Originally written for Shepherd of the Ridge Lutheran Church, apply these ideas to your local context.
Since I’ve been here, I’ve heard a lot of comments that people hope my presence here will somehow bring people back who’ve somehow slipped through the cracks, especially the younger (under 40) generations whom statistically we see less of at any given service.
What won’t work
Having a younger pastor will not suddenly encourage most absent members to suddenly be present. Most of them don’t even know how old I am, and my generation, in many ways, is the “What’s your point?” generation. Why should they care whether I’m young? Is 37 even all that young? What does that mean to them?
Contemporary services are seen by many churches as a panacea for waning attendance and the need for evangelism, but very few people choose to attend or join a church based on its service style. Both traditional and contemporary styles have pros and cons, and usually, people care more about the people in a church than the service. Yes, I plan to experiment with our service format a bit, starting September 9 & 13, but this is more for the benefit of those already here than those outside. Making the service visitor-friendly is mostly about the format of our worship folder, which we’re busy tweaking each week, and we value your input.
What will help
In a town our size, we need to be friendly without smothering. When you see someone you don’t know, go talk to them. Introduce yourself. Ask about their families, especially kids and grandkids. And really listen. Let them know you care without being nosy. If they’re single, ask what they like to do for fun or where they’re from. If they look slightly familiar or you’re not sure whether they’re members or visitors, say, “Hi, I’m ___. I’m drawing a blank on your name–should I know it?”
This is such common sense, but think about how often you’ve invited a friend to church. Offer to take them out for brunch afterward (which will give you a chance to see whether they have questions or comments about the service), and offer to drive if possible.
Leave a review! Our church is listed at the Google Local directory. Go there, and leave a review. Mention how long you’ve been a member and why you attend here or what you like about our congregation. If your kids are in our preschool, leave a review of the preschool at the same place. As that entry gets more reviews, and as we build our website, we will show up higher in searches and be easier to find when people look for a church in the area.
What will work
Remember that our goal is not to increase our service attendance. Yes, that’s a great way to share God’s love and engage souls with God’s Word, but it’s a strategy, not our ultimate goal. Our ultimate goal is more souls saved from hell, and the way that happens is by loving each other, loving those outside the church, and especially loving those we have the most difficulty loving, as they tend to need it the most.
So the key to accomplishing that mission is loving people. But remember that love is more than just a warm feeling. It means doing what you can to help others: body, mind, and soul. It means making personal sacrifices for the well-being of others. It means stepping outside your comfort zone, changing plans, and making the cross and empty tomb the center of everything you do.
Because that’s what Jesus did for us.