Most conversations about church communications focus on two groups: New visitors, whom the church hopes to transform into members with sincere, friendly messaging and outreach, and committed members, who need updates on events, schedule changes, and general church life.
There is a third, less obvious group. They may be regular attendees or even members. They may have attended services for weeks, or even years. For one reason or another, their attendance slides and they stop showing up. Their absence may go unnoticed and soon, they are lost forever.
Think of the parable of the lost sheep in Luke 15. Just as a good shepherd would leave ninety-nine sheep behind to bring back one stray lamb, wandering members require special care.
Addressing this problem is often referred to as “closing the back door.” The most common, underlying cause is simple: they don’t feel connected to the church.
There are many ways to stop membership slide, but nothing is more important—or effective—than the personal connections that meaningful, one-on-one interaction can provide. However, technology can also help churches stop the slide. Automated messaging systems like the One Call Now service offer a variety of communication options.
Here are a few ideas to help reach out to a straying flock:
To guide people back to church, you have to know who has begun to stray. Track attendance and take note of attendance patterns. When the information is gathered, implement a system for reaching out. For example, send a phone message to members who have been absent from worship for three consecutive weeks. Prompt follow-up to absences tells members that their presence matters.
MAKE IT PERSONAL.
An automated message is not the best way to bond with people who are already feeling a lack of authentic engagement. Instead, send a personally recorded voice message from a pastor or outreach minister. Personalized messages from leaders of smaller groups, such as a Sunday school class or a choir, may also be meaningful and welcomed.
INVITE PEOPLE TO ATTEND SPECIFIC EVENTS.
An invitation to an upcoming event may garner interest. It may be as simple as sharing the topic of next week’s sermon, announcing a musical performance, or an invitation to participate in a volunteer project. More appealing invitations may tempt them to return.
ASK FOR FEEDBACK.
Members sliding away need to know that their opinions matter. Let them know you value their voices with messages that require a response. Make it simple by asking them to respond to a poll by text message, or confirm that a message has been received.
Technology can’t do all of the work, of course. When it comes to tending a flock, a kind word, a hug, or an offering of prayer works wonders. The fact remains, however, that we’re all strapped for time. Efficient, automated communications can pick up where you leave off. Using a messaging system like One Call Now makes it easy for you send phone, text, and email messages; communicate to specific groups; conduct polls; and get responses.
Staying in touch is the best way to keep your congregation close and turn occasional attendees into committed, lifelong members. Pay attention to your sheep that go astray—as well as the faithful ninety-nine—and you’ll keep your members off the slide.