Author: Tommy Herndon
Every church I know wants more people in their congregation. I was a pastor for forty-five years and I was always amazed at the attendance on Easter Sunday compared to the Sunday after Easter. I used to always start a new series of sermons on the Sunday after Easter, hoping more people would attend. I even stopped making fun of the large attendance on Easter, hoping that more would come the next Sunday.
I attended a church this past Sunday (Easter) in North Carolina. I was amazed – Twenty- five for Sunrise Service and maybe 35 for regular service. What in the world is happening? Numbers tell us that church attendance is dropping. Why are people not attending church like they used to? I began to think about this delimma and discovered some things that will probably make us feel bad but some of these need to be said.
- Let’s begin at the beginning and ask – How was the sermon!? Many times the only exposure some may have to God’s Word is what they hear from the pulpit. Far too many sermons are not prepared and many times they’re all over the board. Sermons need to answer questions and help church attenders. Many times sermons are too complicated and people leave without ever being able to understand.
- The second thing that I see too often is the worship bulletin. The bulletin often is written for people who know what the Doxology is and where Page 881 is in the Hymnbook. Not everyone knows what the Apostles Creed is and where it can be found. Even the Lord’s Prayer is confusing because not everyone knows the words and we often ‘assume” that they do. Not everyone knows when to stand or sit and sometimes new folks feel completely out of place because they don’t understand.
- Many churches ask Visitors to stand and introduce themselves. Some become uncomfortable because they don’t want to stand up. Some think this is more for the old members than the new members. Some churches ask members to welcome each other and this is often an exercise for those who know one another and the new folks are left out again.
- Churches that want to grow need to renovate their Children’s areas. Nurseries and classrooms need to be clean and filled with activities for children. Young families will not bring their children back to a church that has dirty carpet in the children’s area.
- Many churches don’t have a website and many more have not updated their website for years. When there are activities on the webpage that are two and three years old, I know that this church doesn’t spend any time on their website. Websites are now the front door to the church. The website tells about the activities, and families can tell if their family could fit into the happenings of the church. A long time ago an old sage of the church told me that there should be something new every Sunday. I have found this to be true in churches that are growing. Churches that are growing have pictures of the children’s areas and playgrounds.
- The number one thing that causes people to stay away is if someone says – “You’re sitting in my seat.” Church members need to move around and never lay claim to one seat. Many churches today have a table and chairs up front where children have activities, and they feel comfortable sitting up front and taking advantage of the activities laid out for them. Children will often make a little noise and this is okay and from the pulpit it often needs to be said.
- I am often in churches where you need a map to get around. It may seem okay to those who have been members since the church was built but it’s not okay for those who come into a building for the first time. Restrooms, sanctuary, classrooms, etc. need to be identified with signage that can be read and understood.
- Let me say again. “Your church must be clean and bright”. Dirty restrooms will turn new people off quicker than anything else. A dirty church communicates to outsiders – “We really don’t care.”
If you want new people to attend and return to your church, these are just a few of the things you need to discuss. If you want to grow your church, appoint a Committee to look at what makes your church “appealing.” Change the things that make your church unappealing! Try to involve a new person or two and ask them their opinions. New people can tell when something is happening in a church and no one wants to be part of a church that is not on the move!
Jesus died for our sins! He rose on the third day! This is exciting and we have the wonderful opportunity to share this message with others. Let’s get excited and visit our new folks. Let’s invite them to our homes and to events at the church. Let’s have regular Fellowship dinners where everyone is invited. Let’s teach Bible Studies and New Membership Classes. Let’s have small groups that go to eat together. Let’s return to Wesleyan ways and start Class Meetings where people are invited into our homes for coffee and conversation. Let’s make Church so exciting that members will be talking about “church” and inviting neighbors and workers to church!