Research organizations, like the Pew Foundation, have tracked the attendance cycle of churches for decades. They report that 85% of the churches in North America are either plateaued or in decline. With this being the norm for our churches what can we do about it? One practice to consider is to monitor your attendance as a whole and, in particular, the individuals in your church. You might have heard the phrase “close the back door” of your church. This is referring to church members gradually drifting away from their church. It may take months for an individual to actually stop attending your services but the decision to do so only took a short time. People often checkout mentally and emotionally well before they do physically.
So, what can you do to head this trend off if it exist in your church? Below are three simple steps to help you better shepherd your congregation to stop them from exiting through your “back door”.
One, collect your attendance records. To make this effective you must track individual attendance. How you track it is up to you but I would suggest you find a way to keep up with those that are absence each week and …
Two, track them over the weeks and months. Look for patterns that indicate people are checking out mentally and emotionally. How many weeks in a row or over an 8 – 12 week period does an individual have to miss for you to be concerned about their overall direction?
Three, be proactive. Get out ahead of this by gathering the information, tracking the trends and then take action to help preserve them so they don’t slip away.
All of us want to be good shepherds, responsible stewards and strong leaders. Giving consistent, caring attention to your congregation is required if you hope to reverse the decline of your church and increase the impact you have in your community. If you want to make disciples that make disciples then you must begin by keeping people at your church and actively involved in your ministry. It is difficult to make disciples that make disciples if they don’t stay long enough.
Let me encourage you to take these steps, or create your own, to help you better care for your congregation. To dig deeper into this topic please consult What Every Pastor Should Know: 101 Indispensable Rules of Thumb for Leading Your Church by Gary McIntosh and Charles Arn.