I often hear pastor friends and fellow believers verbalize their wonder for why people don’t come to their church or return if they came as a first-time guest. In my observation as a pastor and church staffer, there are two reasons people ask this question. First, people like their church and want others to at least visit. Second, I don’t know a single pastor or church staff member who doesn’t want a larger crowd because they look “unsuccessful” if they are not attracting new people to their church. The truth is that we can say we want new people, but most pastors and church members are not willing to do anything to reach them at their point of need. So, what might be some reasons why people will not visit or return for a second time to your church?
1. You go through pastors like Elizabeth Taylor went through husbands. People get the message that if you do not want a pastor from somewhere else, you do not want anyone from outside.
2. You allow no room for God to do something different in your worship services. Your rebuttal to that might be that God is a God of decency and order. That is true, but something that is not scheduled does not mean chaos. If people can predict what is going to happen next, they will eventually get bored and go somewhere that does not mind if God interrupts the status quo.
3. Some funerals are more exciting than your worship services. This is somewhat of an expansion of number two. Most people I know do not want to live like they are dead already. There is nothing like an atmosphere of expectancy where people believe that God WILL do something in their midst.
4. Your church is too negative. I can hear the legalist now saying, “You want to water down Scripture and not call sin what it is.” That is far from the truth for me! But when all you do is spend time focusing on what is going wrong in other churches, America’s problems, and all your prayer requests are about people’s ailments, you are way too negative!!! What about celebrating what Jesus Christ has done and is doing in your church and community? Try it and watch the atmosphere of your church change.
5. Your ministries cater only to one age group. If you only favor the senior adults, younger people will find somewhere that has spiritual growth opportunities for them. Eventually, your senior adult church will die and your doors will close. You can err in catering to a younger generation and miss out on having the wisdom of seasoned Christians in your church. Strive to be multi-generational.
6. You are so focused on the existing members that outsiders do not understand a thing about your church. They cannot find portions of your facility. The bulletin is written in “code” because outsiders do not know that your senior adult ministry is called the JOY club. You do not intentionally schedule events that encourage existing members to invite friends. And God forbid they attend your business meeting. They just might see the corniest part of your church (more can be said potentially in a future blog).
This list is not exhaustive, but I hope it makes you think about your church. Whether you are a pastor are a church attender, you need an outside objective opinion. You might think everything is fine, and you assume that people do not come to church because your church has a premium on spirituality. Meanwhile, there are things within the way you function that deter people rather than draw them. Ask God and be open to godly counsel. My prayer is that you will take action and experience revival like never before.