I visit many churches. I notice empty chairs or pews. I observe aging congregations, meet discouraged leaders, and see stretched budgets.
Yet, there’s another side to my observations. I experience excellent worship: music, leadership, sound system, and screens. I hear well prepared messages from pastors who are articulate, engaging, biblical, and practical. I experience take-away value for my life.
Most churches are friendly and welcoming. People greet newcomers, are gracious, and kind.
In this challenging world, with all of its disappointments, frustrations, and tough issues, you have to wonder: why don’t more people attend church? Christianity obviously helps. Church literally saves lives, marriages, and families. The Christian faith has both spiritual benefits and practical results. So why are there increasingly half-empty churches?
I’ve wrestled with this for 25 years – and looked at it from every angle. I’ve visited thousands of churches on six continents. I think I’ve figured it out.
Focus on these issues:
- Churches decline in several ways: death, relocation, and those who drift – spiritually and physically.
- Churches grow through children, those who relocate and search for a church, and through outreach to the unchurched.
- The birth rate has been declining. Yet, those living, now live longer. This also increases the median age.
- Christians who move to a new area are now more likely to hook up with a church that provides meaning, is friendly, and provides services that meet their needs. Consequently, some churches are booming, while others struggle.
- The greatest factor that leads to empty sanctuaries eludes most church leaders. Why? It’s complex. (1) Our culture has become predominantly secular. (2) We have not replaced the strategy to “invite (or bring) someone to church.” (3) Few people invite anyone to church anymore. (4) The reason they don’t invite people is not clearly understood. It’s because those they invite don’t come! The secularized person thinks, “Why would I want to do that?” (5) Many Christians have “given up” on an approach that doesn’t work.
- The new strategy is old – from the New Testament. Over-simplified, it goes like this: (1) Everyone in church is a missionary. (2) Your primary target is your social network. (3) Your approach is to share how God has worked in your life. (4) You invite them to a social gathering, called a “missional community.” (5) You focus on building relationships. (6) In the social gathering, other Christians share their “God stories.” Your guest learns that God is alive and working in the lives of others, too. They also learn that Christians have a lot of fun. (7) When they are ready, you take them to church – with your group. You sit together. This could take weeks, months, or years.
You will be amazed at the profound results. Secular people are spiritually hungry! Just change your strategy.
How are you gaining new people to attend your church? We welcome your comments below?
Kent Hunter, founder of Church Doctor Ministries, is known as the Church Doctor. His most recent e-books are The Future Is Now and The J-Dog Journey, available at no cost. Contact him at (800) 626-8515, by email, Twitter, Facebook, or visit www.churchdoctor.org.
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