The people who attend your church are incredibly busy, but they make time for the things they care about. They show up to the things they think are important and value the most.
When the long-anticipated movie comes out, their favorite band comes in concert, or it’s their kid’s birthday, people just don’t miss.
One thing that’s true every Sunday is that the people who didn’t come to church that day are somewhere! They decided that something else was more important. Many good reasons are normal and natural such as family vacation, sickness, a destination wedding, and many others. That’s part of life.
The point here is more about the “every-week” Sunday options, other than church, that present a greater benefit or value than attending church.
The days are gone when pastors can merely say, “You should attend church.” Or quote Hebrews 10:24-25 and expect people to come back next week.
The people who attend your church need to experience the benefit of attending your church. I don’t mean that in a purely consumer frame of reference, although that’s not a bad place to start. It’s a good thing if people attend your church because they “get something out of it.”
This also means that many of the people who attend your church see the value in participating in the vision by serving in any number of ministry opportunities.
Above all, don’t be upset with your people who don’t attend often. If you view people who don’t regularly attend as spiritually immature and uncommitted, that’s how they will respond. And over time, they will sense how you feel about them.
In contrast, if you see them as the flock you love and care about, you will continue to do your best to inspire, encourage and deliver the best ministry you can so they want to come back.
On the other side of that same coin, don’t be discouraged by lack of attendance. I know that’s hard on church leaders, and can happen to any of us. We do our best, pray hard and get ready to serve well, and so many don’t show up. The best thing to do is focus on the people who did show up to church, rather than being discouraged about those who didn’t come.
Now, what else can you do?
How can you help people see the genuine value in attending?
5 ways to help people see the value in coming to church:
1) Lead church like you value church.
Would you attend your own church if you didn’t have to?
That’s not a new question, but it’s still relevant. Just like some of your people can get in a rut, leaders can too. In fact, it’s surprisingly easy to become professionally competent and simultaneously complacent. You get good at what you do, but it’s possible to lose your passion.
Lead church like you can’t wait to get there yourself! If you can’t wait to leave, that’s not a good sign, and your congregation may be picking up on it.
If I catch myself sliding into autopilot, I remind myself to think like a church planter! All heart, all in, fired up and every person matters! Sometimes you might be tired. Leadership can be exhausting. It’s better to take some time off to come back refreshed and ready to go, rather than to lead half-hearted.
2) Want more for your people than from your people.
Like a good business owner wants their company to grow, good church leaders want their church to grow. That means reaching more people with the gospel message, and corresponding life change.
Under pressure to keep the machine going, however, the mission can become compromised. Whenever the machine rises above the mission, any organization can unknowingly be tempted to want more from the people than for them. The most common pressure is financial, but certainly not limited to that.
One key question to help stay on track is: What do the people need for spiritual health and growth? Not, what does the organization need? That question is over-simplified because the organization has to function or you can’t meet the people’s needs, but it illustrates the question of priority. Which one is paramount over the other? Machine or mission? The mission must always be the driving force.
The passion and commitment that keeps the mission (people) first allows the leaders to communicate value without selling. No hype is needed. When the mission is the priority, the leader is free to communicate from a heart of genuine care.
3) Make sure your hospitality and “customer service” is top notch.
Those who attend your church aren’t “customers,” we can agree on that. But my purpose is to use a common term that allows us to know what we mean in the realm of hospitality quickly.
First impressions do matter. It’s not “unspiritual” to make sure your church property looks good, and your greeters are genuinely attentive and caring, any more than it is unspiritual to make sure your home looks great for guests. It’s common sense hospitality to communicate that you care.
The principle behind this is powerful. People perceive value when they are valued. That means people perceive that attending your church is a valuable thing to do because when they attend, they feel more valuable as a person.
4) Select a ministry focus to major in.
If you are wired like most church leaders and me, you want every ministry to be leading edge and world class.
But that’s not always realistic. Let me quickly say, that’s not an excuse for any ministry to be sub-standard, sloppy or ineffective. The basics should always be solid! But most often the best churches are known for a particular “stand out” strength in ministry.
It’s a little like in college – it’s difficult to major in everything. You still study hard for all your classes, but you have a concentration in a select field of study.
For some it might be children’s ministry, for others, it’s the preaching, for still others it might be their emphasis on global missions. Where does your church shine most brightly? Is that by default or by design?
You may dream about and have a goal that all your ministries are stand out and world-class. I certainly wouldn’t rain on your dreams. But I would say, start with one at a time.
5) Make it all about life change!
The best way to help people see the value in attending your church is to encourage and inspire them toward life change through Christ.
When marriages are restored, addictions are broken, prayers are answered, and people find a new purpose, the value in attending your church becomes obvious. When sins are forgiven, and that load is lifted, the benefit is clear to see.
When everything you do is centered around and focused on life transformation based on God’s love, grace, and power, the value of your ministry becomes self-evident, it is in changed lives.