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Choosing to become a church member signifies a commitment to a local body of Christ. It shows that an individual has embraced the church’s vision, values how that church operates, and wants to be part of something significant. The challenge for leaders today on how to increase church membership is creating or maintaining a church culture that values creating deep roots.
Unfortunately, church membership is in decline. A 2020 Gallup study found the number of people belonging to a church fell to under 50% for the first time in history. This change is partially due to the overall decline in religious affiliation as well as a drop in the value placed on church membership by younger generations.
Additionally, as society becomes more mobile, it’s common for families to move multiple times in their lifetimes. Church leaders will see more families move in and out of their areas than previous generations. Developing disciples requires time, consistency, and relationships. Those elements are only available to someone committed to growing deeper roots in a church community.
Trying to quickly integrate new attendees while also developing long-term disciples creates unique challenges for church leaders:
Another study of U.S. adults identified several critical factors for why people attend church. Those factors included:
Pastors and church leaders can leverage this information to attract new attendees and determine how to foster a culture of church membership. This checklist aims to help pastors and church leaders see what’s already working and where there’s room for improvement.
Someone who is already a Christian and has attended a few services might be interested in joining a church. However, they often need a compelling reason to commit to a specific church community.
One way to ensure you’re effectively communicating the unique culture and values of your church is through a mission statement. A clear and concise mission statement communicated through various methods will help new attendees learn about your church. If you don’t have a mission statement or have had one for a long time, ensure it accurately reflects your church’s heart and goals.
Once you have a mission statement ready, share it on your church’s social media channels, weekly email newsletter, church bulletin, and announce it from the pulpit. Talk with small group leaders and have them discuss it at their next meetings. Start weaving key elements of the mission statement into sermons and other venues.
Set a goal to ensure that anyone who attends the church for a few months can name at least a few parts of the mission statement if asked.
The lack of clear steps to membership can create an unnecessary barrier for people joining your church. How would a new visitor know they can become a member, and where should they start? Connect with newer members and find out how they learned about the process. Did they have to seek it out, or did they hear it presented several times?
Discuss the membership pathway with staff and volunteers to ensure they know and can communicate it clearly. Create a graphic or a short list to depict how to become a church member. Does that involve meeting with the pastor or other leader? Do they need to sign up for a membership class? What does that process look like, and where does one begin? Make that pathway crystal clear so it’s easy to get started.
Plan and promote a few special events each year that focus on attracting people from the community who aren’t part of a church. Events could include:
Another way to reach people around your church is to participate in community events. Many towns host Christmas parades, summer farmers’ markets, charity races, and job fairs. Find opportunities for your church to support these events. Perhaps there are opportunities for church volunteers to serve at public events, like handing out water at a race or setting up a booth for shade at a summer event.
Your people are the face of your church, and their smiles and testimonies are often the most effective forms of free advertising. Whenever these opportunities arise, prepare them to share information about the church. Hand out cards that include the website and physical address of the church. Start conversations, ask questions, and invite people to weekly services and other upcoming events.
As people visit your church, inquire how they heard about it. Their input will help you determine which events are the most successful at spreading the word about the church. Update the events you host or participate in based on that input.
Invest in the longevity of your church by building a solid leadership pipeline. Offer mentorship and leadership classes to members as a way to help them grow personally and professionally. As they complete these classes, provide opportunities for them to lead within the church.
Developing new leaders accomplishes a few key goals:
Before someone even considers becoming a church member, you’ll need to ensure they have a positive experience during weekly services. Find out what kind of first impression your church makes by talking with a few newer attendees.
Take the data they provide and pivot as needed so your church gives a great first impression.
If a first-time visitor pulls into the church parking lot and finds large potholes, overgrown weeds in the sidewalk, or unsightly litter, they likely won’t return. Likewise, you’ll have better success retaining church members when the church building and campus are well-maintained and updated.
Perform a church facility health assessment by walking around the campus and noting anything that looks dated or needs repair:
Also, consider adding amenities such as playground equipment or designated spaces for various activities. Work to create a space that meets the needs of different age groups within the congregation. These steps will attract people to the church beyond weekly services and help establish the church as a central hub for the community.
Most people will search for a church online before visiting in person. When people today want to find a church, they search for things like “churches near me” or “popular churches in [city name].” An informative and user-friendly website with updated church information can help your church be more discoverable.
Visitors and faithful attendees value technology for keeping them updated, connected, and engaged. Make sure your church’s online presence offers gospel-centered resources to help people grow in their spiritual journey. For example, Subsplash church apps create a hub for your church to share your church videos and live streams, foster communication, and encourage active participation.
Your online tools should also help you stay in touch with members throughout the week. With Subsplash, you can combine your email, text messages, and group messaging to personalize your communications, such as updates, newsletters, and prayer requests. Leverage social media platforms to share content and engage with the online community.
Additionally, you can utilize online small group tools to help people locate and sign up for a small group. Another way to serve potential new members is to livestream church services so they can stay connected even if they can’t attend in person.
A church community should be a welcoming and accepting environment where believers can grow in their Christian faith, develop strong relationships, and share in life’s victories and challenges. Collaborate with key church leaders and volunteers on how to build real relationships and help church members connect with each other.
Here are a few ideas to consider:
Most people want to serve a common cause alongside other like-minded individuals. Establish outreach efforts like a soup kitchen, food pantry, after-school tutoring, or other program where church volunteers can serve others.
These volunteer opportunities can foster deeper relationships among church members and position the church as a servant within the community.
Pastors, teachers, and parents can all attest to the power of a compelling story. Stories capture our attention and help us see the potential we may otherwise overlook.
Encourage your leadership and current members to share testimonies of what compelled them to join the church and how that decision has impacted their lives. Record these as video testimonials and play them during a church service, or post clips on social media. These authentic narratives can inspire newcomers to commit to the church.
We hope this list inspires you with new ways to attract people to your church and to commit to it through church membership. As you decide what to do next, take this one step at a time. Implement an idea, measure the results, and talk with various people within your community to see how you can improve.
Increasing church membership isn’t a task to check off and never revisit. The effort to increase church membership is ongoing and will require constant evaluation and adaptation to meet the changing needs of the congregation. Don’t let that dissuade you, though. Remember Galatians 6:9, “And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.”