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Wednesday, 30 May 2018

How to improve church attendance in 5 easy steps



Have you ever wanted a foolproof way to improve church attendance in no time flat?

Perhaps you've found attendance falling and you've decided to take extreme and direct action to solve the problem.

If you want to fill your church and send your attendance figures skyrocketing and you are willing to sell out all that you are then read on...here are 5 guaranteed ways to fill your church week in, week out...

The 5 Steps:
1) Replace hymns with pop music
2) replace your sermon with the latest movies and sporting events
3) undercut the local bars by selling cheap alcohol
4) replace the sanctuary with a casino
5) Remove anything remotely religious from the building we don't want to put people off...

Ok so all of that is a bit tongue in cheek; but I wonder if sometimes it's not close to the truth... we measure success and effectiveness by how many people come through the door, or sign up as members or join our programs...now obviously I understand why we use the measures of success...I get that these are helpful things and are obvious ways to keep track of how we're doing...but really they are only one small part of the story...

If our ambition is simply to get people through the door, then no problem...follow the measures above and people will flock to your church...but that's not really the point is it?

Our mission
Our mission is to build the kingdom, not to build a social club...our ambition and the measure of our success should be changed lives and closer walks with God...now obviously these are highly personal things and not really measurable...at least not in the way we usually measure things.

Christ however, as we know measures things in a different way:

"By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?" - Matthew 7:16

We have to decide what standard we are going to use... whether we will let our own need for approval and measuring of success or whether we will listen to what God wants us to do and measure success His way...or better yet; don't measure success, just be faithful to God's purposes, promises and mission....a bit of a stretch with our human need for approval but definitely something to aim for at least...

Ok so before I get carried away let's back track a bit... there's is nothing wrong with tracking figures, seeing what works, what events or programs are more successful than others...to a point...the danger comes when we put more trust in the figures themselves and our own good ideas and pride that we lose track of who we are and who God wants us to be. If this happens we end up trusting in ourselves and congratulating ourselves and we begin to worship ourselves and our figures, forgetting to listen to God... rejecting ideas because of those age old Christian excuses 'we've never done it that way' 'we've already tried that' 'that's not the way we do things' and so on...

Not the best example!
This is a really dangerous road to travel down...the best example I could think of from scripture is 1 Chronicles 21... King David takes a census:

"Satan rose up against Israel and incited David to take a census of Israel. So David said to Joab and the commanders of the troops, “Go and count the Israelites from Beersheba to Dan. Then report back to me so that I may know how many there are.”
But Joab replied, “May the Lord multiply his troops a hundred times over. My Lord the king, are they not all my lord’s subjects? Why does my lord want to do this? Why should he bring guilt on Israel?”
The king’s word, however, overruled Joab; so Joab left and went throughout Israel and then came back to Jerusalem. Joab reported the number of the fighting men to David: In all Israel there were one million one hundred thousand men who could handle a sword, including four hundred and seventy thousand in Judah.
But Joab did not include Levi and Benjamin in the numbering, because the king’s command was repulsive to him."

On the face of it, taking a census seems a pretty reasonable thing for a king to do... taking stock of your strengths and weaknesses, resources, making sure the nation is defended adequately, that it's financially secure etc.
The problem as usual is the motivation... this is what ultimately led to David's punishment... David was motivated by pride; he wanted to take the census to satisfy his own ego, to prove to himself how great he was, how powerful and secure... rather than relying on God for his security and confidence.

It's so easy for us to fall into this same trap... when we want to start a new program or organise an event  how often do we start by looking at our resources, efficiency, what people want or expect from us...as I said earlier this in itself is not a bad thing... it's often responsible and necessary but we have to make sure we don't remove God from the equation and forget to prioritise His will over our own...we must always be ready and willing to hear and act on God's voice rather than our own.

So what now?
Hearing God's voice is not always easy... learning to trust Him above our own thoughts, worries, concerns and 'practical' considerations is even harder...but not impossible... That's what discipleship is all about!

Christianity is not about popularity or doing what the world expects of us... It's about connecting to God and doing what He expects of us however strange and counter cultural that might be... that doesn't mean we shouldn't grow, move with the times and become the welcoming, servant hearted, forgiving and loving Church we can be...but we should do this not because the world tells us to but because God leads us and calls us to be better and more like Him than we are.

Check out this old post about what the Church really is, and what it should be:
'The Church is...'

And what the Church, in particular my own church, means to me:
'A Place to call home'

All this aside...if you just want to fill your church building and get some more money in the weekly offering... maybe you should refer to the tips at the start of this post, start a social club and remove God from the equation...on the other hand if you're willing to trust God and put in the time and effort to build yourself and the kingdom then it's going to be a long road but worth it to become the renewed, faithful Church that it is God's call and our duty to become...


"Lord of the Church, we pray for our renewing:
Christ over all, our undivided aim;
Fire of the Spirit, burn for our enduring,
Wind of the Spirit, fan the living flame!
We turn to Christ amid our fear and failing,
The will that lacks the courage to be free,
The weary labours, all but unavailing,
To bring us nearer what a church should be."

- Salvation army songbook 817





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