Many will hate to hear it, but one sign of a healthy church is growth in weekend attendance. If people are actively leaving, or not a single new family has joined your parish in some time, then chances are, there are things you could be doing to better attract and serve people through your Sunday worship. Here are eight relatively simple, even inexpensive, ways to connect people with your church on Sunday and turn around that decline in attendance.
Teach People to Invite
Invite someone. Sounds so simple people never do it, right? It may be easy to tell people to invite others, which may or may not happen. Too often that sounds like scolding or desperation. It’s more important and effective to teach people how to invite. We call our evangelization strategy “Invest and Invite.” It’s easy to remember, intuitive, and it works.
Create an Experience
People aren’t looking to be entertained on Sunday morning (they can get that better somewhere else). But people do desire an uplifting and meaningful experience. I’m just going to say it- it doesn’t glorify God when the experience at Mass is boring and bad. For some reason, many Catholics are in the habit of seeing an excellent experience at Mass as somehow “inauthentic.” Start creating an experience that matters and watch how people begin to come and stay.
Communicate through the senses
Church is a sensory experience. Too often church environments almost seem engineered to reduce the congregation’s ability to see and hear what’s going on- poor sound and lighting, etc. We began implementing creative uses of technology, including some screens and images to enhance worship, and connect with different learning styles. This has been a great draw for people, not just into the church building, but into worship.
Think about your next step
Make it clear what you want people to do after they leave Sunday. Many people come seeking something they can apply in their lives, but don’t find it at church. The Sunday message has almost no connection to their family, relationships, or job, or we somehow expect people to figure it out themselves. Define the next steps you want your congregation to take and make it easy and accessible for people to get into ministry and groups. At Nativity we even introduced Next STEPS kiosks that make it easy to learn more or sign-up.
Preach in Series
Preaching in series provides a great opportunity to keep people coming back, looking forward to next week. Not to mention a new series can often help people invite a friend or family member with a topic they would really connect. You’ll be surprised how people often remember a past series more than a one-off homily.
We livestream all our Masses over the weekend so people can watch online. You probably wonder how this can increase attendance rather than encourage people to stay home. We thought that too, before we tried it. In fact, a lot of people who are now worshipping with us on Sunday were first invited to check us out online by a friend first, and are now a part of our congregation.
Social media isn’t just a fad or trend- it’s a powerful and necessary tool. It’s also a free and easy way to extend your footprint in your local community, as well as reach people who at first prefer to remain anonymous. Unchurched people see their church friends involved and happy and are more inclined to give it a try. Almost all our staff people regularly engage in sharing their ministry through social media. Invite people on Sunday to stay tuned on social media.
Make Volunteer Ministries Matter
A lot of the reason we have attendance growth is because of how seriously we take our weekend ministries- parking, information desk, and greeters. Our volunteers are probably the number one factor that creates the contagious joy of the environment when a newcomer steps into the church. Create passionate ministers and start seeing attendance grow.
For another take on this, check out Careynieuwhof.com