I was recently asked my thoughts on helping a church with declining attendance.  The following is the advice I gave.

  1. Focus on I Corinthians 15:1-8 and become a Gospel Centered Church.  When churches take their eyes of Jesus they are in trouble.  Our message is what everyone longs for – hope and freedom.  What leaks first in declining attendance churches is the wonder and primacy of the cross.  I recommend to value clarity of articulation of the Gospel over good deeds.  In v.3 Jesus died.  In v.4 Jesus was resurrected. In v.5-8 He was seen by witnesses.  Growing churches and filled with Christians who view themselves as witnesses of the resurrected Jesus and what He has done in their lives. All they do is tell others what they have seen and experienced.
  2. Growing churches are led by growing leaders.  How is each member of the staff and point leadership teams growing?  Are their quiet times sweeter than a year ago?  What scriptures have they memorized recently?  What is a major prayer request God answered recently?  How have they seen God move recently in their area of ministry?  How is their personal walk with Jesus different than this same time one year ago?  When is the last time they shared the plan of salvation with someone?  What two books are they reading right now and what are they hoping to learn?  What are the last five books they read and how did they apply the learnings to their area of ministry?  What did they learn at Leadercast and how are they applying it?  What blogs are they reading and podcasts are they listening to and why?
  3. Understand The Role Of Momentum.  What does it look like?  When is the last time the church had it?  You must autopsy success.  Why did you have it?  What were the catalysts for positive momentum?  What were your behaviors and practices during a previous season of growth?  Why did momentum disappear?  If you don’t know the answer to these questions, you can’t get momentum back.  What is embedded in these thoughts is the willingness to change.
  4. Create an Invitation Culture.  Why should I take a risk and invite an unchurched friend to the service next week?  What will the message be about?  What can they expect?  How will it address the issues they are dealing with?  Are you doing something that makes it easy for me to invite people?  And if I do invite someone, are you expecting them to arrive from a programming and experience perspective?  If so, how?
  5. Make it easy for your people to serve.  People who invest their time and energy become owners of the mission and vision. Create easy on-ramps to low-maintenance, high-impact ministry.  People desperately want to do something significant with their life rather than sell widgets all week.  Then connect their area of service to eternal life change.  In other words, teach me how my service is transformational rather than transactional.
  6. Focus on the next generation by having incredible children’s and youth ministry.  If your children aren’t happy, nobody’s happy.

What is one thing you learned from this list which can help you reverse negative attendance trends?


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