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What All Church Leaders Need to Know About Waning Church Attendance

Photo of a church taken from the vantage of sitting on a wooden pew looking down a row of other pews.
Category - Religion
by Lisa Eifert on September 11th, 2017

Earlier this month thousands of churches across the country participated in “National Back to Church Sunday.” Since its inaugural observation six years ago, this massive outreach effort has encouraged millions of communities’ members to rejoin their neighbors, friends and loved ones in weekly worship. Let’s take a closer look at the campaign, along with highlighting why new communication strategies are in order when it comes to connecting with their congregations.

About National Back to Church Sunday

National Back to Church Sunday debuted in 2010 with 600 participating churches. Since then, the movement has grown to comprise just under 30,000 churches throughout the United States. As the country’s largest community-based church outreach initiative, the campaign aims to reach people who grew up without religious exposure as well as to re-engage people who, despite a foundation of faith, have since fallen away.

Why It Matters

Churches have good reason to amp up their efforts to draw in worshippers, according to the most recent data on the subject from the Pew Research Center. In the decade between 2003 and 2013, the number of people who responded that they seldom or never went to church increased from 25 percent to 30 percent. Meanwhile, the share of people attending weekly services dropped from just under 40 percent to 37 percent.

And while these numbers may not appear particularly significant on paper, they speak to a larger trend which threatens the future of worship in this country. Even worse? Evidence suggests that church attendance is even lower than revealed by these figures due to self-reporting inconsistencies.

Reversing the Trend

Think you can write off the problem of waning church attendance to the growing number of religiously unaffiliated people? Think again. Evidence reveals that even people who consider religion to be an important part of their lives are passing on church. And while factors like practical difficulties, health problems, and disagreements with church beliefs do enter the equation for these people, another issues consistently rises to the surface: The belief that going to church is simply not important.

What You Can Do

According to a press release, National Back to Church Sunday was initiated based on research revealing that while 82 percent of people said they’d attend church if they were invited by someone they knew, just two percent of church members were actively extending invitations. Given this information combined with Pew’s findings, the call for church leaders to reach out to parishioners is strong.

But reaching out alone is not enough. Churches must also endeavor to reach each diverse, multigenerational member in the most effective and efficient way. And while bulletins still have their time and place for some congregants, they completely miss the mark for many others—particularly when you factor in the techno-centric nature of our mobile society.

All of which begs the question: How you can leverage technology to better engage your congregants with a compelling message?

Download One Call Now’s “Can Technology be the Answer to Better Church Communications?” for an in-depth analysis of the increasingly important role of technology in church communications.