Closing the back door is more about keeping the front door wide open. The spirit and atmosphere that makes a church inviting is the same spirit and atmosphere that makes people want to stay.
Church leaders have been talking about “closing the back door” for years. It’s a good conversation. After all, it is frustrating to see visitors come, people say yes to Jesus, get baptized and maybe even attend a new Christian’s class. And yet, the church still struggles to grow. People seem to be coming in the front and going out the back.
When the equation reveals that the number leaving nearly equals the number coming, that demands attention. However, it seems like in many of the conversations, though unintended I’m sure, it sounds like the church leaders are trying to “keep” people rather than to lead them, inspire them, and help them grow.
The truth is, you can’t keep anyone. I know you wouldn’t literally try to keep someone, but this is more than semantics. It’s about how you and I think as a leader.
Trying to keep people is leading on the defense, you never really lead, you chase. When you lead on the offense you are out in front inviting.
Last week a sharp pastor in a large church asked me about how much effort should be put into going after people who leave. My answer is very little. It’s not that you don’t care, it’s that the amount of energy you invest in chasing people who don’t want to be chased is highly unproductive. It is very uncommon that a person who left the church will come back.
The push back is that it’s worth it if just one comes back. Yes and no. If we’re talking about salvation, of course I agree. One soul means everything. But, let’s be honest and look at the other side. What if the same investment of time and energy to chase one that may or may not come back (and usually will not) brought in ten new people? Now repeat that one hundred times. Again, chasing people who don’t want to be chased is usually highly unproductive.
So, yes, your connection processes are important. From newcomers gatherings to small groups, make spirit and atmosphere in your church a place people want to be! (0ffense) But don’t do it in order to “keep” them. (Defense) Remind yourself you can’t keep anyone. Lead them. Love them. Inspire them. Grow them… and they are highly likely to stay!