How to increase church attendance is a question that puzzles many pastors looking at reviving or growing their church. In 2014, 40% of Americans regularly attended worship services, marking a decline from 62% in 1980, the steepest drop in attendance since then. Even regular church attendees are attending less frequently. Therefore, keeping the community engaged and growing your church is a problem that needs an urgent resolution.
It might be easy to overlook declining attendance numbers hoping that people would have a change of heart. However, you must look at how to increase church attendance because:
- The more people you reach out to, the more chances you have of bringing them into the faith.
- Attendance numbers foster a sense of community and keep your church afloat. When church members see a larger crowd, they are more enthusiastic about attending church and meeting more people.
If you are worried about declining church attendance numbers or simply are ready to grow your church, we’ve got some pointers you can have a look at:
Tips on how to increase church attendance
Approximately half of Christians, both self-identified (48%) and practicing (45%), along with over half of churched adults (57% of those who attended in the last six months), acknowledge that individuals they know are weary of the typical church experience. Interestingly, there is no significant variance in this sentiment across different denominations, generations, or faith segments.
We share some ways on how to increase church attendance by adopting strategies focused primarily on outreach and communications. They are:
- Develop great welcome and follow-up programs.
- Collect feedback from guests and members.
- Offer online sermons.
- Keep members updated.
- Become active on social media.
- Host a ‘Friends and Family Day’.
- Volunteer around the community.
- Promote small groups.
- Promote a few but interesting programs.
- Inspire people to serve the church.
- Utilize your money better.
- Partner with other churches.
- Identify local opportunities for growth.
Develop great welcome and follow-up programs
A survey revealed that 42 percent of participants reported feeling at home in their congregation immediately.
Welcoming visitors and guests into your church warmly and making them feel at ease with other members are proven ways to increase church attendance. If you want them to remember you even after a church event, ensure you have an excellent follow-up policy that keeps you in your visitors’ minds. Here are some ways you can do this:
- Appoint a few senior or long-term members to greet guests and introduce them to the church community. There is nothing worse than entering a space for the first time and not knowing what to do or who to speak with.
- Make a special mention of visitors and guests post-service so other members can start a conversation with them easily.
- Have sign-up forms ready, which they can fill out when they first enter the church. This way, you will have their name and a few other details to contact them later. You can use printed forms or ask them to sign up digitally. Digital sign-ups through tools such as SMS opt-in will help you directly transfer these contacts to your church management software and be ready for follow-up. We’ve added quick steps to set up an SMS opt-in system in the table below.
- Give them a call to ask them about their experience at the church and tell them how much you appreciated their presence. Use calling tools such as auto-dialers to keep you from missing out on any visitor.
- You could also choose to follow up via text immediately after the meeting or a few days post the church visit – depending on your overall church communication plan. You could drop a simple text such as, “Hey Joe, it was lovely to see you at church last Sunday. We would love to see you again”.
Make visitors and guests feel seen and treasured, so they like to come back.
Setting up an SMS opt-in system
|What to do
|Create a free account
|Create a free account on CallHub.
|Rent a relevant keyword (this could take a few days to get approved by carriers)
|‘JOIN,’ ‘CHURCH,’ ‘ATTEND’ – it could be anything.
|Set up auto-reply messages
|“Hello. Thank you for attending today’s service. You can donate to the church through this link: www. church. tx/donate.”
|Create prompts to collect more data (These can be in addition to or in place of the donation request message as given above)
|“Thank you for reaching out to us. Please reply with your first and last name.”
|Publish the keyword. This step is given at the end because you must set up the auto-responses and user journey before promoting your ways of opting in to ensure a smooth flow.
|Share your keyword and registered mobile number with guests and visitors.
Collect feedback from guests and members
It is important to welcome guests and understand from their perspective how your church is functioning. To that effect, your follow-up plan could also include a small text survey with questions that help you understand how to grow your church in a more efficient manner. Text surveys are great because:
- They are a simple investment.
