If your house of worship struggles with declining attendance, you’re not alone. The percentage of parishioners who attend church religiously (pun intended) has dropped, most likely as a result of a combination of factors: logistical obstacles and competing obligations, for example.
Whatever the reason, the question remains: how do you reverse the troubling trend of declining participation? How do you reconnect with former churchgoers, inspire infrequent churchgoers, and continue to engage active churchgoers? Below, we’ve rounded up ways to increase church attendance:
1. Design a mission statement reflecting your desire for growth
First things first: get everybody — everybody — in your church on board with a growth-focused mission. Clearly articulate the mission, write it down, and disseminate it among the congregation. Help them understand that growing a church requires time, energy, and resources. It’s a marathon, not a sprint — a team sport, not an individual event.
2. Create a welcoming environment for new visitors
Seems like a no-brainer, right? Create a warm, welcoming environment for new visitors and they’ll be more likely to return. Take a step back and evaluate your church from the perspective of a newcomer. Is it clear where to enter the church for worship? Are you promptly greeted by an usher or other members of the congregation? Does the pastor make an effort to welcome you and encourage you to come back? Improving new visitor retention could be as easy as implementing a simple follow-up call from a pastor. (Having trouble convincing visitors to fill out visitor cards? One congregation surveyed by Echurch incentivized visitor cards by donating $25 to a local nonprofit for every card turned in.)
3. Engage current, active members
It may seem counterintuitive. Shouldn’t we be focusing on the people who aren’t coming to church, and not the ones who already are? Not according to Carey Nieuwhof, founding pastor of Connexus Church. Says Carey, a key to growing church attendance is to turn ordinary churchgoers into “passionate champions of the mission.” In other words, drive engagement in active church members by challenging them to serve (and making it uncomfortable for them to stay disengaged), preaching action, and rewarding progress (Carey describes these church engagement tactics further here). A simple way to mobilize your current members? Equip them with tools that make it easier to invite guests to church, for example, invite cards, a shareable social media graphic, or a pre-written email.
4. Serve your community
Volunteering in your community not only reflects your mission to serve others, but also brings community awareness to your church. Volunteer to clean up a local park, help run a soup kitchen, or organize a community-wide event. Echurch suggests recruiting young families by serving nearby elementary schools: help paint their playground equipment, assist with landscaping, or invite elementary school families to enroll their children in Sunday school or vacation bible school. Be sure to have church brochures or information cards on hand, or wear church t-shirts so that people can visually connect volunteers with your church.
5. Develop a strong social media presence and website
These days, a “set it and forget it” mentality toward social media just won’t cut it. To reap the benefits of social media, you need to put some effort into maintaining your church’s accounts. Posting regularly — sharing church news, event updates, even favorite Bible verses — will not only engage current church members, but also attract new members looking for an active, vibrant church community. On a similar note, invest in your church’s website — it’s often the first resource people will turn to when deciding whether to visit a church. Make sure it’s updated with church news and events; better yet, include a section where visitors can access previous sermons, so that they can get a feel for your church prior to their visit.
Declining church attendance can be frustrating and saddening, but there are steps you can take to strengthen and build your organization. Implement the above tips — embrace them as part of your church culture — and increased attendance may follow.
The information contained in these materials is intended solely to provide general guidance on topics that may be of interest to you. While we have made reasonable efforts to present accurate and reliable information, Church Mutual Insurance Company, S.I. disclaims all liability for any errors or omissions, or for any actions you take or fail to take based on these materials. The information provided may not apply to your particular facts or circumstances; therefore, you should seek professional advice prior to relying on any information that may be found in these materials.