Take a stroll down your street and consider…behind every other door is a person or family who is not part of a church. According to a recent Gallup study, only 50% of Americans say they are church members—an all-time low, down from 70% just 20 years ago. These are troubling statistics, for sure, but ones that can be used to jumpstart our outreach efforts as we begin planning our fall 2019 ministries and events!
Why aren’t people coming to church? What are they doing instead? What are their needs and desires? And how can your church tap into these and begin to change your community’s habits on Sunday morning—or Saturday night or Sunday night.
Here are some answers and a few ideas to tailor your fall efforts to the unchurched.
Provide simple, easy-to-engage service opportunities.
“I practice my faith in other ways.” This is the number one reason people give for not going to church or for going only a few times a year, says a recent Pew Research Center survey. So offer ways—other than your worship service—for people to live out their faith with you and not necessarily within the walls of your building. A community clean-up day. Food drive. Family 5K for a specific cause or organization. Habitat for Humanity project. These won’t draw people outside of your church though unless you let them know they’re happening and invite them. Spend extra time advertising! And make it super easy to sign up or just show up.
Preach on the tough questions.
One in five people who don’t go to church say they dislike the sermons, and 28% say they are not believers (Pew). Address both of these at the same time by planning a sermon series that 1. people will find intriguing and 2. hits on the common sticking points for faith, like The God Questions. This six-week series asks: Is God Real? Is the Bible Real? Do all roads lead to heaven? How can a good God allow suffering? Which is right: creation or evolution? And what happens when I die? You’ll connect with those unsure about God, faith, and the Church, but you’ll also help equip your most faithful followers with some apologetic strength.
Market to millennials.
Only 42% of millennials are members of a church (Gallup). These are people 22 to 37 years old, born between 1981 and 1996. And what are they like?
- They’re tech-savvy. They’ve got iPhones from which they email, work, Snapchat, Instagram, bank, shop and hold a bajillion photos of their children. It’s all in the palm of their hands. Is your church there, too? Can they register their kids online for Sunday School before visiting? Do you tell them exactly where to go or what to do should they visit? If they go to your website, does it have the most current information?
- They’re “famously frank and direct” (Adweek). Don’t dance around what you’re trying to accomplish. Communicate succinctly. If you ask them for their email, be up front about exactly what you intend to send them and when. Same goes for your church’s mission. Yes, through justification and sanctification, we’re trying to fulfill the Great Commission as God has called us to…but break it down! You just want Jesus to fill the holes in their hearts with hope because life is so hard. Period.
- They’re socially conscious. They may not seem like big deals, but some small changes will likely be noticed. Is your coffee fair trade? Instead of paper cups, what about mugs – perhaps made by a potter in your church or mismatched and purchased from a thrift store down the street? Maybe you just built a fancy, expensive new building. Some neighbors may wonder if you’re putting money and resources back into the community, too. Are you?
Join 13,000 others for Back to Church Sunday on September 15.
82% of the unchurched say they would consider coming to church if invited; sadly, only 2% of church members say they invited someone within the last year. So, encourage your people to invite their friends and neighbors back to church on this designated day. Not only will people who haven’t been to church in awhile come check you out, but your members will have a great and simple reason to engage with their friends about church. Among those churches that have participated, 27% say they grew on Back to Church Sunday, and 97% say the event helped their members be inviters. Ideas, resources, testimonials, invites, banners and more at BacktoChurch.com.