It’s no secret that people attend church more sporadically today. Back in the mid 90’s, George Barna predicted that within a decade, committed Christians would attend weekend services twice a month. I remember scoffing at that idea, but now it’s a reality. Today people often choose to miss weekend services and Bible study in lieu of their kids participating in a sports tournament; sometimes people simply take a Sunday off. Christians may tend to treat church like consumers instead of committed followers of Christ. How will we help them move from consumerism to commitment? There are no easy fixes, but consider how the following might help begin to turn the tide:
- Stress the benefits of weekly involvement at church. People may not think through the long-term consequences of their actions, so talk about the positive things that regular, weekly involvement at church does for them and their kids. Parents don’t want to raise a generation of kids who have a haphazard attitude about attending church, yet they are inadvertently teaching them to skip out on church if something “better” comes along. Help them think about what they are doing.
- Help people gradually get more involved. It’s unreasonable to think that people who have marginal commitments will make the leap to becoming regular attenders overnight. People may benefit from taking smaller steps of commitment, like committing to be an apprentice teacher who teaches occasionally; others may do well to commit to another class leadership role, or to serving as a greeter or someone who serves on the church’s security team on a regular basis.
- Teach the Scripture. We are challenged not to forsake our gathering together (Hebrews 10:25). I realize the context of this verse in the larger message of the book of Hebrews – people were being persecuted and some were abandoning the faith. Does missing one Sunday today put someone in the category of “forsaking the gathering together of ourselves”? Probably not. But what about a person who regularly misses attending church? Probably so. Don’t shy away from asking people obey the Scripture.
- Ask for higher level commitment. Sometimes we have not because we ask not. People may play “hookey” from church, but if you sit with them and explain why you need them to step up and serve, becoming more regular in their attendance, they may respond positively. Perhaps no one has asked them to be regular, so they’ve taken time away from church to focus on family and other interests. Show them how being at church is a better investment of their time and energy, and show them the difference they can make if they attend regularly.
- Reorient their attention to Christ. Perhaps this is the most important thing you can do. While the suggestions above could prove helpful, what the absent person really needs is to see that we gather together at church because we love God and are eternally grateful for Jesus’ sacrifice. Love and gratitude should motivate us to come together weekly with fellow believers as we celebrate our new life in Christ, and our new place in God’s “forever family.”
- Pray. As you discover families that are not attending your church regularly, pray for them. It may sound like a “Sunday School answer,” but prayer is effective. Call on your Heavenly Father to move His people to love Him more and to express that by their attendance.
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