If you go to a small or struggling church (or any church for that matter), you’ve probably asked yourself, perhaps frequently, why more people (or anyone at all) aren’t coming to your church. Don’t worry, you aren’t alone. Depending on who you ask, you’ll hear that about 90% of churches aren’t growing. Many churches are about to die because of self-inflicted wounds and we must do all that we can to prevent such demise. There are quite a few reasons for this but here are 9 specific reasons why many churches have stopped growing and why more people aren’t coming to your church – even if you have sound doctrine, loving members, and good intentions (unfortunately, these things aren’t enough in our culture to connect with people).
1. You aren’t inviting them
A survey conducted several years ago revealed that 82% of unchurched people were “at least somewhat likely” to go with a friend to church if they were invited. Another survey found that only 21% of church members invite someone to church in a given year, and only 2% (yes, that is a real statistic) invite an unchurched person to church. There is a very good chance of someone attending church with you if you would only ask. Train yourself and the people in your church to ACTUALLY invite people into your community of believers; to actually invite someone to church on a Sunday morning or to a small group or event of some kind. One of the main reasons, perhaps the reason more people don’t come is because your church isn’t inviting them.
2. You aren’t praying for them
Prayer must be the heart and soul of every church’s evangelism strategy. Maybe no one is showing up to the things your pour so much thought, time, and money into because you haven’t poured out any prayer. Never stop praying that God would bring people to your church and never stop living out those prayers by inviting people yourself.
3. Your members are embarrassed of your church
“My church? No way. People love our church!” Yeah…maybe they do. Maybe they love it for themselves and their family, but the reason they don’t invite people is because they are embarrassed and afraid that it might do more harm than good to invite an unchurched friend or family member to your church. Some of your most committed and invested members might not be inviting anyone because they are embarrassed of some (or several) parts of your church. Some of the reasons they might be embarrassed are listed below. If your church members are embarrassed to invite someone, you’ve got a major problem that needs fixing.
4. They don’t know who you are
Some churches are simply not visible in any way, shape, or form. Their websites are 10 years outdated, they have no social media presence, their buildings are unseen, and there is no effort at “advertising” your church to the community. If people don’t know that you exist, where you are, and what you are like, then they will never visit your church. If your church building isn’t visible, find a way to make it stand out or ask the city about putting signs up guiding people to your building. If your website is outdated, FIX IT. My little church has about 15x more people look at our website every month than come through our doors – your website is your first impression. Make sure people know that you exist, where you meet, and what you’re all about – especially online.
5. It isn’t the culture anymore
People may not be coming to your church simply because less people are going to church than ever before. It used to be that Americans who didn’t go to church had a feeling that they should, but didn’t for some reason, and felt guilt later. That is not the case today. There isn’t much we can do about this one on a grand scale, but people may not be coming to your church at least partially because fewer people are going to church in general.
6. Your church is all for you, not them
Many small, struggling churches are the way that they are because they have ceased to become focused on (or even aware of) visitors and unchurched people. No one wants to come to a church where they feel like an outsider. If you want your church to reach people, especially non-believers, then you must shift the focus from your member’s wants, needs, and preferences to the needs of the unchurched. Ditch the church lingo, stop referring to locations as “next to Mike’s classroom” when a visitor asks for the bathroom, and make some changes in your Sunday morning services that show your focus is on reaching people and connecting with new visitors, not on maintaining status quo.
7. You’re stuck in the past
A side effect of being an internally focused church is often falling quickly behind the times. I don’t just mean music, though that is part of it. I mean music, technology, social media, outreach methods, preaching styles, small group efforts, etc. Spend some time evaluating and take a good, honest look at your church and decide if there might be aspects of your church that are stuck in the past. People want to be part of a church that demonstrates relevancy and modernity without sacrificing truths and core traditions. Be willing to make some updates to your church life if you want to connect with the people of today.
8. You offer little or nothing for kids & students
Whether you like it or not, many churches ride on their children and youth ministries. Young adults are looking for a community where they can start and raise a family. Young families are looking for places where their children’s needs will be met. Middle age families are looking for places where their teens can be part of a strong youth ministry. In other words, adults age 22-50 are usually looking for a church that can meet the needs of their future and current children. Churches without strong children and youth ministries will have a hard time drawing people, especially families.
9. Your worship service isn’t connecting with them
In some cases, this might be putting it gently. Everyone is different and everyone has their own preferences and ideas about how a worship service should be done. But the fact is that music should be modern, engaging, prepared, and as professionally done as possible. Preaching should be interesting, practical, theological, and interactive. Giving should be emphasized, but not beaten to death. Fellowship should be natural and enjoyable, not weird and forced. People are looking for a worship service that connects with them. They aren’t necessarily looking for a recording artist worship leader and a conference speaking caliber pastor – they are just looking for Sunday services that connect with them personally and build them up in their spiritual lives. I know it might not be pleasant if you are a pastor or church leader reading this, but you need to open your mind to the possibility that people are just not connecting with your music, your preaching, or any other part of the service.
There are many more reasons and churches/pastors should take a good hard look at themselves. Way too many churches are dying deaths that could have been prevented. Self-inflicted wounds are causing church after church to close their doors because they have completely failed to connect with people. We must do all that we can, including giving ourselves the courtesy of an honest evaluation, in order to prevent more churches from perishing unnecessarily.
What thoughts do you have? What else would you add to this list?