Why Are People Less Interested in Attending Your Church?

I recently listed 10 areas in our church where we are not satisfied. Nothing is necessarily broken, but there is room for evaluation and improvement.

The law of diminishing astonishment is partially to blame for a few items on the list, like decreasing attendance patterns from regular attendees and lack of enthusiasm within the upper grades of some family ministry departments.

This law reflects the reality of how extraordinary today begins to feel ordinary over time. For example:

  • People who attend our church for the first time can’t believe the musical talent. They are surprised by our excellence. And they are moved by their experience.
  • New guests love how we orchestrate the parking lot with volunteers and egress.
  • First-time families can’t believe how we prioritize their children’s experience — even texting parents during the service with an update if needed.

I could go on, but you get the point. In your church, a similar phenomenon is happening, too. People are walking in for the first time, and their initial experience is extraordinary. The problem is human nature. Because the experiences you are creating week in and week out are equally extraordinary. In many cases, the experience is improving over time as you evaluate and improve. But the rate of new can’t keep up with the human condition.

That’s the law: What’s extraordinary today will feel ordinary over time. The employees at Disney suffer from this law. People who live at the beach suffer from this reality. And so do the people attending our churches. It causes them to attend less frequently. It causes them to engage less prolifically. It causes us to want to quit.

Our initial solution is to create more new, different, and improving experiences. We’ve all tried that, and we’ve all failed to one-up ourselves over and over again. It’s impossible. There’s simply no way to move faster than the human condition. So what can we do?

How can we fight the law of diminishing astonishment?

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How to Make a Guest’s First Sunday Count

Sure, you have a mission statement for your church.

We do, too. I bet our statements pretty much say the same thing, with only a variation of adjectives and action verbs. After all, God sort of gave us the statement in the first place.

Having a mission statement is obviously important, but ensuring the mission statement comes to life is more important. How we design for that is important. After all, if what’s written on the wall isn’t happening down the hall, then what good is the statement after all?

I recently heard a story that so beautifully illustrates the power of taking the mission personally, and it was birthed from our organizational design. I’d love to share it with you, because it was a massive reminder to me of what’s at stake very single Sunday in our churches.

A few weeks back a brand new guest came to Woodstock City Church (where I serve). She was new to church. Not just new to our church, but I believe new to church. Although she is married, she came alone this day. As she entered the doors, a volunteer at our New Guest kiosk greeted her (let’s call her Amy). We have kiosks just inside the doors of every entry point at our church to answer questions and help new guests navigate our building. After talking with the new guest for a short while, Amy offered to give her a tour of the building, getting to know her more along the way. As they walked by Waumba Land (our preschool area), the new guest shared something very personal — she had lost her pre-school child. Through the obvious emotions of that moment, she confessed she didn’t know where else to turn, but knew she needed to turn somewhere, so she came to church. Our church.

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Holding Out to Reach Millennials at Church

Have you mastered reaching the millennial generation in your church?

If so, you need to start a blog and podcast to help the rest of us!

If not, I have some encouragement for you — and for me as a church leader.

Here it is. The full proof way to reach the millennial generation:

Wait until they are married with kids.

Boom. That’s the secret. Seriously, though, I’m beginning to believe reaching the millennial generation is not about market segmentation and generational characteristics. It’s not about becoming something new and unique, designing services and experiences just for them. It’s not about propping up your new social justice programs and using Instragram. Reaching millennials might be a waiting game — like a starring contest. Just wait them out.

Of course, I say this somewhat sarcastically, but there is some truth behind the sarcasm. When I consider my own story, and as you look back at yours, maybe there isn’t as much to worry about after all.

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How to Increase Your Reach by Narrowing Your Focus

This is Part 7 (and the last) of a blog series on Creating Continuous Growth in Your Church.

SERIES SUMMARY:

Every church leader facing a growth barrier desperately wants to break through, because every church leader, including me, desires a growing, thriving church. Not because church attendance is the only measure of success, but because increasing attendance is proof that people are being reached.

Here is a question I’ve begun to ask: What if instead of just breaking through a specific barrier we were able to barrier-proof our church? Pause for a moment and imagine never hitting a growth barrier again.

I believe barrier-proofing is possible for every church in any denomination, and that’s exactly what we are going to evaluate in this blog series.

I have uncovered 6 specific ingredients to create continuous growth in your church. In this post, we are going to look at the fifth ingredient:

Ingredient 6: MAINTAINING A CLEAR FOCUS

In this last post, we are going to evaluate the most simple, yet counterintuitive ingredient to creating a continuously growing church.

