Church involvement has changed over the years and often looks very different than the early church. Modern times have created a wider-reaching, but often less intimate, church experience creating scenarios where members often seek ways to connect with other Christians and become more active in the church. Below we will outline how to better lead your current flock and help nurture them into a more committed relationship with Christ through increased church involvement.
A recent national survey conducted by ACS Technologies found that when Americans who considered themselves active in a church were asked about their current level of activity, the majority, or 78 percent, were found to attend church twice or more a month. However, those attending weekly have decreased by 16 percent since 2017. Those attending only during holidays have increased by an astounding 150 percent since 2017. Unfortunately, the research points to an overall decrease in church attendance. Typically those that attend more regularly are more committed to the congregation and their faith. This begs the question; how do we effectively engage those in our congregation who are attending somewhat regularly and who desire a deeper relationship with Christ?
When asked in the same study referenced above what was important to these people in a Church, 83 percent of individuals stated they’re looking for warm and friendly encounters when going to church. They are often looking to foster new, more meaningful relationships in a safe, welcoming environment. Here are several ways to involve your congregation and help them grow in their walk with Christ:
Engage Rather Than Attract
It’s more important to engage your congregation instead of only attracting newcomers. Rather than only focusing on, the rather outdated, goal of growing the church by having them come through the door on Sunday, churches should focus on engaging the congregation they have attending regularly and offering ways for those seeking to become more involved. Those attending regularly are interested in furthering God’s plan in a driven community of Christ-followers. By giving them clear ways to connect and volunteer in their home church, they are able to do so. In return, engagement will also attract new, more committed followers to the church as well as having a congregation that has the commitment and tools to be able to go out and make disciples.
Offer Easy Access To Small Groups
In the early days of the church in Acts, a congregation (Ecclesia) looked more similar to our small church groups of today than a full megachurch audience. The regular meeting of a handful of individuals created an intimate environment for people to grow in Christ and grow closer to one another.
Today, the first place churchgoers often look to become more involved is by joining a small group. By offering an easy process to connect with other church members, you allow those seeking for the first time or those looking to join a new group to easily find a small group they connect with and get plugged into. This is especially important for younger generations where having a solid group of friends and accountability in the church greatly increased church attendance and involvement.
Build Trust & Create A Great First Time Guest Experience
In the same study referenced above a major concern of individuals both inside and outside the Church essentially came down to trust. For many communities around the country the top reasons for non-participation when it came to the church were: Not trusting religious leaders, organized religion, and not feeling welcome/useful. An easy way to combat all three of these issues is by having an outstanding first-time guest experience from your website, parking, kids drop off, service, etc. Knowing that many first time guests in our community may have some of these hesitancies when attending church for the first time or the first time in a long time, there are many things we can do as Church.
The first thing we can do is equip our greeters and ushers to recognize new members, greet them with joy & love, explain what they can expect out of the next hour or so (a real point of stress for many first time guests), and invite them to a special event after service. What is this special event you ask? The event should happen after every service or at minimum once a month. This is a “New Here” event. Immediately following the service new guests are invited (or escorted like VIPs by ushers) to the front of the stage, backstage, or somewhere that feels intimate and shows you have nothing to hide. From there the pastor, leadership, and or whoever they just saw give the sermon on stage personally greets the new guests, hears a little about them, and then shares more about your church and how they can get plugged in. This is a short 15-minute event possibly with light refreshments that is designed to immediately build trust amongst these people, show them they are valued and provide ways for them to get plugged in.
Host Events That Reach Beyond The Front Door
Partnering with local organizations or volunteering with charities in the neighborhood allows your congregation the be the hands and feet of Christ. You can impassion those who volunteer their time or charity to become more involved than they would have by just by attending on Sunday morning. Volunteering with a local charity also shows the unchurched and the community what true Christ-followers exemplify and also builds stronger relationships within your congregation as well.
Other event ideas include working with local restaurants to host community or holiday dinners with other congregation members. Many restaurants are still suffering from COVID and a way to help local businesses includes inviting your congregation members to a dinner hosted at a nearby restaurant. The more casual, intimate environment allows members to connect while helping strained businesses recover this season. Although some members may not feel comfortable volunteering or meeting in person just yet, many can offer services by bringing food for a canned food drive or by offering donations to a local cause as well.
By offering easy and accessible ways for your congregation to connect and grow with others you are allowing them to love those in their community and to create meaningful relationships with other Christians as they grow in their fith.
Although the way we do church in America continues to evolve and change every year, offering a loving, welcoming environment for people to connect and hear the gospel is always a necessity. While church attendance alone is not an indicator of faith and salvation it does not mean we as a Church should discount the importance of creating environments people love to attend while also helping to foster a deeper and growing relationship with Christ amongst our congregation.
Andrew is the founder of Kingdom Analytics. This company has served over 300+ organizations doing good in the world by helping better connect them to their community, congregation, or customers using advanced demography research. He also has experience in the church world working for the largest high school ministry in the country at North Point Community Church. Andrew graduated from Arizona State University with degrees in Design Management and Tourism Development and is CITI certified in Social and Behavioral Research.
For more information on engagement download, Pastors: Get More People Enageed & Get More Done! to discover how to get more people listening and engaged, and how – with the right tools – you can get more ministry done.