Churches are in various stages of re-gathering.
It feels like the next few months will be a season of challenge, potential and renewal like we haven’t seen in a long time.
But there are some members who won’t come back for a while and others who don’t ever plan to come back to church again.
There’s never been a season without some church departures, but this one is likely to be steeper than most.
The question is “why?”
Why are some people not planning to come back to church? And is there anything we can do about it?
I plan to address the first question in this article, and the second question in an upcoming article, 7 Ways To Reach The People Who Aren’t Coming Back To Church. This is also a follow-up to my previous article, “Will The Congregation Come Back?” Should Not Be Our Biggest Concern (6 Better Questions).
1. They got out of the habit
Yes, church attendance was as much about habit as faith for a lot of folks.
Some of them have really missed it and are realizing how much the fellowship of the church actually means to them, so they’ll be coming back with a renewed commitment to faith and to their local congregation.
But for others, the momentum of weekly attendance has given way to the inertia of staying at home. They traded one Sunday morning habit for another.
2. They haven’t missed it
Some people didn’t feel connected to the church or the people in it, even when they were attending regularly. So they haven’t experienced the sense of loss or the desire to gather again that many of us have felt so deeply.
Many have simply replaced church attendance with other interests, like outdoor activities, watching church online, or just sleeping in.
Instead of labeling absentees as shallow or backslidden, we need to ask ourselves “what can we do to re-engage them on a deeper, more enduring level?”
3. This break gave them the excuse they were waiting for
Not everyone who has been attending church has been contributing to it or getting something from it. Some have simply endured it.
We need to assess the reasons for this starting with we, the church, can do better.
4. They’re still at risk, health-wise
There are those with underlying health issues who will need to stay at home long after most of us are back to a regular schedule.
Don’t forget them. They’ll need us now, more than ever.
There’s been a lot to be afraid of in the past year. We don’t overcome those fears at the same pace.
People in fear need patience, love and hope, not ridicule and condemnation.
6. The church hasn’t reached out to them
Most pastors and churches have worked very hard to make sure everyone was regularly contacted when we couldn’t meet together.
But even in the best of circumstances, someone will get missed. That may have led them to a deeper sense of disconnection than they felt previously, which will make it harder for them to re-engage.
7. We haven’t given them a compelling reason to show up in person
Online church has come of age during this crisis. Our church started doing it and we’ll keep doing it.
This will lead a few people to ask, “If online church is working, why should I show up?”
This attitude doesn’t negate the value of online church. If you’re doing it well, far more people will be inspired to come by watching your online service than will be demotivated to stay at home. And if you’re not doing it well … then they’re not staying home because of it, either.
When we regather for worship we need to make sure people get to experience something in person that they can’t get online.
- The personal touch
- Deeper relationships
- Engaging worship
- An opportunity to bless others
These are just some of the ways we can connect people to Jesus and each other in an in-person worship service.
For more about this, check out my follow-up article, 7 Ways To Reach The People Who Aren’t Coming Back To Church (specifically, point #2).
These are some of the issues I’ve seen. But I know this list is not exhaustive.
If you’ve seen other reasons that people aren’t coming back to church, let me know in the comments.
But don’t worry, it’s not all bad news.
In my follow-up article, I offer some hopeful responses with, 7 Ways To Reach The People Who Aren’t Coming Back To Church.
(Photo by Nadine Shaabana | Unsplash)