44 Ways to Increase Church Attendance [Secure eReader]
Click on image to enlarge.
eBook by Lyle E. Schaller
eBook Category: Spiritual/Religion
eBook Description: Are you still suffering over the sight of empty pews? Have your efforts been more than exhaustive in expanding your congregation? Have you maximized your brainstorming potential for bringing in new members? If you have reached what appears to be your limit, then no longer fret, 44 Ways to Increase Church Attendance can open the doors of both your church and mind. With proven techniques for building a body for Christ, church leaders can increase their membership and then free themselves to focus on other important missions for God. Schaller's suggestions will energize leaders and put their churches on the road of abundance.
eBook Publisher: United Methodist Publishing House
Fictionwise Release Date: February 2002
"Why should we be interested in increasing our worship attendance?" demanded a member of the Maple Grove Church "We're averaging about 145 at Sunday morning worship. We've been on that plateau for several years, that's about all our building will accommodate unless we go to two services, and nobody here wants to do that, or unless we enlarge the building, and that would cost a lot of money. Why don't you leave us alone?"
"Yeah, instead of caring about our church growing in numbers, why don't you start more new churches?" added a supporting voice. "We're just a good comfortable size as we are now. We have a wonderful fellowship and we're the right size to enable everyone to know everyone else. Everyone knows size produces anonymity. Why do you want to disturb us with all these ways that might increase our church attendance? Why should we try to become a bigger church and have to deal with all the problems confronting those big churches when we like it the way it is here? We're small enough for everyone to know everyone else, but big enough to offer a full-scale program."
While rarely stated that bluntly, these statements represent the perspective of a very large number of church leaders who are satisfied with the status quo.
Considerable evidence can be mustered to support their position. From a member point of view the congregation averaging seventy-five to eighty-five at worship on Sunday morning may be the most comfortable-sized church in American Protestantism. It is small enough for members to know and care for one another. It is sufficiently large to offer a meaningful worship experience, to include a chancel choir and to maintain a good Sunday school. It is small enough that the time frame for planning can be comfortably short, the internal communication system can be largely informal, inexpensive, and effective. The two limitations often are (a) difficulty in providing the financial support necessary for a long-term pastorate and (b) difficulty in building and maintaining a meeting place. Many small congregations, however, have overcome these by (a) finding a pastor who has a spouse with full-time employment who is reluctant to change jobs and (b) relying on the contributions of past generations to purchase the land and construct the building.
Perhaps the second most comfortable-sized congregation is the one averaging 135 to 160 at worship on Sunday morning. It enjoys the benefits of being relatively small (although in fact it is larger than four out of five Protestant congregations on the North American continent), but usually possesses all the resources necessary for a full-scale program.
This size congregation normally can offer, if it so chooses and if the building grants permission, two different worship experiences on Sunday morning to meet two different sets of needs. It usually can offer a full-scale ministry of Christian education, an attractive youth program, two or three or four choirs, a women's organization with three or four circles, some specialized classes and possibly a men's fellowship. It normally includes sufficient people to staff all the positions for volunteers, to challenge the skills and energy of a full-time pastor and to maintain an attractive meeting place. That size congregation usually is able to allocate at least 15 percent of all contributions to outreach, to attract enough new members to replace the 5 or 6 percent who disappear every year, to provide the pastor with at least twenty-five or thirty hours of secretarial help every week, and to pay all the bills without making money the top agenda item at every meeting of the governing board. In many respects it is an optimum-sized congregation.
The argument for the status quo can be reinforced by the fact that larger congregations do have problems rarely faced by smaller churches. These include anonymity, the need to create and maintain an expensive and redundant internal communication system; the necessity of a cooperative staff team; a higher level of per-member giving simply to be able to pay all the bills; a more complicated schedule; a much higher rate of turnover in the membership (often approaching 12 to 15 percent annually in the very large and rapidly growing churches); a turnover in the staff that means community-building among the staff is rarely completed; maintaining a more expensive meeting place; responding to the expectations outsiders place on the large church; a greater need for off-street parking; the expectations by the members for high quality whether one refers to the preaching, the music, the rest rooms or the youth program; and the pressures from the 3 to 5 percent of the members who are not satisfied with the status quo. (Three percent in a hundred-member church represents three individuals, and they often can be won over by the charm of the pastor. Three percent in a thousand-member church can mean a cohesive and powerful group of thirty people determined to replace the current senior minister.)
