Why nothing seems to get people back to church

By ChristianWeek Columnist |

“People just aren’t committed like they used to be.”

Sometime ago I came across a satirical article from the site BabylonBee – “After 12 Years Of Quarterly Church Attendance, Parents Shocked By Daughter’s Lack Of Faith.”

The article humorously reveals an issue facing many churches today. I can’t tell you how many times I have had the conversation where someone talks about the fact that young people aren’t as committed as they once were. People aren’t coming to church like they did in decades past, and those left behind have started to notice. Many congregations are feeling older, thinner, and tired out. The future feels bleak. The studies tell us that the church is declining.

As a result, churches try any number of things to attract people to church. Youth group programs, revamped and modern music, renovated worship spaces, hip and cool pastors with tattoos and any number of other gimmicks they can use to bring people in.

But nothing seems to work. At least I haven’t heard of any churches successfully bringing back all the members who drifted away. And yet we keep at it, week after week, year after year, worrying about people who were once here. Our grand plans for revitalization is to try and appeal to people who have already chosen to leave. Sure, it works once in a while, but this is probably not a strategy for success.

Yet, while churches worry about those who were once there, we rarely take the time to understand what we are asking people to come back and commit to.

Commitment to church

A lot of sermons, bible studies, meetings, conferences, lectures, consultants, coaches and more have been spent analyzing and communicating the message that the social advantages of church that drove attendance in decades past no longer exist. It just isn’t the case anymore that good citizens born in a local church are expected to become good church members. Schools, work, neighbours, businesses, governments don’t do – society-at-large doesn’t do – our evangelism for us anymore.

Church isn’t an expected social commitment any longer.

Yet, almost always when we speak of getting people to start coming back to church, we say it just like that – ‘back to church.’ And the issue goes deeper to than that. So often when I ask church members what reason keeps them coming to church, there is almost always one things at to the top of the list: Church feels like family, church is a community.

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Comment: This seems to be an emerging theme in current perceptions. And it’s helpful. The points about no longer any societal pressure to join is a very accurate representation. The challenge then is to grapple with exactly how to evangelize to the extent that a community of faith can connect with those who are (out there) looking for Jesus … in community.

Any thoughts on this? Could be worth some discussion. Glenn


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2 Comments, RSS

  • J.D. Woods

    says on:
    17 June 2017 at 4:16 PM

    Been reading some stuff lately which suggests it’s not what you DO that will attract people, but what you ARE. However, that begs the question, if you ARE a Christian, what do you DO? Oh dear!

    • Father Glenn

      says on:
      18 June 2017 at 5:27 AM

      Interesting observation.

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