I received a surprise phone call from my friend Rick Warren (yes, the Pastor Rick Warren) over the Thanksgiving holiday. Once I got over my shock that Pastor Rick would take time to speak to me, we got talking about declining and stagnating church attendance following the COVID season. He said to me, “Mike, (he’s the only person who calls me ‘Mike’) don’t feel bad that your attendance has never bounced back to pre-COVID levels, there are very few churches that haven’t taken a hit.”
The comment was unsolicited but deeply appreciated and comforting. It was profoundly reassuring to hear someone who has been such an inspiration to me say that attendance numbers have dropped for everyone, and that I’m not alone.
I’ll admit – I do look at our attendance numbers every week. Pastors can’t help but monitor attendance – it’s a simple metric of success, or failure. But attendance is also a sign of life, of the opportunity to touch someone’s heart.
Since we began welcoming people back to church post-COVID, I’ve been watching and waiting, desperately, for our numbers to rebound to what they were. Each week passes and we are only slightly closer to our goal, so we keep waiting.
In Advent, we wait for something or, better said, someone. It’s an exercise of patience, persistence, and prayerfulness. And, as Pastor Rick reminded me, an exercise of hope.
Head to the brand new Rebuilt Parish Blog to hear the what we’re doing to draw people back to church: https://www.rebuiltparish.com/blog/advent-as-a-season-of-hope