|Having pastored for many years, like almost every Pastor, news stories of a decline in church attendance, is devastating. I was attending church before I was born. Mom was the Pastor's wife.
During my years as a Hospital Chaplain, much of that in the Emergency Room and Intensive Care, on a daily basis I was with Baptists, Methodists, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Pentecostals, Muslims, Hindus, Catholics. Also with those who had no religious background or preference whatsoever.
I enjoyed making room visits; meeting new people, encouraging those who were discouraged. Many were facing extremely difficult surgery or uncertainty as they were waiting for a diagnosis. As they felt comfortable, they poured their heart out to me.
Many times a day, someone would say, "Thank you Chaplain for stopping to see me." In about 80 percent of the time, REGARDLESS their church affiliation, their next statement was, "I USED TO attend church but..."
Catholics would say, "I should go to Mass more often, but it has been a long time." Muslims would say, "I'm not involved like I once was." So the decline in attendance is no evil plot against we conservative, Bible-believing, Christ-honoring folk.
They did not launch into a bunch of negative comments against God, the Church or the Pastor. For the most part, they had just WANDERED away from regular church attendance. That is EASY to do.
For we preachers, Sunday is the biggest day of our week. We have prayed, planned and studied for it all week. Much of our status in the organization, among our fellow ministers, and sometimes the feeling about our success or not, depends on the turnout on Sunday.
For members, Sunday is often their day off from work. That definitely puts a different feel to the day for them. It is often when they can take care of things they have been putting off, like going to see Grandma in another state.
No doubt there are some people upset at God and church, but again, most of them had just WANDERED away; got involved in other things that takes up their time.
In the Parable of the "Lost Sheep," (Matthew 18:12-14), there is no indication the sheep hated the Shepherd or disliked the Sheep Fold. It had just wandered away. Other things had captured its attention and time.
The sheep that wandered away did not come looking for the Shepherd. It was the concerned Shepherd who went looking for the sheep. The Shepherd INITIATED the search.
Churches must continuously work to keep track of those who have wandered away; cards, texts, notes, "Just thinking of you." No guilt trips, angry tirades about those awful unfaithful people. Most people don't want to be around people who are angry or condescending to them.
USE DIFFERENT CONTACT METHODS
I think a mixture of contact methods is important. Emails and texts are OK but they have become so (YAWN) normal and non-impactful. Every now and then, mail them something; a First Class Postage handwritten note. Sign it.
They have to personally touch and handle what they receive in the mail. Also, people are reluctant to discard in the trash what they get in the mail from their church.
Since women usually pick up the mail and take time to look through it, gear what you mail, to them; family items, events and activities for children.
Something else I often heard from patients. "I've not been at church in a long time but I have never heard from anybody. I don't think my not being there matters to them."
THE CHANGE IN THINKING
People know they can make direct contact with God at home, in their car, on the back porch or while fishing like the Disciples of Jesus did. One of the big changes in people's thinking today, is they no longer view the church building as their CENTER of contact with God.
When we quote "Forsake not the assembling of ourselves together" (Hebrews 10:25), they already know Matthew 18:20. "Where two or three or gathered together in my Name, there I will be also."
So, when they watch Charles Stanley, David Jeremiah or Billy Graham Crusade reruns, they feel the command "not forsaking the assembling" has been met. It really is a challenge for churches.
We don't own people. They only come when we have something to offer that is of interest or meaning to them. We preachers are exactly the same. We don't attend events or functions that have little or no meaning to us. A not-so-well known fact is, that when preachers are not pastoring, they too find it much easier to find other things to do instead of church.
It doesn't mean those preachers have "gone back on God."
WE ARE THE INITIATORS
In many cases, the "meaning" for people is not the event or activity. It may be that they simply want to "feel" connected. INITIATE the connection. Don't wait for them to get connected. The blessing of initiating contact has been placed upon us.
"Go ye into all the world..." We are the initiators of contact.
Keep those who have wandered away, on the contact list. Don't lecture them about their absence, but just keep your Church before them. Set up an Internet APP for your church where you can send what is called "PUSH" notifications to their cell phone. Type a note, "push" one button and your note can be sent to everybody on your contact list.
Instead of appearing in their mailbox, it appears in their hand holding their cell phone.
YOUR REACH MUST EXCEED YOUR GRASP
Continuously build your contact list. In most cases, only a small percent of those contacted will respond.
HOW OFTEN have you watched David Jeremiah or another favorite religious broadcaster without responding to them? Not responding does not mean you dislike them. So, even though you may not immediately hear from those with whom you are in contact, keep building your contact list. Do what you can until you can do what you want.
DON'T FLOOD them with messages. They will come to resent hearing from you. However, at least every two weeks, let them know that you and your church are still thinking of them.
When they are hurting; hospital, bad diagnosis, family problems, heart breaking news, divorce, death in family, you may hear from them.
The largest room in the world is the room for improvement.
Last edited by doyle on 4/7/21 9:34 am; edited 3 times in total
4/3/21 11:01 pm