Have you read our article on building and growing a house of worship? We talk a great deal about choosing a material that’s flexible enough for a growing congregation. But what if your membership isn’t growing? In fact, what happens when you see a sudden decline? It’s time to discuss the best practices to help grow your congregation and keeping your members coming back each Sunday.
When is it time to focus on growing your congregation?
Rather than leaving the church, many congregations notice that, while their members love God and appreciate their local church, they are becoming less involved. Why is this happening? Depending on your demographic, members may attend less regularly for a variety of reasons. A growing number of children are playing travel sports, which require going out-of-town over the weekends. Blended and single-parent families may either struggle to find the time to attend church or split custody means you’ll only see them every other Sunday. And the rise of online options means that many families have the option of staying home to worship.
But a decline in church attendance shouldn’t be your first cause for alarm. In fact, the best way to stimulate congregation growth is to enact these strategies before you see a decline. Why? Often, we rely on guilt as our main motivator to get people back into the church. But if you wait until guilt is your last resort to get people back in, it may already be too late.
Strategies to Grow Your Congregation: Church Attendance and Membership
Let’s start here: think of discipleship like a social media following. Having one million followers on Instagram may look impressive when you first click on someone’s profile. But as we look closer, we notice the little things that make a much more significant impact. How many comments are your posts getting? Is your audience engaged, or just going through the motions?
In that same way, smaller churches may have an advantage over larger congregations. Relationships and commitment to the greater mission are often much more rooted in smaller churches. So, it’s essential to realize that your numbers aren’t everything. To grow your congregation for the long term, you’ll need more than just getting people through the door; you’ll need engagement. How can we make that happen?
Let people know what to expect.
When you’re watching your favorite sitcom, you can skip an episode without worrying about what you may have missed. The most binge-able shows are those with a developing plot line. So, it should come as no surprise that creating sermon themes gives attendees a reason to return week after week. Like chapters in a book, people keep coming back for more relevant sermons that touch their everyday lives.
Create a second service option. Think of church attendance in terms of a new diet. If you slip up and don’t eat well one day, you may think to yourself, “Oh well, I’ll just give up and start again next month.” Your members may feel the same way when they miss a Sunday service. But if you provide your congregation with options, like a second service, another venue, or an online alternative to catch up on what they missed, you’re more likely to see them in the pews the next week.
Improve visitor culture.
Try to consider all the reasons why a new face wouldn’t want to come to church for the first time. Maybe they have a newborn that they’re worried would make too much noise. Or perhaps you have systems and routines in place that a newcomer may not be familiar with. This is where having an excellent welcome team in place will come into play.
It can be as easy as creating a welcome packet or an insert in your weekly program. Have answers to questions that a new member or visitor may have ready before they ask, and a follow-up system in place to turn visitors into members.
Build up the next generation.
Church leadership is often populated with seasoned veterans who have been ministering for the better part of their lives. To maintain a young following and keep the next generation in your congregation coming to church, you should aim for a 75% rule. That means that at least three-quarters of the visible leadership roles should be filled by people of your average congregation age or younger.
At first, this might take a great deal of mentoring, especially if the average age of your congregation is 35 years or younger. It takes time to build young people up and give them the confidence to take on leadership roles. But your most visible leaders should be your most approachable, especially to the youngest members of your church. After all, about 80% of young Christians made their commitment to Christ before the age of 18. Committing to speaking to the next generation is the most crucial strategy for maintaining and growing your congregation.
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