It’s an exciting time of the year. People are making all kinds of positive changes in their lives in the name of New Year’s resolutions. One of the New Year’s resolutions we often noticed is via an increase in church attendance—people resolve that they will attend church more often in the new year. The problem is that New Year’s resolutions rarely stick.
According to statisticbrain.com, out of 45 percent of Americans who make New Year’s resolutions, only 8 percent actually stick to it. So, how does the church improve their relationship with new year attenders? The key here is relationships. Relationships are something that most churches would say that they are good at, but often they are only good at doing life with the core of their attendance. Building relationships with those that are new or on the fringe needs to be much more intentional than organic.
Here are three ways to encourage those newcomers to keep coming past Valentine’s Day:
Find out what caused them to stop coming or not come to church in the first place. Don’t be afraid to find out if there were past hurts. If the church hurt them by not calling or visiting when someone was sick, then they have good cause for pulling away. If they felt like they were expected to volunteer more than was healthy for their family, then it is only natural to back up a bit. Maybe they heard from a neighbor or family member that all the church wants is their money. That would be good cause to not want to give up their Sunday mornings as a family. Whatever the cause that has kept them away, it’s not too big to resolve and encourage them back. Just asking about it will communicate you care. A great way to find this information out would be to send a survey to everyone who attends your church in the first month. Ask questions like, “Why did you decide to come to church this month?” or “What caused you to stop attending church in the past?” When you know the answers to questions like these then you can move forward with a plan to help them heal.
Even if your church wasn’t the church that caused that hurt, take responsibility. Offer them an apology for how the church made them feel. Communicate you are sorry that the church wasn’t there for them in the way they needed. Tell them you wish they hadn’t had that experience. It will go a long way to take responsibility through an apology. It can be hard to say sorry, especially if it wasn’t your failure, but it will speak character and comfort to the one who has been hurt.
Invite them to do something outside of the church walls. If they are new to church or recently returning, then being inside the walls of the church can feel really awkward. They will loosen up in a different environment. Ask them to meet for coffee before work one morning. See if they are headed to lunch after service and offer to take them to the new cafe around the corner. Invite them to your house or a restaurant for the game that afternoon. They will see your effort as sincerely wanting to get to know them. Getting together outside of church will allow them to see you as a person and not just a church person. They will tend to open up more than in the church building.
New Year’s resolutions bring opportunities to connect with those who haven’t been in church in a long time or even at all. How do you connect with the newcomers at your church?