when he arrives in the room and he doesn’t know what’s going on, if he could pull up a video and watch and see, here’s how these people interact. Here’s Woody giving a speech. I would say the same thing about the people who come to your church.

If they can pull up a video that says, “There’s the pastor, and here’s what he speaks about,” it will help communicate your culture through a device that people are already very comfortable with. You’ve bridged the gap in many by simply having the app in the first place.

The final thing I would say that an app should have, if it’s going to really help with the assimilation process, is to have your church directory accessible through the app.

You may not want that to be available for everybody who downloads your app, so maybe it’s something that has to be given permission to get there, but once somebody is a part of your church being able to pull up a church directory is a great way for them to feel more comfortable.

Three ways. Relevance, culture, directory. Those are possible ways to have an app affect assimilation. In general I would say, the whole process related to assimilation, it can get a bad feeling associated with it.

When we think of assimilation we sometimes think of that movie, the Star Trek movie from back in the 1990s, I think it was called First Contact and there was this alien race called the Borg. The Borg said they were going to assimilate everyone and their general theme was your individuality will no longer be important and you’ll be part of the collective. If that term starts to lean that way it could not be something you really want your church to be associated with.

When we think assimilation what we really want to think about, what I like to think about, is really one of the final scenes from Toy Story which is Buzz has been through, pretty much been through the assimilation process. He really is part of the toys. There is a scene in the end where he and Woody end up flying through the sky and there’s fear, they think they’re going to fall, but they utilize an individuality that Buzz brings by the wings that pop out and they’re able to drift right where they want to be.

I would say that’s the beautiful thing about assimilation. All of these people coming to your church, shepherded through the process that you’ve developed, enhanced by the app that you potentially have, so that they can take what is individual about them and make your church what it’s supposed to be which is something that is pleasing to God.

Thanks for watching The Elexio Whiteboard. We’ll talk to you later.

Want to learn more about a mobile app for your church? Get started! 

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

(E-Book) Grow Your Church Deeper: Essentials For Making Disciples

It’s here! We’ve released our first e-book focused on the processes of Connect – Grow – Engage as they relate to the church’s place raising modern day disciples and the use of church management software to facilitate this process.

We sincerely hope this serves as a useful resource for you and your church. The download is FREE and we look forward to hearing how you apply (or have applied) these principles and continue to expand the Kingdom.

God bless and enjoy the read!


Church And The Easter Season: How Will 2013 Be Different?


We’re in the 11th hour before Easter weekend. Visual arts are ready; seating has been increased for the overflow of visitors; all satellite campuses have gone through AV testing to ensure connectivity; you’ve prepped the sermon with respect to the season: and your Welcoming team is prepped for the new faces. Same routine as the year before (and every other year before that)? Maybe, but what are we doing differently to challenge the norm?

I was inspired by the story, now viral, regarding a 15-year-old Sierra Leone youth who has made a difference in his region by simply challenging some of the perceived limitations in that area of the world. He emerged with a vision and a creative aptitude that won him the opportunity to visit MIT’s Media Lab and participate in their three-week program as the youngest practitioner in the program’s history.

So what was inspiring about this story, and how does it relate to the Easter season?

Obviously, the story itself is a commendable and deserved tribute to the ability of humanity to overcome situational adversity through the use of God-given talents. However, I found myself equally inspired by the astounding response to this message. As my mind drifted to the personal impact that this week represents, I considered the question – what if the message of Jesus’ death and resurrection had a viral impact that touched millions of people’s lives in a brief couple of days?

A couple thousand years ago a man came to this earth and changed the thinking of the world. He inspired people with His approach, His message, His unparalleled love expressed through His death on the cross, and His miraculous and life-changing resurrection. The message of a 15-year-old who crafted technological advancements in an impoverished part of the world gained over 4.3 million views. How much more should the message of Christ’s death and, even more impactful, resurrection change people’s hearts today? Have we lost our amazement over events of such monumental spiritual significance? Are we doing the work that we’ve been called to do, in expectation that millions of people will find this message to be life-changing and inspirational?

As you look to this coming weekend, renew the fervor in your heart to deliver a message that pulls your audience from their traditions and expectations. Perform a visually stimulating dramatic representation that stirs the soul of the observer. Share a warm greeting with the disenchanted. Be ready to express the love of the One who loved us even when we were unlovable. Remember, this isn’t just another holiday, and He wasn’t just another man. If we are as eager to share His inspirational message as we are the latest social post, it could very well open the hearts of millions to something that has eternal significance.

I look forward to hearing how God used you and your church to re-tell His story with new fervor!

Missional Ministry: How Even A Large Church Can Do It Well


I recently attended the Verge conference in Austin, Texas, where the concept of missional ministry was addressed. While the concept is far from new, the resurgence of a missional focus has penetrated the minds and hearts of our national church culture. Why? It’s simple. It’s because this is the way Jesus did it. He went to the people who needed him most rather than waiting for them to come to Him. (Matt. 28:19)

Three major questions arise in the minds of today’s large churches. These questions are valid, but not impossible to overcome:

Doesn’t BIG break the missional model of growth?

The reality of the missional movement says just the opposite. Because they have a larger staff base and exposure to more training materials, a large church is equipped to send people out in greater numbers.

Just because a church has an attendance over, say, 5,000, it doesn’t mean the church isn’t focused outwardly. In fact, with the diversity that comes with such a large group of people, it is quite possible to have exponentially more impact when they are equipped and sent to impact their community.

But there’s reason for caution: Just because they’re large, it doesn’t mean they are necessarily doing this right. Sometimes they grow, but it’s a growth model that simply serves to make the worshiping attendee comfortable without ever taking the next step of maturing them and sending them out. The staff and lay leaders must have a heart to develop a missional culture and provide the resources necessary to make it possible.

