Today’s church seeks growth. We want more people to come through the doors so that we can help meet their needs and share the love of Jesus Christ. So we set up a website, maybe post to our Facebook Page about church events, let everyone know what’s going on through the church bulletin and (snail)mailed newsletter, and then scratch our heads when we find attendance, membership and stewardship dollars dwindling. Where is everybody going? Why don’t they know what we offer? How are we losing them?
The challenge lies in expecting people to come to us.
How are You Communicating?
Think about it…your website, your bulletin, even your Facebook Page…all of these communications vehicles require people to seek YOU out. And that’s not usually convenient, especially for people who aren’t already members. When you add in the busy schedules of today’s families, those methods of communication are just not working anymore. They’re not getting the message. And that’s a serious problem for church growth.
So what should the church do?
Move Beyond Your Walls
Get beyond your walls. You can’t expect people to come to you. You have to go to them and meet their needs in a way that matters. That’s what Jesus did. He traveled from place to place, meeting people in the streets and touching them in very personal ways. Yet we often fall into the trap of creating our programs within our walls, and then feeling disappointed when people don’t come.
We can do better.
How to Reach Your Community
It starts by identifying where your community is, and then meeting them there. Here are some ways to do just that:
- Your pastor, staff and senior laypeople need to be on Facebook. Participate in community groups, and listen to the conversations. People talk about their needs and concerns in these groups. Listen. Respond. And then develop programs and groups that meet those needs. Post invitations to those programs in the very groups where you heard about the needs. And let people know they don’t need to be members to participate. In this way, you show your doors are open to your community, and you care about what they are experiencing.
- Commit to ministering to the busy. One of the biggest challenges many people in your community face today is how busy they are. Like it or not, sports and other programs are scheduled on Sunday. There are many commitments that compete for people’s time, and they wind up feeling overworked and overwhelmed. Meet them where they are, and consider church growth something that happens even with lower attendance on Sundays. Provide alternative worship experiences, either online (Facebook Live is a wonderful, free tool) or at different times. Rather than judging people for not coming on Sundays, meet them where they are. Create tools that connect them to God whether they can make it to church on Sunday or not.
- Be the sane voice in the midst of chaos. There is so much bad news out there that hits people every day, from political rancor to gun violence to racial injustice. People are feeling overwhelmed and hopeless. As the church, we have a responsibility to provide leadership and comfort to a hurting world, spreading the love of Christ. Create and post shareable blog articles, images and videos that demonstrate compassion and justice. Be the voice of Christ in the world, and spread it using the tools that people use today. Your bulletin isn’t reaching people. YouTube is. Facebook is. Instagram is. Be the voice of Christ in the world, reaching people where they are.
It is the responsibility of every church to use the tools prevalent in their communities to meet needs and spread the message of Christ’s justice and compassion. This is how we begin to focus on church growth. We can no longer rely on the way we’ve always done things. Jesus was an innovator who went to the people where they were and spoke to them in language they could understand. Today’s church needs to use the tools of today to do the same thing.
How is your church reaching out beyond your walls to meet the needs of your community? What can you do better? Would love to read your thoughts below.