The top three attended Sundays each year are:
- Mother’s Day
Your experience may be a little different, but this is the norm for most churches.
Stories about the recent Easter services and salvation from all over the country have been amazing. The number of people who attended that day in most churches was incredible. In fact, it’s not uncommon that attendance doubled.
Yet, also in most churches, the attendance returned to the usual pattern the next Sunday.
We can say the same thing about Christmas, and nearly so, for Mother’s Day.
And Mother’s Day is right around the corner.
Are you preparing well to invite, inspire, and care for your guests?
Personally, I’m glad that anyone who typically attends church only two-three times a year, visits when they do. They are always welcome! But I long for them to return more often, and I know you do too.
How can we encourage people to return?
Why do some come back, but so many don’t?
It’s true that many are simply not ready.
OK, so we continue to pray.
There are also those who are not interested.
That’s different; we can capture their interest if we pay attention to their needs.
There is a third group. They sit on the fence. They are open. I think they’re waiting for us to make it worth their while. It’s our responsibility to create engaging moments that capture the heart, and are compelling enough for your guests to return.
7 primary reasons people will attend more than a few times a year:
As you read through the list, honestly consider each statement, asking yourself if it’s true in your church. If not, how can you help make it true?
How you handle any of these can touch a heart and change a life.
1) They have questions and appreciate meaningful answers.
People are looking for a place to belong.
They may not even be “religiously” inclined, but culture has become more complex, and confusing and difficult to navigate. Culture creates more questions than it answers.
When someone finds a place they trust, a place to belong, they will ask meaningful questions. And it’s surprising how fast they will open up if they trust you.
Lead with authenticity and create a place for people to belong, more than programs for them to attend. Then, as you answer the questions of their heart, they want to be part of your church family. And as far as answers to questions, it’s much more about transformation than information.
2) They’ve experienced a personal crisis.
- Couples in a marriage crisis
- A family facing a potentially terminal illness
- A young adult who’s made seriously poor life choices
- The loss of a loved one
- Financial disasters
The potential list is long, and even with seemingly declining interest in the organized church, there is something about it that represents comfort in tough times.
The church still represents hope in crisis.
When you step up as a church and care for those in crisis, you touch a heart and meet a need. I know that none of us personally, or our churches, can meet every need that comes through the door. But God will show you the ones He has intended for you.
3) They desire a positive spiritual influence for their children.
From families that are broken and hurting to families that are healthy and happy, they all want the best influence possible for their children.
There is a huge opportunity for all churches to create environments where kids can have fun and discover the truth of the Gospel. Kids can meet the person of Jesus and embrace values that influence the entire family for good.
This only increases as the kids get older and move into your student ministries.
Don’t underestimate the impact of your ministry to children. When children’s ministry is done poorly, it’s one of the top reasons guests do not return.
4) They seek spiritual growth.
Spiritual growth! Yes! This is why we do what we do, right? It’s not easy. We first have to define spiritual growth. Then how someone goes about achieving it.
At 12Stone we extend regular opportunities in a variety of ways for people to say yes to Jesus. Specifically, for salvation. Pastor Kevin Myers presents the Gospel in a crystal clear, and compelling way. Yet, when we have an opportunity to follow up and talk with someone who has professed faith in Christ, their testimony often includes portions of other religions and some self-help thoughts.
It can take a long time to untangle the tapestry of current religious streams and refill the void with genuine faith in Jesus as Savior. But this is our great privilege and responsibility.
Then, spiritual growth can begin, and that is a journey we are all excited about. It’s a great connection for all who seek more of God.
5) They desire genuine friendships.
Even the quietest of introverts need and want a friend or two. A real friend, someone they can talk to and count on. We all do really. Even for highly extroverted leaders whose lives are filled with people, knowing they have close friends matters.
Connecting at a heart level is something God hard-wired into our creation. We long for relationship. On a spiritual level, the relationship was broken in the garden (Gen 3) and restored through Christ. On a practical level, the relationship gives meaning and depth to our lives.
Friendship is how we express and meet that need, and your church is an excellent place for people to establish those friendships. How do you make that easy for people? What casual environments help people connect?
Helping people establish friendships may not be the core of your mission, but community is a biblical idea and is core to spiritual growth. It doesn’t have to be the lead in your purpose, but it’s a strong and worthwhile partner to all you do.
6) Their life has been personally changed.
From salvation to a restored marriage, and addiction-free to out of debt, a changed life is a compelling reason for people to continue to attend your church.
Their life is different, and they know it. Their life is better, and they know you’re adding value to who they are and what they do.
This is perhaps the greatest motivation to be part of your church, encompassing several things from personal growth to gratitude. It’s not about attendance, it’s about further spiritual progress and maturing of faith!
This is at the core of what you do. Every minute you intentionally focus on a changed life because of Jesus, it returns tremendous eternal rewards.
7) They are inspired by your vision.
How would you evaluate the momentum in your church? Is the congregation responding to the vision enthusiastically? I recently spoke with two church staff members who said that in addition to guests not returning, regular attendees are leaving their church primarily because there is no vision.
The picture and promise of a better future will inspire hope. Everyone is interested in that. Even those who are just considering faith in Christ understand hope and a positive future! People want to be part of something worthwhile, something bigger than they are, and something they can participate in. Your church can provide all these things!