Why do your Church Members leave?
Numbers of gifted persons and organizations have studied the phenomenon of the church “back door,” the metaphorical way describe people leaving the church. And there will always be the anticipated themes of relocation or personal crises.
But all the research studies return to one major theme to explain the exodus of church members: a sense of some need not being filled. In other words, these members have ideas of what a local congregation should provide for them, and they leave because those provisions have not been met.
Look at some of the direct quotes from exit interviews of people who left local congregations:
- “No one from my church visited me.”
- “I was not about to support the building program they wanted.”
- “I was out two weeks, and no one called me.”
- “They moved the times of the worship services, and it messed up my schedule.”
I don’t think this is a surprise.
Lack of engagement is the biggest reason for church members leaving.
So, how do you increase the member engagement? Pastors and church leaders have a number of other things to do. How do you take out time for communicating with members?
Ok, let’s talk practical. I have been working very closely with church leaders of various churches across the globe. Here are my thoughts. I will share the traditional approaches that you might be following but more importantly, I will share my recommended approach that works today.
Onboarding New Members
- Send a welcome letter
- Request new members to fill a form with their details and interests. The flipside to this is that you’ll always have a challenge in filing and maintaining these records till you digitize these records
What works today
- Self-service – Let members complete a form digitally via a google form or via a church mobile app. This will save you lot of time and paper plus you get accurate information. Make sure you capture the interests of the new members
- Segment the members – Basis their interests so you can update them about the groups and ministries they will be interested in
- 3 touch-points each week – Make sure you have 3 touch points with the members every week. How do you do that if members come to the church only once on average? Well, you have to increase the number of channels. Leverage your Facebook page or get a mobile app for your church (More tips on this later. How to get a mobile app for free and how can your volunteers manage the app for you)
- Ask for feedback – On the service, the pastors, and their first impressions of the church. Some people are more comfortable providing truthful information anonymously, so consider using a survey and asking them to complete it (How do you do surveys without spending a tonne of time on it? More on the solutions later but for now it’s important to note that when you ask for feedback, you engage your members better and the feel valued)
- Newcomer dinners – These monthly or so gatherings are an opportunity for guests to meet other established parishioners and fellow newcomers in a relaxed setting. Building this fellowship makes it easier for newcomers to return next Sunday knowing they’ll see some familiar faces.
Share relevant content
Content is King. Why? Content can be consumed offline by members. Content gives you an opportunity to demonstrate thought leadership. You can increase your engagement levels by sharing the right content with your members.
- Providing spiritual handbooks to the members
- Quotes displayed outside the church on bulletin board
- Press Releases – Newspapers, local TV stations, and radio stations accept press releases detailing information about forthcoming events.
- Flyers/Handouts –Simple flyers, postcards, or brochures are promotion option.
What works today
Go-Green – You don’t really need print and paper today. Check with your church members and most likely they are already on Facebook and have email ids and that means digital content will work as good if not better than paper-based content.
- E-books are shared online with the members via emails or on your smartphone app
- Images and videos of mass and baptism are shared on the smartphone app or church’s facebook page
- Quotes and verses of bible are shared online via text message or your smartphone app
- Social Media presence such as Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube
*Tip – If you have a digital tool such as an app, you can multiply the effect of content by letting leaders, volunteers, and ministries manage the content for their groups. Digital tools are usually much cheaper and hence unlike paper-based communication, the costs don’t shoot up when you increase the volume of messages.
Boosting Church Attendance and new members
- Get existing churchgoers to invite friends and neighbors
- Offer an additional, more convenient time
- Be visible in the neighborhood
What works today
- Invite, don’t assume – Send a text message or a notification on the church app “Next week we’ll be (fill in the blank) and we’d love for you to join us.”
- Teach in series – Teaching in 3 to 10-week message series gives people something to look forward to. Plus, it gives you something new to feature every month or two.
- Sponsor cultural events such as movies, discussions, dances, and concerts – Attract the neighborhood to participate in non-threatening, fun events at your church. Your neighbors will come for the entertainment and some will come back on Sundays.
*Tip – In one of the churches I worked with, we setup a church app and encouraged existing members to invite their friends, family and neighbor to the church app as well. When the new guests joined the app, they could see the photos and videos from previous events, more information about the church, content shared by volunteers and leaders. It was amazing how we got so many new members week on week by this strategy.
- Offering envelopes inside every bulletin at church
- Donation box
- Collecting cheques
What works today
- Online Giving– It is now more convenient for your members to make online payments such as via Paypal. Hence, you should have online giving option on your website
- Giving via App – Possibly the best option because the app lets you send notifications to your members as well. Hence, the members can choose the cause they would like to support. I have worked in this area quite a bit and have covered a solution for you towards the end of this article
The teenage years are a crucial period in a person’s life. It’s important that as the church, we are playing a part in influencing the lives of teenagers, especially in a society where identity, relationships, and purpose are some of the prevalent issues young people are facing. This is where youth ministry comes in.
Starting to actively reach the youth in your community is an important endeavor for any local church to undertake.
- Create safe space
- Go to the youth (high schools and universities – these are the places where you are guaranteed to find them)
- Don’t outsource the bad work. Don’t make the youth do stuff that nobody wants to do
What works today
- Create an identity – Don’t underestimate the power of creating an identity in your youth ministry. There’s something powerful about having an identity because it allows youth to take ownership of it. It becomes who are they are and is something they can identify themselves with. Having the youth take ownership of it is key because if it’s truly home to them, they’ll naturally and organically bring their friends to it.
- Technology – This is the Facebook generation and it is important that you have a church app and Facebook page that the youth can relate to in terms of their preferred channel of communication. In fact, you might want to make them the owners for technology in the church.
Now coming to the tools that can help you engage your members better.
There are many options out there. I would recommend that you don’t get into a decision paralysis and look that can happen given that the different solutions offer different features and prices.
My recommendation is Vemy.
Disclaimer – I am the brain behind Vemy. I have taken all my learnings and applied those to Vemy.
I am not trying to sell Vemy to you at all. In fact, Vemy is Free for life. Here is a quick list of features
- On-boarding members via the mobile app
- Invite referrals (members can invite friends and family)
- Members detail software (so details are never lost and you don’t need paperwork/files anymore)
- Sending unlimited messages to your members (either to everyone or to a certain group)
- Share sermons, podcasts, and videos
- Each ministry can manage their own communication messages to members
- Share Church calendar
- Giving via the mobile app
- Social media integration
- Share newsletters, photos
- Conduct surveys with one click
If you are interested in knowing more about Vemy or seeing the demo videos, head over to www.vemy.co/features
Listen to what Pastor Charles had to say about Vemy.
Want to have a chat with me? Send me an email at email@example.com or Whatsapp me at +61 421 782 595. I don’t hard-sell Vemy. In fact, Vemy is used by number of other organizations including schools and corporate as it is a great communication and engagement tool. Feel free to have a chat with me on anything related to communications and technology.
My name is Kunal Sehgal, and I am a resident of Sydney, Australia. Over the last few years, I have worked extensively with church leaders to help them leverage the power of technology, specifically around communication and member engagement. I am a thought leader in the technology space and have consulted with top companies in the world such as Capgemini, Infosys, Barclays, Westpac, Optus and Woolworths.
I am available for a quick 10 minutes consultation, and I don’t charge anything for it. If you would like to get in touch with me, please drop a line to firstname.lastname@example.org