MINISTRY OUTREACH: R E T E N T I O N BY RICK WARREN
Reach New People but Keep the Ones You Have Discover what plugs visitors into a church—and makes them want to stay
very church loses people. It’s a natural part of living in our current culture. Two to 3 percent will likely move away— more if you’re in an urban area. One or 2 percent will die. And some will just fade away and stop attending without connecting to another local body. Obviously these figures will vary depending on your local context. You can’t stop people from moving. You certainly can’t stop them from dying. But there is one group of people you can do something about. Some of the people who leave are people who started attending, became regular attendees or even members and then fell away within a few months because they never really became rooted. They simply didn’t stick. There are only two ways to experience net growth as a church: reach new people and keep the people you reach. You must focus on doing both of these. The biggest single difference between churches that are growing and churches that are struggling is that growing churches invite new people well. Promoting your church through advertising is a great idea, but most of the people who actually walk through the doors and experience what your church family is all about are people who were personally invited by a friend or family member. I believe social media is an extremely powerful medium for outreach because of its relational nature. With social media, the story of your church will spread from friend to friend, by natural referral. An overwhelming percentage of people who visit on a Sunday do so because of the personal invitation of a friend or family member. But most don’t actually join a church as a result of being invited by a friend. People join after they’ve listened to the preaching and the music, gotten involved in a small group or discovered something about your church that connected them more deeply. Getting the word out about your church and equipping attendees to invite is only half the equation. You must also focus on helping people stick long term, and the key is relationships. People will attend your church because of an invitation, or perhaps because of something they’ve seen or heard concerning your teaching or approach to community outreach. But people stay when they develop a deeper and more personal connection
to the body. They will come because they’ve been invited, but they will stay when they feel personally invested in at least two ways: hh They’ve developed closer friendships in a small group. hh They’ve devoted their time, talent and treasure to an area of ministry. Never confuse a crowd with a church. A crowd is not a church. A crowd can be turned into a church, but a crowd is not automatically a church. Purpose-driven churches are very intentional about moving people inward and outward at the same time. hh We move people inward from the community to the crowd by creating an inviting culture. hh We move people from the crowd to the congregation by asking them to commit to membership and by joining a small group. hh We help people in the congregation stay committed by developing the habits and disciplines of a disciple. hh We move committed people into our core by involving them in ministry to others. hh We send the core back into the community to reach others for Jesus. Your church members must be equipped to invite others to attend and to belong. And then to keep those who belong, the leaders of your church must work very hard on two particular tasks–plugging people into groups and connecting people in a ministry. The new attendees who will be part of your church a year or two from now are those who join a group and who join a team. After a big day, when you’ve had an enormous influx of visitors, it is vital to make it as easy as possible for people to know how to take the next steps of finding a small group and volunteering. We never move beyond the task of reaching new people, and we never give up the ministry of connecting people more deeply in relationships within the body of Christ. This is how churches grow.
“Never confuse a crowd with a church. A crowd is not a church.”
74 MinistryToday May // June 2016
Used with permission of the author. For more Ministry and Leadership insights from Pastor R i c k W a rr e n , go to pastors.com. Founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, Warren is author of the New York Times best-seller The Purpose Driven Life. His book The Purpose Driven Church was named one of the 100 Christian books that changed the 20th century.
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