What causes people to stick in or stay at your church?

Let me ask it another way: How do you shut the back door in your church? I talk to church leaders all the time who are trying to do just that. They believe their front door is open (which we should address at a later time), but they are losing as many people as they gain. In some cases, they are losing MORE than they are gaining. This is a huge problem for many reasons:

1. New people rarely give or serve, so losing seasoned church people to pick up new attenders creates a financial and volunteer gap.

2. You’re stunting your growth if the back door is open. Even if it’s cracked, you are losing more ground that you necessarily should.

3. You can’t effectively make disciples if people are leaving as fast as they are coming. Discipleship is a process, and like most processes, discipleship takes time. Meaning people need to be around for a while.

Of course, some people NEED to leave your church. I wrote a post a few months ago about this very issue. But most people leave a church not because they need to, but because they want to. Therefore, identifying WHY your back door is ajar could be the solution to fulfilling your church’s mission.

So how do you shut the back door? In this series of post, I’ll share what we do at Watermarke to keep as many people as we can engaged in our church. We certainly have not cornered the market on church growth or attendee retention, but we have learned a few things over the past five years that may help you, too.

So here are a few tips. And in the following posts, I’ll dig into each item a little deeper.

1. Prioritize relationships.

2. Allow for anonymity.

3. Create a memorable experience.

4. Create a consistent, but not boring experience.

5. Provide practical, comprehensible, and applicable teaching.

6. Make spiritual growth easy and attainable, regardless of spiritual maturity.

7. Give everybody in the family a reason to attend.

8. Be a church FOR people – all people.

9. Make church easy to attend (or as easy as you can).

In random order, that’s my short list of back-door shutting mechanisms. I’m sure there are more, and if you have experienced any other helpful tips for shutting the back door, leave a comment below and I’ll try to include your suggestion or experience in the series, as well.

Also, don’t forget to pass this along to friends and fellow church leaders so we can expand the list, making all of our churches more successful at keeping people in the church.

Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • Gavin Adams says:

    Karl, I agree with you. And in hindsight, I should have re-ordered that list. I did not have in mind any priorities. In fact, if I did order by priority, I would argue #3 is the biggest issue. Our mission is to lead people into a growing relationship with Jesus, and that’s hard to do well if people attend infrequently or leave.

    In our church, our attendees are getting younger and growing. And a huge part of that growth is due to our approach. We don’t put old men behind the pulpit…and we don’t even have a pulpit!

    Thanks for your comment!

  • Interesting that your first concern was the financial losses resulting from declining attendance. As education extends then religion fails. Church attendees are getting fewer and older and the views of old men in pulpits are increasingly irrelevant.

Leave a Reply