People Aren’t As Loyal to Their Church Anymore – Good For Them

This is a good signBrand loyalty is dead.

Good riddance.

The so-called “good old days” when a person committed to a church, then stuck with it no matter what, have come to an end. Many churches just don’t know it yet.

Maybe that’s why I keep hearing ministers harping on the same old complaints. “My church can’t get good volunteers any more!” “People aren’t as faithful as they used to be.” And, my personal [ahem] favorite, “What’s wrong with this generation? You can’t count on them for anything.”

If those complaints sound familiar (as in, you’ve heard them come from your own mouth) please take this in the way I’m giving it – with all the love in my heart.

Stop whining about people’s lack of commitment to your church and give them something worth committing to!

People shouldn’t be committed to something if it isn’t worth being committed to!


Why I’m Glad Brand Loyalty Is Dead

For too many years, brand loyalty allowed mediocrity to survive and thrive. 

As an example of what could happen to the church, here’s how an over-reliance on brand loyalty nearly killed the US auto industry.

In my grandfather’s era, the man of the house (always the man) would decide he was a “Ford man” (or Chevy, etc), and no one in the family would drive anything else. Later, as German and Japanese imports started arriving, that brand loyalty broadened to American vehicles.

Domestic auto manufacturers were aware of that loyalty. It made them arrogant. So they rejected crazy new “foreign” ideas like smaller cars, fuel-efficiency and lower prices. They kept making cars the way they’d always made them – big, expensive, inefficient and ugly.

When the next generation came of age, they felt no brand loyalty and bought the smaller, cheaper, more reliable, fun-looking, non-US cars.

American car manufacturers lost massive market share and nearly killed an entire industry because they relied on brand loyalty instead of doing their job better.

The institutional church today is like the US auto industry of the 1970s. We’re relying too heavily on people’s loyalty to a church format. A format that is already DOA. And, like the US auto industry, we refuse to see it.

Because we hold on to the false notion that people should want to do church the way we’ve always done it, we often fail to offer them a better, more valuable church experience.


What Will People Be Loyal To?

While people’s commitment to brands has changed, human nature hasn’t. People will commit to your church for the same two reasons they’ve always committed to anything.


1. Something Worth Committing To

Loyalty to a worship style, a building, a denomination or a pastor is a poor substitute for being committed to Jesus. But, too often, one has been mistaken for the other.

We need to stop asking people to commit to things they don’t care about – and probably shouldn’t care about. And give them something and someone they want to care about.

People want to be challenged. Believers want to be discipled. Everyone wants a cause worth living for and a person worth dying for.

Jesus is worth committing to. Anything less, and you might as well stay in bed.

Doing church better isn’t about serving people’s every whim and reinforcing the unbiblical, consumer-oriented church paradigm. That’s a big part of the old-school model that is dying out.

It’s also not about adding an additional burden to my already overworked peers in pastoral ministry. Quite the opposite. Doing this won’t add an additional burden, it will relieve and re-energize us.

There’s nothing harder on a pastor than a church half-filled with half-awake, half-committed people. And nothing will encourage and energize us more than a church full of passionate, worshipful, ministry-oriented Jesus-followers.


2. A Reasonable Path to Commitment

Netflix has figured this out. They offer an almost limitless selection of movie and TV entertainment at one low, monthly price, on any device, at the touch of a button.

Last year they produced House of Cards, their first-ever original series, and they shocked the entertainment industry by offering the entire season all at once. People didn’t have to wait to see the next episode any more. They could watch it whenever and wherever they wanted, including binge-watching the entire series in one sitting if they felt like it. And they did.

Because of this, a younger couple is more likely to have a Netflix account than a cable subscription. They’re loyalty is just as strong, but it’s changed.

If Netflix can get people to commit to marathoning a TV show, the church should be able to get people to commit to something of eternally greater value. But we’re missing out on this opportunity for one simple reason.

People can’t see the church’s true value when we keep wrapping it in outdated methods.

We need to understand out what Netflix has figured out. People in your neighborhood commit differently now than they did 20 years ago – even 10 years ago. We need to find out how people in our communities make commitments, then give them the chance to commit to something of value in way that matches their new reality.


What Now?

Do you know the people in your neighborhood? No, not just the church people. The non-church people. Do you have any idea what they commit to and why?

If you don’t, it’s past time to find out. This is not a church numbers game we’re playing. People’s lives and eternities are at stake.

This subject is important enough to keep the conversation going. For more on this subject, read 7 Steps to Start Becoming a Church People Want to Commit To.


So what do you think? What can we do to help people see the church as something worth committing to?

We want to hear from you. Yes, you!
Enter your comment right below this post and get in on the conversation.

(This a Good Sign photo from danisabella • Flickr • Creative Commons license)

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2 thoughts on “People Aren’t As Loyal to Their Church Anymore – Good For Them”

  1. Oh, my, yes, yes. The women in our small church who serve during VBS are SO over it. But the (male, out of touch as the day is long) elder who is stuck in 1970 in every way is beating them over the head about it. We had twice as many workers as children last year. There has to be a paradigm shift SOON or we won’t survive.

  2. Pingback: When People Leave:

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