Here’s our starting place: Logically, the more we offer at our church, the more needs we can meet. The more ministry we provide, the more people we will attract. If we offer Upward Sports, we can attract the recreation crowd. If we offer VBS, we’ll reach children outside of Sunday. If we have a Men’s ministry, we’ll get more guys to eat pancakes and pray together. If we offer Women’s ministry, we’ll give ladies a place to belong and do life together. We have to offer Sunday School, because, well, we’re a church! We need softball and basketball teams for adults, because where else will men recreate? And we have those fields out back, too. We should probably have a food pantry and clothes closet, because people in our community are in need and we are a church. Maybe a homeless shelter? And we should also have a school — and not just a preschool, but a real school.

That’s all well and good. It’s even logical. Some would say strategic, and most would say it’s church.

But here’s the counter to counterintuitive: It’s crazy complicated to offer countless ministries and programs. We would all agree making our church more complicated and complex does not necessarily equal more effective. It certainly doesn’t guarantee more people. Complication spreads our leadership too thin. It spreads our effectiveness too thin. It spreads our resources too thin. It happens subtly over time, often without us even noticing. Before we know it, though, our church is burdened with more than can be done well, and our reach and effectiveness will be hampered as a result.

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3 Keys to Create an Unchurched Entry Point at Your Church

This is Part 6 of a blog series on Creating Continuous Growth in Your Church.

SERIES SUMMARY:

Every church leader facing a growth barrier desperately wants to break through, because every church leader, including me, desires a growing, thriving church. Not because church attendance is the only measure of success, but because increasing attendance is proof that people are being reached.

Here is a question I’ve begun to ask: What if instead of just breaking through a specific barrier we were able to barrier-proof our church? Pause for a moment and imagine never hitting a growth barrier again.

I believe barrier-proofing is possible for every church in any denomination, and that’s exactly what we are going to evaluate in this blog series.

I have uncovered 6 specific ingredients to create continuous growth in your church. In this post, we are going to look at the fifth ingredient:

Ingredient 5: DEFINING, DESIGNING, AND DEFENDING THE ENTRY POINT

Where do people enter your home?

Friends probably come through the side door — often called a “friend door” for that very reason.

Family most often through the garage. I have four kids, and they more spill into the house through the garage, rarely closing it, shoes and socks and various clothing dropped anywhere and everywhere except the laundry room in the process. But maybe that’s just me.

But what about guests? Where do guests typically come into your home? It’s different for guests, right? They aren’t yet friends (the jury is still out), so the friend door isn’t a great option. They aren’t family, so the garage probably should remain closed when we are expecting them (and we hope they keep their socks on, too). In my home when we have guests over, much like you, they enter through the front door. The front door is the guest entry point into our home. It might be a little further than the garage or side door, but it’s where they go. It’s more comfortable for them and for us, mostly because it’s designed with them in mind.

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Creating Continuous Church Growth Through Steps, Not Programs

This is Part 5 of a blog series on Creating Continuous Growth in Your Church.

SERIES SUMMARY:

Every church leader facing a growth barrier desperately wants to break through, because every church leader, including me, desires a growing, thriving church. Not because church attendance is the only measure of success, but because increasing attendance is proof that people are being reached.

Here is a question I’ve begun to ask: What if instead of just breaking through a specific barrier we were able to barrier-proof our church? Pause for a moment and imagine never hitting a growth barrier again.

I believe barrier-proofing is possible for every church in any denomination, and that’s exactly what we are going to evaluate in this blog series.

I have uncovered 6 specific ingredients to create continuous growth in your church. In this post, we are going to look at the fourth ingredient:

Ingredient 4: PRIORITIZING STEPS OVER EVENTS AND PROGRAMS

The concept of “thinking steps, not programs” is ingrained in our ministry model. By nature we try to define where people are, where we want them to be, and how we can get them there. Programs and events don’t effectively achieve this goal. Easy, obvious, and logical steps, however, do.

As a church location of North Point Ministries, this serves as one of our Seven Practices of Effective Ministry. A simple Google search will provide you with more than enough information on this ministry model practice. In this post, I want to instead discuss why this approach is critical to barrier-proofing the church.

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The Keystone Habit That Creates Continuous Church Growth

This is Part 4 of a blog series on Creating Continuous Growth in Your Church.

SERIES SUMMARY:

Every church leader facing a growth barrier desperately wants to break through, because every church leader, including me, desires a growing, thriving church. Not because church attendance is the only measure of success, but because increasing attendance is proof that people are being reached.

