Church attendance has been on the decline for years, and many pastors are looking for ways to reverse this trend. Indeed, all houses of worship struggle with declining attendance at one time or another. This is usually due to a combination of things like logistical obstacles that make it difficult to attend church, waning interest in the community, and competing obligations.
While there is no one silver bullet, there are certainly some proven ways to increase church attendance.
We will discuss the 10 best ways to increase church attendance below, but each will generally fall into one of three categories: recruiting new members, reactivating “dormant” members, and offering more opportunities to attend secondary church events outside of Sunday worship.
How to Increase Church Attendance
So how can we reverse this trend? How can we reconnect with former churchgoers, inspire infrequent churchgoers, and continue to engage active churchgoers?
There are endless ways to increase church attendance, and the methods you choose will largely depend on the profile of your community, your church’s denomination, and your existing congregation. But let’s go over some of the most proven methods to increase attendance at your church.
- Offer free childcare. Increasingly, childcare costs are causing financial hardships on many working class families. Taking that burden away from parents for an hour or two a week would be a real motivator. Just find a few teenagers or young adults who would be willing to volunteer their time.
- Offer free transportation. For some, especially older or disabled community members, transportation is the ONLY thing keeping them from attending. If your church doesn’t have its own vehicle, volunteer carpooling could be an option.
- Provide a more inviting atmosphere with comfortable seating and plenty of space.Again, for many, sitting on a hardwood bench for an hour or more is physically painful. You don’t have to have sofas or anything too casual, but even just seat cushions would be a good start.
- Create services that are more interesting or relevant to modern-day life. Often religious services can lose their relevance if not connected to a modern person’s real life situation. Always review your sermons to make sure that you’re speaking to a 21st century crowd.
- Demonstrate a strong community presence that makes people want to attend. Let them feel that their presence is helping the community as well as their own spiritual growth.
- Offer more activities and events that appeal to people of all ages. You can’t always craft a sermon that speaks to every demographic in your community, but you can certainly create activities and events that will grow your church through engagement. This could be anything from game nights to potluck dinners.
- Another way to increase church attendance is by reaching out to people who are not currently attending services. The so-called “unchurched.” This could involve hosting a series of special events or inviting potential parishioners to visit the church for a trial period.
- Put some effort into maintaining your church’s social media accounts. This means regularly updating your church’s Facebook page and Twitter account, and posting interesting and engaging content. It can also be helpful to have someone in your church who is responsible for social media, and who is passionate about using it to connect with people.
- Provide a clear path towards involvement. The challenge for many people in a congregation is that they don’t know “how” to get involved. The clearer and simpler the path is toward engagement, the more people will venture towards it.
- Preach action, not knowledge. Ministers have a large window of time each week to speak into people’s lives. With your words, you can make it clear that the goal of the Christian faith is not to “know” something, but to “do” something.
Strategies for Retaining Church Members
There are a number of different strategies that churches can use in order to retain members, and many reflect the same steps in attracting new members.
Again, one of the most important strategies is to create a sense of community. Church members should feel like they are a part of something larger than themselves, and those who have been around for a while should be recognized as such.
People eventually conform to expectations. People both rise and descend to our level of expectations.The same is true of congregations. When you don’t expect people to do more than to attend your church, don’t be surprised if all they do is attend your church!
Craft a culture through your words, calls to action on during a Sunday sermon, and in all your communications where you expect people to serve, join a group, bring a friend and give generously.
Church leaders should focus on member satisfaction in order to keep members active and engaged. Satisfaction is not only about meeting needs, but also about feeling that the church is worth belonging to in the first place. Highlight the value of your church community in their lives.
Church leaders should ask members how they are doing and what they need from the church in order to stay involved. Additionally, churches can survey their members periodically to track levels of satisfaction and identify areas for improvement.
The Benefits of Increased Attendance at Your Church
When people attend church together, they form strong bonds of community. This can help them to feel more connected to each other and to the church itself, which in turn will lead to even more regular attendance. What follows is a strengthening of the common faith and a heightened sense of purpose. A cycle that feeds itself.
Try to look at it as if you’re the newcomer, or former member who is tentatively making his/her way back into the fold. Is it clear where to enter the church for services? Are you welcomed by an usher or other members of the congregation? Does the pastor make an effort to say “hello” and encourage you to come back?
Improving new visitor retention could be as easy as implementing a simple follow-up call from a pastor. And this type of engagement is equally effective for those who are returning after a long absence.
Bottom line: take nothing for granted. The church won’t grow if you don’t implement proactive strategies to make it happen. Now go and reach out to them!