- They have a better reach as compared to other methods.
- They cut through paperwork by eliminating the need to fill elaborate questionnaires in person.
- Have a wider reach.
- They allow responders to reply in their own time and can nudge them to respond after a certain time has passed.
You could also ask existing members, new and old, for feedback through a phone survey. It will be an opportunity to reconnect with members on a call and understand their expectations and experiences with the church. For increased completion rates, interactive voice response surveys should be concise and tailored to local preferences.
Remember, if you want to find ways to increase church attendance, take feedback with a pinch of salt and implement any good points that come up in conversations.
Offer online sermons
Many times, despite our best efforts, we are not able to make it to church. It could be an ailing family member to look after or a newborn who is not quite ready to go out into the world yet. No matter the reason, if flexibility is an option, many would love to opt for it.
Do not shame members for not attending church. Instead, empathize with their situation and offer an alternative such as online sermons. A good way to ensure all of them know about the online sermon is to send them a link via text messages since people are always on their phones, and text messages have a 98% open rate.
By offering online sermons, you are still maintaining attendance and ensuring members feel valued.
Keep members updated
With declining church numbers, it is important to keep current members engaged in church activity. To grow your church, an essential step is to have a retention plan to keep existing members from leaving.
One way you can keep current members active is by sharing updates from church regularly.
A few ideas to grow your church through regular updates are:
- Sending messages once a week or two to remind members about the church.
- You can update your social media with recent activities.
- Send weekly or monthly newsletters about the church.
- Share flyers in the community.
- Design and execute a mail campaign before a big event.
Become active on social media
Approximately 70% of Americans currently utilize social media as a platform for connecting with others, consuming news, exchanging information, and finding entertainment. As times change, the population that you need to look at for improving church attendance also shifts. Reaching out to younger people and younger families, part of the millennial and Gen-Z generations, is challenging.
One way how to increase church attendance is to involve them would be to reach them where they are most active. Join social media, share posts about the church ranging from recent events to community initiatives. Ask members to take pictures and tag you on their social media to increase engagement and reach.
Young families looking to become a part of a church are looking for generous, kind, and real people. They would not want to be a part of an exercise put in place for the sole benefit of the church. Include activities and giving initiatives that younger people can connect with.
Since social media is an integral part of communication and marketing strategies, your church must create an elaborate and informed plan to ensure visibility and engagement. We have just the guide for you. 5 Steps to Building a Fool-proof Church Social Media Strategy.
Host a ‘Friends and Family Day’
The United States has over 42 million adolescents, constituting more than 13 percent of the total population. Suppose the church becomes an opportunity to not only revisit one’s faith and strengthen it but also to meet one’s friends and family. In that case, it automatically gives members an incentive to attend. Host events for which members can invite their friends and family – that’s one way how to increase church attendance.
This way, not only are members more excited about the church, but they also get to show other people your church and the positives associated with it.
You can even equip members with short messages or images to share with their peers to invite them to church. On the part of the guests, it will encourage them to attend church when they see someone they know attend it too – it is a win-win on both fronts.
Volunteer around the community
One of the ways to increase church attendance is to have a positive impact on the community around you. You can help the community in many ways:
- Volunteer to do a clean-up drive around the neighborhood.
- Distribute free coffee near the bus stop in the morning.
- Help teachers at your local school by donating essential school supplies.
- Allow your local book club to host a meeting on church premises and ask them to bring content relevant to the faith so that everyone can participate.
- Host a fundraiser for church members going through tough times such as a loss of job, health crisis, etc.
Volunteering helps you create goodwill among the community, and the more they see you, the more value they see in you. While you are volunteering, don’t forget to guide them towards attending church or contributing to it. You could share church event invites with people or get interested people to opt-in to your communications via SMS. The latter ensures you get only those contacts that are leaning towards the faith and church activities. This helps you maintain a high-quality contact list instead of populating it with people who will not engage.