Here is a question I’ve begun to ask: What if instead of just breaking through a specific barrier we were able to barrier-proof our church? Pause for a moment and imagine never hitting a growth barrier again.

I believe barrier-proofing is possible for every church in any denomination, and that’s exactly what we are going to evaluate in this blog series.

I have uncovered 6 specific ingredients to create continuous growth in your church. In this post, we are going to look at the third ingredient:

Ingredient 3: SELECT THE RIGHT KEYSTONE HABIT

I came across the concept of “keystone habits” in Charles Duhigg’s book, “The Power of Habit.” I highly recommend it.

According to Duhigg: “Some habits matter more than others in remaking businesses and lives. These are ‘keystone habits,’ and they can influence how people work, eat, play, live, spend, and communicate. Keystone habits start a process that, over time, transforms everything.”

All organizations have keystone habits, which is significant to acknowledge, because habits always trump ideas or plans. As a church, like every other organization, we have keystone habits in place—most of us don’t know they exist. At best, we certainly have not been strategic in defining these habits to intentionally drive our mission and vision. In fact, if you are not experiencing the results you want, odds are your keystone habit is partially the culprit.

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5 Ways to Better Understand Your Unchurched Community

This is Part 3 of a blog series on Creating Continuous Growth in Your Church.

SERIES SUMMARY:

Every church leader facing a growth barrier desperately wants to break through, because every church leader, including me, desires a growing, thriving church. Not because church attendance is the only measure of success, but because increasing attendance is proof that people are being reached.

I’d like to ask a better question: What if instead of just breaking through a specific barrier we were able to barrier-proof our church? Pause for a moment and imagine never hitting a growth wall again.

I believe barrier-proofing is possible for every church in any denomination, and that’s exactly what we are going to evaluate in this blog series.

I have discovered 6 specific ingredients to create continuous growth in your church. In this post, we are going to look at the second ingredient:

Ingredient 2: KNOWING YOUR TARGET MARKET.

I spent a decade in the marketplace before transitioning into ministry. Most of those years were spent in marketing, specifically working with companies to better acquire new customers and increase the frequency of visits and/or purchases from current customers. As a business, that is how you increase revenue. It’s fundamental.

In the church, the same premise is true. We can grow attendance by reaching new people or increasing the frequency of our current attendees. The latter would make numbers look better and probably help each individual spiritually grow, but the Kingdom would not grow. And capital “K” Kingdom growth, not simply my church growth, is the real goal.

Therefore, to state the obvious, growth through sheep stealing is not good growth. If people leave another church to attend our church, the Kingdom does not win.

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9 Reasons You Could Be the Growth Barrier in Your Church

This is Part 2 of a blog series on Creating Continuous Growth in Your Church.

SERIES SUMMARY:

Every church leader facing a growth barrier desperately wants to break through, because every church leader, including me, desires a growing, thriving church. Not because church attendance is the only measure of success, but because increasing attendance is proof that people are being reached.

If that is true, then breaking through barriers is important. But, what if instead of just breaking through a specific barrier we were able to barrier-proof our church? Pause for a moment and imagine never hitting a growth wall again.

I believe barrier-proofing is possible for every church in any denomination, and that’s exactly what we are going to evaluate in this blog series.

I believe there are 6 specific ingredients to create continuous growth in your church. In this post, we are going to look at the first, and most difficult to embrace:

Ingredient 1: REMOVE YOURSELF AS A BARRIER TO GROWTH

By far, this is the most challenging of the ingredients to evaluate and embrace. Often when we bump into an issue or problem, we are tempted to look around and cast blame. At times blame should be cast elsewhere, but as a point leader of any team or organization, there is always an element of blame that should fall back on our shoulders. After all, we are the leader.

Looking in the mirror is more onerous than looking through a window, though. Discovering and owning our part in any problem is painful at best, but if we desire the build THE Kingdom more than our kingdom, a mirror moment is necessary.

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6 Ingredients to Create Continuous Growth in Your Church

Every church leader facing a growth barrier desperately wants to break through, because every church leader, including me, desires a growing, thriving church. Not because church attendance is the only measure of success, but because increasing attendance is proof that people are being reached.

If that is true, then breaking through barriers is important. But, what if instead of just breaking through a specific barrier we were able to barrier-proof our church? Pause for a moment and imagine never hitting a growth wall again.

I believe barrier-proofing is possible for every church in any denomination, and that’s exactly what we are going to evaluate in this blog series.

Part 1: The 6 Ingredients to Barrier-Proof Your Church:

Have you ever been stalled by a growth barrier?

There are few things church leaders face more frustrating than being stuck at a number—any number!

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