What did you look for in your church when you decided to become actively involved? Was it the high focus on the children’s and youth ministries or the engaging activities of the singles small groups? Maybe it was the reverence you encountered in the sanctuary that just made you feel part of something bigger than yourself. When looking for ways to attract new members to church, don’t underestimate your own personal experience. Your experiences can help you see where your church might be hitting and/or missing the marks. It’s an important task to plan how to get new church members and keep them coming back.
Consider the word “LIGHT” when you think about how to build a church membership. See how it aligns with the symbolism of Matthew 5:14-16, “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”
- Your website matters. According to Grey Matter research, “17 million people who aren’t regular church-goers visit church websites each year.” Seventeen million. And, I bet that number is only ever increasing each year. You have a huge opportunity to widely cast your net and reach potential congregants. After all, these are the people who are interested in joining your community. How do you know? Well, they’re checking you out. They want to feel the love and support of your church. But they may need more encouragement prior to stepping foot onto your church campus. So make sure that your website is welcoming and easy to navigate for a first timer.
- We suggest a button on the website that is clearly visible for guests. This button takes them on a detailed path covering different aspects of your church. This includes your mission statement & FAQs, children’s ministry safety & protocols, small groups, youth group activities, singles ministries, senior breakfasts, bible studies, meet the Pastoral team, event calendars, etc.
- Update your pictures as you do your calendar at least monthly on your website. This small detail shows that you are invested and relevant in your ministries and the happenings in your church community. A picture shares more than our words can adequately express and it’s hard to forget what you see. So paint the pictures in a genuinely welcoming way.
- Get on social media. There’s no way around this. Make sure your church is active on several social platforms. It’s a great place to ask questions and then follow up and read the comments to really engage with people on neutral territory. View it as an extension of your outreach ministry, and put the same effort into and plan together for social media as you would if you were in a physical outreach location ministering to people. It’s a 24/7 and 365 days a year tool on how to encourage people to come to church.
Invest in Young People
Children, youth, and college ages- they are the next generation of leaders. Families invite other families to church. This just naturally happens.
- Nothing is more disappointing as parents than picking up children from Sunday School only to learn that they built towers on the floor and played outside, but didn’t have a Bible lesson. Is there a time for tower building and fresh air for children? Absolutely! But take it a step further and share an age-appropriate lesson on the Walls of Jericho, for example, and then the children can build a tower and walk around it blowing their pretend air trumpets. Invest in curriculum, snacks and your volunteers.
- Youth and college aged students are hungry for the Truth of the Gospel and how to live it out on a daily basis. Surround them with mentors and activities to keep them engaged and to help navigate their way in this loud world. Coffee shops (neutral environments) are great places to meet, talk and listen about life’s happenings. Reach out to them on a personal level if they’ve not been around, as they need to know they’re missed and more importantly, always welcome. Having a steady and trustworthy presence in these young adults’ lives is- not only how to attract new people to church but- what will fuel their relationship with Christ and like minded believers.
Give Back to Your Community
Look for fresh and out of the box opportunities to be the hands and feet of Christ, meet people and attract new members to church. Your neighbors need you. More to the point, they need God – through you. As Jesus’ Body, your church is to represent him well in your neighborhood. That involves meeting their physical and spiritual needs.
- Schools are a great way to connect with families! Consider drives throughout the year to benefit elementary, middle and high schools in your community with backpack and shoe drives, stocking the health office with hygiene items and non perishable foods, Christmas wish lists, and afterschool clubs or mentorships.
- Yard work days are an unexpected and most welcomed surprise! Plan on meeting on a street and just knocking on doors to ask if you can cut their grass or trim the hedges. When they ask why, it’s a simple response, “We just want to serve and get to know our neighbors!” Be prepared for questions and maybe have a business card on hand to let them know they’re loved.
- Complimentary car washes with a fresh lemonade stand will surely draw a crowd and it’s fun for the whole family! Even if you just have everything on hand for people to wash their own cars- that’s a plus and uses the church’s water and supplies.
Host Meaningful and Run Community Events and then Follow Up
- Know your community and her interests. Meet them where they are. And, when the time is right, invite them to become part of the church as a way to develop, strengthen and disciple them into God-centered relationships. Some questions to consider to know them better:
- What is the average family size?
- What is the predominant age group?
- What is the average income?
- How well do they respond to mailers, yard signs, street signs, online advertising?
- What percentage already attends your church?
- What percentage has, at one time, visited your church?
- What percentage of households are single-parent?
- While, the events strategy is probably the most widely known way in how to attract people to church, the follow up part is where things can get muddled. Once they fill out a card and it’s manually input into your system or better yet, if they sign in at an event kiosk that’s the initial step in the follow up to put them on a custom pathway! Establish a friendly follow-up process to keep people from falling through the cracks. For example:
- Instruct church leaders/volunteers on the tools available and help them understand the importance of their roles in making the welcoming connections.
- Make the visitors aware via email or text of future events and opportunities to visit again and/or get plugged in.
- Contact them after they’ve taken their preferred next step, to see if they liked it. Record their feedback so that all leaders will be aware of how the individual is progressing in their journey and how, as a church, you can improve.
- Pending their feedback, be ready to pair them with another person (or couple) who can make a personal connection to journey alongside them.
Trial and Error
Yes, it’s important to understand that not everything you do will be the best “how to attract people to your church” idea, but you can’t discount the opportunity to learn. We suggest trying to capture input and information at each service, event, outreach or meeting you do. That way you can start to track attendance, return visitors, see who’s connected, who’s not, and so on. Tracking people’s journey in your church starts with their first point of contact. But how will you know what that is if you’re not asking? Try to pay attention and record the who and what of each of your activities and initiatives and you’ll start to see trends that inform your next decisions. The goal of information is transformation!
With a little work, you can discover more about who you are ministering to so that you can reach more people, bless more families, lead more people to faith, and watch the health and growth of your church and your community soar.
Dean is ACS Technologies’ VP of Corporate Operations. He is responsible for Information Technology and all campus facilities. Born and raised in South Carolina, he has a bachelor’s degree in Computer Information Systems Management. He serves on the board and in leadership for a few local non-profit organizations. His passions include helping others succeed.