Promote small groups
Promoting smaller groups will help increase engagement within the church community. When a few people start working on things together, they develop a sense of trust and community between each other.
Identify people with shared interests and bring them together in a small group. You can tag them on your CRM system so that you can reach out only to specific groups when you want. For instance, you can tag members who actively play basketball under the ‘basketball’ category and share updates about any sports events with them.
CallHub allows you to tag contacts, so it is easy to sift through long lists and segment contacts for relevant communications.
Smaller groups also help your staff identify natural leaders in a group and can involve them in your efforts to welcome new members and train them to support your outreach efforts.
Promote few but interesting programs
While promoting activities and initiatives are proven ways to increase church attendance, you must also be wary of stretching yourself thin with too many activities. Be mindful of the fact that you are a church, not a replacement for a social club.
Understand your budget and your staff’s capacity to keep up with events. Choose only those programs that are highly popular within your church community and are very likely to involve members.
Conduct a phone survey to find out which programs and initiatives your church members are most excited about. Enter that data into your CRM system and collate results. Shortlist the ones that fit members’ interests and your capacity in terms of budget, staff, and time.
Once you finalize the events, encourage those that had previously shown interest to invite more people. This way, you increase the church attendance of current members and get an opportunity to involve new people in your church.
Inspire people to serve the church
When people get involved with the church working for causes that they care about, it automatically increases their engagement and attendance in the church. It gives them a feeling of ownership and a sense of belonging. Besides, who does not benefit from working towards uplifting others?
Inspiring and encouraging people to serve the church and the local community is an aim far greater than attendance and church growth. By doing so, you have actively spread the message of the Lord, and good always generates more positive results.
Let your church members use their gifts and interests to do good in the world, get their families involved and spread the word.
Utilize your money better
A mistake that churches often make is spending all or most of their budget on giving and charitable donations. While the goal of a church is to uplift the community and do as much good as they can, you must also reassess your spending habits and see if something needs to change.
Ask yourself a few questions about budgeting to assess ways in which you can increase church attendance:
- Would it benefit the church if a part of the money was spent on marketing, advertising, and outreach efforts?
- Will it considerably shift how your staff works if you invest in software like CallHub to help them?
- Are there a few activities that are not benefitting either the church or the community? Can you pull funds from them?
Once you answer these questions, and you believe you must make slight changes in spending, work towards it. This is a long-term strategy but aims to sustain funding for longer durations.
Increased attendance indicates increased engagement which can translate into higher or more donations to the church. If you invested today in increasing church attendance, you are essentially looking at a member who will, say, donate $50 every month rather than a one-time payment of $100.
Partner with other churches
It does sound counterintuitive when you are trying to establish your church, but partnering with other churches has many benefits. They are:
- Understanding that other churches are not your competition but your more extensive team, serving the same mission.
- It multiplies your impact by doing certain things that your church alone may not be able to do. Similarly, you may do something great that other churches may be struggling with.
- It showcases your church to a larger, believing crowd.
Share the love of God and join hands with other churches to conduct easter egg hunts or similar events and grow your church together.
Identify local opportunities for growth
Identify what really forms the identity of your town. Are people interested in art? Do they love basketball? Is rap music a big part of the local culture?
Find ways to include your town’s culture in your church’s activities and programs to become more relevant to the town. Your aim is to ensure current members keep up, increase their attendance and reach out to you. Grow your church and build a great community that shares and grows in faith – it is ok if the method to do that seems a little out of your comfort zone.
We hope you’ve found strategies on how to increase church attendance. We have some great resources for you to help you grow your church. Texting has shown its prowess in keeping current members engaged and in building contact lists. Do consider adopting the easy and efficient communication method in your outreach plans.
To begin with, check out our article Why Your Church Needs A Text Messaging Service?
Featured Image Credit: Luis Quintero