by Franklin Dumond – Director of Congregational Ministries
1— Start Early!
At the beginning of every calendar year pastors can look ahead to predict the most likely higher attended and lower attended days of the year. By planning ahead to accentuate the high days and mitigate the low days the overall average attendance may be increased and more and more people won to faith in Jesus Christ. What are my most likely higher attendance days? Look at the attendance records from last year on a line graph. When does your attendance spike? Why? Take a hard look at your current programming. There must be something in your congregational culture that brings these high points.
2 — Add A Special Feature.
How many people are usually involved in leading worship on a given Sunday? Add a special feature whereby more people can be involved in meaningful participation and watch the visitors arrive…especially if you use the Children’s Choir and its members rehearse for a few weeks in advance! For Easter a wise pastor can plan for a Spring Baptism. Easter celebrates the new life of the risen Christ, which is also the Christian symbol of Baptism. The now secular tradition of new clothes for Easter can be traced back to the ancient church when Easter Sunday was Baptism Sunday and each baptismal candidate was given a new white robe. Make Easter a fabulous family celebration with an Egg Hunt on the church lawn following Morning Worship. The beauty of the modern hen is that she lays plastic eggs so you don’t have to worry so much about the eggs spoiling by being outdoors for a while. (Note: While plastic eggs are undisturbed by warm temperatures, chocolate will melt if left in the warm sunshine for any length of time.) Is an added worship service needed? If Easter already brings the church to capacity should the plan include doubling seating capacity by adding another service? The church already offering a 10:30 a.m. Morning Worship may be well served to offer 9:00 a.m. Easter Worship, too. Always ask the key question, “What will I need to do to make sure that these special features work well?”
3 — Develop specialized promotion.
How will everyone know of the special day if you don’t tell them? How will they realize what’s going on if they only hear it once? Newspaper ads and yellow pages listings do little to attract the unchurched. Consider a saturation mailing. You can develop your own material, but you may want to bring in the professionals for the first time or two. Always be sure you have proper contact and location and schedule information included in your promotional piece.
4 — In house preparations.
Keep in mind, however, that if you invite them you’ll want to be able to offer what you’ve promised. Make it a special day. Clean off the coat rack. Pick up the clutter. Dust the corners. Company’s comin’! So make your worship service user friendly by: • keeping the prayer list short and focused, • eliminating any announcement that does not directly impact at least half of the people present (remember small group promotion needs to be done in the small group not in the large group setting), • starting on time, • eliminating the dead time in the service, • preaching a positive message of hope and resurrection!
5 — Use the power of focus.
Concentrate your effort. Learn to do a few things and do them well! Focus on a few special days. Focus on one or two styles of worship and master them. Focus on the family connection. Research continues to show that the most effective network we have to reach people is in the family arena (see Thom Rainer’s Surprising Insights from the Unchurched). Develop a list of family members who should be part of your church with the rest of their family. Then be sure someone from the family invites them! Focus on recent visitors. What has happened to those visitor cards? What has already been done with and to the folks who have been guests in the last six months? Who are they? Where are they attending church now? What do you need to do to get them to attend this Easter? Focus on the larger congregation. If your church has an average attendance of 50 you probably have at least 100 people who are part of your larger congregation. The larger your church becomes the broader is its larger congregation of folks who attend infrequently but who do attend some. Keep a list for 6-12 weeks of all the folks who attend at least one of your services. Focus on increasing the frequency of attendance. If they attend once in 12 weeks, work with them until they attend twice. The unchurched population in America who become churched attend church several times in the year before they come to faith in Christ and become part of His Church! • Do I know the full extent of my larger congregation? • How can I know them better? • Would attendance registration during the worship service help? • Do I need a crew of volunteers or a paid secretary to help track attendance patterns?
6 — Pastors set the pace, but everyone needs to get involved!
If you don’t invite then your people will not invite. If you don’t share your faith then your people won’t share their faith. The unchurched who are seeking the church want brief but meaningful contact from the pastor. Develop a system that works in your location.
7 — Be user friendly!
Have some stranger visit your worship service and tell you how friendly the congregation was or wasn’t, how easy it was to follow the order of service, how clean the building really was or wasn’t, and how easy it was to find places in the building or how hard it was to do so. Get ready for company. Encourage your people to “Park in the back. Sit in the front. Move to the middle. Speak to those around you.”