Lent is here. That means Easter is fast approaching and church staff is putting in overtime to prepare for this most holy of seasons. While it is easy to fall back on traditions and get caught up in busyness, it is important to take a step back and ask, “Are we making an impact? Are Easter worshipers engaged after Easter?”
Easter traditionally brings more people to church than any other time of year. However, even this most sacred of Christian celebrations is facing lackluster attendance. According to a poll conducted by LifeWay Research, 41% of Americans planned to attend an Easter worship service last year, almost the same as the number who planned not to attend (39%). Another 20% were unsure. Among Christians, only slightly more than half planned to attend. Protestant (58%) and Catholics (57%) were most likely to attend while only 45% of nondenominational Christians planned to attend.
Attendance in General
A recent survey by Pew Research Center found that 37% of Americans reported that they attend worship services every week, and only 33% reported attending monthly or yearly. Among religiously affiliated Americans who report that they only attend worship services a few times a year, the following reasons for not attending more often were cited:
- Personal priorities (24%), including 16% who say they are too busy.
- Practical difficulties – work conflicts, health issues, or transportation difficulties (24%).
- Religious or church related issue – disagreement with the beliefs of the religion or church leaders (37%).
- No particular reason (9%).
Getting Them to Return
So, how do we engage more Christians before, during and After Easter? In an interview with TheBlaze, Thom Schultz, co-author of Why Nobody Wants to Go To Church Anymore, suggested 4 four possible solutions to the church attendance problem:
- Radical Hospitality – “embracing a church paradigm of full acceptance.”
- Fearless Conversation – sharing of divergent viewpoints.
- Genuine Humility – true concern for addressing the issues, without being a hypocrite.
- Divine Anticipation – a focus on God’s providence in today’s world.
According to ChurchLeaders.com, the majority of de-churched people (62%) are open to the idea of returning. Getting them to return may be as simple as inviting them. In fact, 41% said they would return if an acquaintance or friend invited them. Younger adults, ages 18-35, are even more likely to return if invited (60%).
Of course, the way we invite people may vary greatly. Some people are perfectly comfortable with simply inviting their friends and acquaintances to worship. Others feel more at ease inviting friends and family to celebrate a religious holiday or attend a ministry event (e.g., youth activities). Small groups are also a great way to establish a personal connection and give people who would consider coming back to church a chance to openly explore issues and share different viewpoints.
The key is to discover what matters most to the people you would like to invite and engage them on their terms. Be patient. It is not a sprint to the finish line. Give them a chance to re-engage in a way they feel comfortable with. In fact, nearly two-thirds of the de-churched who decide to return prefer to remain anonymous until their second visit. Provide a way for them to access information about small groups or learn about how various ministries serve the community without making them feel like everyone is going to pounce on them the minute they enter the worship center. A Self-Service Kiosk is a great way to let them learn more on their own while at church.
Open up to people and be authentic about your faith AND your life. Christianity is not about Christians, it is about Christ. It is about having an eternal relationship with God through Christ. Of those who left church and expressed dissatisfaction with the membership, 45% felt church members were judgmental and hypocritical. Demonstrate a little humility while extending the invitation to come to church. Listen to any objections they may have and show true concern for addressing the issues without attacking the messenger. After all, we refer to our faith walk, not our faith 400 meter dash.
Need help connecting with church attendees and finding new ways to engage those that grace your front step? Contact us.
Image Credits: iStockPhoto