The most persuasive argument against reading this book can be summarized in eight terrifying words. What if we try it and it works? If a congregation tries a new approach to ministry and it falis, little harm is done. Usually everything soon returns to the way it was before, and life goes on. The great risk is to implement a new idea that may work. If it does, the world will never be the same again!
Every one of the forty-four suggestions in this book on increasing the Sunday morning church attendance has been tried in scores of congregations. Every one can work. Some have produced the desired results in four out of five congregations. Others consistently have produced results that exceeded expectations. A few require a long time period before results are visible. Several do require a combination of factors to work.
When all is said and done, however, there are only two, not forty-four, ways to increase attendance in any congregation. One is to increase the frequency of attendance of those who are now attending. A not uncommon pattern today is when an attendance survey is conducted over four consecutive Sundays, one-fifth of the members will be present on every Sunday, 30 percent will attend on two or three out of those four Sundays, 20 percent will attend once and 30 percent will be absent on all four Sundays. If one-half of those who missed all four Sundays can be persuaded to attend at least once or twice a month, and if those who were present only once out of four Sundays begin to attend two or three times a month, the average attendance will rise dramatically. (See the first suggestion in chapter 6.)
The second approach is to reach more people. If instead of two hundred different people attending at least once during a month's time, that number can be increased to three hundred (some of whom may be formerly inactive members) and if the frequency of attendance of the original two hundred does not decrease, the average attendance will climb significantly.
Many of the suggestions in this book are designed to increase the frequency of attendance. Others are designed to attract first-time visitors and a few are included to increase the probability that first-time visitors will return the following Sunday. The purposes of the suggestions are varied and several are mutually reinforcing.
The critical point, however, is these are tested ideas that have worked and the reader should be warned that few things in this world have the power of a new idea.
In simple terms this book has not been written for those who are comfortable with the status quo. This book has been written for leaders in local churches who share six convictions.
First, they are convinced of the power of God's Word and they are convinced that when people hear God's Word preached, lives are changed.
Second, they are convinced that by definition Christians are called to come together to worship God and to share in the sacraments or ordinances of the church.
Third, they take literally and seriously the Great Commission (Matt. 28:19-20) and feel compelled by the power of those words to follow that directive.
Fourth, they believe that every worshiping community should be actively engaged in confronting more and more people with the Good News that Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior and that their own local church is not exempt from that imperative.
Fifth, they are venturesome, risk-taking persons who are willing, if not eager, to make the changes necessary to bring more people into that worshiping community of which they are members.
Sixth, they are willing to accept the role of agents of intentional change from within an organization (see chapter 7) and understand that it always brings unanticipated consequences, discontinuity, and other threats to the status quo.
The forty-four suggestions for increasing the attendance at corporate worship are divided among six chapters. The first twelve are directed at the Sunday morning worship experience and increasing its attractiveness. The next five overlap the first somewhat, but are focused on the Sunday morning schedule.
While this is rarely discussed in these terms, every congregation with no exceptions has developed a series of operational policies that influence church attendance. Seven of these are reviewed in the third chapter. For some congregations this may be the appropriate beginning point in any effort to increase church attendance.
Once upon a time pastoral calling was the most productive and cost-effective means of increasing attendance. Today, in a growing proportion of congregations, program is far more influential both in influencing the frequency of attendance of members and in attracting new members. Five suggestions on strengthening program as a means of increasing church attendance are discussed in the fourth chapter.
While frequently overlooked, real estate considerations often are remarkably influential in church attendance and eleven of these are reviewed in the fifth chapter.
From a long-term comprehensive point of view many congregations would be well advised to look at institutional factors if they are serious about increasing the size of the crowd on Sunday morning. Four of these are reviewed in the sixth chapter.
Finally, for many readers the critical question concerns the implementation of some of these suggestions. Often that turns out to be a more complex issue than simply increasing the size of the crowd. It really is a process of planned change. That is the subject of the final chapter.
Cartoons often can be very useful in communicating new ideas to people, so scattered throughout this volume is a series of cartoons in which Friar Tuck speaks to the subject under discussion. Individuals purchasing this book are hereby granted permission to reproduce these cartoons in local church publications or in presentations at congregational gatherings. Permission is specifically withheld for reproducing these cartoons, or any other parts of this book, in motion picture films, video tapes, slides, books, magazines, denominational publications, or in any other form or manner.
Copyright © 1988 by Abingdon Press