Aren’t we just talking small groups? We already do this well.

Missional doesn’t always equal small groups, unless your small groups intentionally have a missional focus, where their purpose is to go (as a team of individuals) into their localized community to spread the Gospel. The great news is that, if you are doing small groups well, this means that you are staffed to be able to support, communicate and equip your groups with a missional focus. For some churches, however, this change in culture may be more challenging than one would think.

Today’s church small groups tend to be intimate settings with a connectedness that we as humans are wired to find comfortable and inviting. However, missional means getting out of your comfort zone and reaching people who didn’t seek you out first. Take heart. The intimacy of a previously established small group can be the type of encouragement and support needed when reaching out. The transition to a missional culture is absolutely possible.

My staff is already overwhelmed with on-campus activity. How do we support off-site ministry?

At a Missional Church Planting Conference in Louisville, Ed Stetzer made this statement: “God is a God who is on mission. He is a God who sends; He is a sender by nature. Isaiah was sent by God and for God. John the Baptist was sent to bear witness to the One who would come into the world. Sent is used in reference to Jesus more than 40 times.”  (John17:18; I Cor. 9:22; Matt 9:37-38; Matt 10:7-14)

Therefore, if you trust that this is truth, then you can also trust that He will equip you with the people and the vision to make this a reality for your church. It is also safe to say that it quite possibly will shake your church to the core when you realize that the amount your church invests inwardly could—and quite frankly should—be redirected to outward missional growth.

While we were in Austin, we had the opportunity to drop in on the Austin Stone Community Church to observe an example of this model working in ways unimaginable. As you begin to ask the questions of how does it relate to you, we pray that God blesses you in your pursuit of living missional lives as depicted within the biblical church. We love hearing stories of how the body of Christ has been blessed through their commitment to share the Gospel. Drop us a comment on this blog or post on our Facebook page about how the Lord is working in your church.

Church Growth Strategy: Think Small

It’s easy to get focused on the numbers. It’s our natural tendency to equate bigger and better. Yet we all know that numerical growth really isn’t what the church is all about. It’s about growing spiritually. Yet even a big church can create a personal, intimate environment that fosters deeper relationships with one another and with Christ. How? By thinking small. Churches tend to focus on their large Sunday morning gatherings, but the seeds of church growth are often nurtured in smaller groups that help relationships go deep.


This is fresh on my mind since I attended a men’s retreat this past weekend. Same routine as normal— average attendance, good messages and great camaraderie. You know—guy stuff. But there was something different. I was pre-assigned to a small group for break-outs, and no one in my group was a familiar face (gasp). So here I am, forced to begin a dialogue with peers I have no perceived connection with, being asked to share a piece of my life.

But by the end of the weekend I found that some amazing things had happened. Because I was forced to get outside my normal ministry group, I encountered some new perspectives. This small group of men represented life experiences that I wouldn’t have learned from had we not been in this situation. I probably wouldn’t have experienced this had I been in a large sanctuary filled with eager souls rather than with my motley crew of four men from different walks of life.

I walked away thinking about how this simple weekend experience could have impact in churches across the world, regardless of their size. Here are a couple points that emerged for me.


It’s healthy to want to touch more people’s lives. An increase in attendance numbers is the most obvious measurement of Wide church growth. But don’t discount what is just as significant growing Deep. It’s important to measure church growth in terms of spiritual discipleship—going deeper in relationship with each other and with Christ. This is something that is most easily accomplished in a smaller, more personal environment where you share one to one (or one to a few).


“What does that have to do with church growth?” you ask. Simple. When men have fellowship with other godly men, they begin to deal with issues more soundly. They are challenged to grow in their faith. And as the man grows in faith and discipline, his family is likely to follow. End result—church growth occurs as each man goes deeper with his family and with his brothers in Christ. And you know what? Men actually enjoy spending time with other men. We were made that way. We were made in God’s image to have fellowship with Him and one another (Genesis 1:27).


When I got out of my comfort zone with my new Band of Brothers, I experienced the retreat a little differently than had I just been with the same old group of friends. I grew in areas that perhaps weren’t being addressed by my current peer group and that I hadn’t thought to address on my own.

So what’s my takeaway? Going deep requires more organization, volunteer recruitment, planning for thought-provoking content and an atmosphere that’s conducive to sharing, but can you see how thinking small about all facets of ministry—especially your men’s fellowship—can help your church grow Deep and Wide? This retreat was just a small example of that effect.

How has your church fostered Deep and Wide church growth?

Focused On Discipleship Training? Here’s Some Must-Have Tools

We’re all on a journey, whether we’re actively pursuing a goal or just going along for the ride.

As believers, we’re called to be active on our journey. Peter tells us to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18).



Your church members have assessed their lives, and they’ve decided to be intentional about their spiritual development. They have resolved to make this The Year. And your church is their place of worship and growth. What is your church doing to help your members live out their resolve to grow spiritually this year?

It’s never too late for your church to provide discipleship training. Here are just a few tools to have in your back pocket:

  1. Assessment Guides: These can help your members discover where they are on the spiritual-development spectrum. My local church is using the Christian Life Profile Assessment Tool.
  2. Communication Platform: In order for your people to participate, they need to know what’s going on. Organize your communication, maintain an engaging church website, and put the right leadership in place to keep your communication loop running.
  3. Track the Stats: Know where your people are on their journey. Use church management solutions to track and assess data and provide your leaders with valuable insights into your congregation’s spiritual journey.

When you engage your members in these ways, you show them that you’re eager to help them grow and contribute to your church’s mission—to help them to know Christ and grow in that knowledge.

What are some of the ways that you’re helping your members begin their Journey?

Image Credits: NACCM