Improving church attendance is essential if you want to grow a community and share the Lord's message with as many people as possible. Effectively, encouraging people to attend your sermons is all about learning how to communicate with them and keep them engaged. It's fair to say that many churches are a little outdated in this regard, opting for ideas that only target older members.
While there's nothing 'technically' wrong with sending out flyers or creating a weekly church bulletin, these ideas tend to neglect some younger generations. In essence, you need ideas that capture the wider audience and bring existing members back to your church while also encouraging new people to join.
According to a 2019 survey, only 23% of respondents attended church every week. Imagine you have a church with 100 members; this suggests that only 23 of them will be there every week. You need to get these numbers up a lot higher, and there are plenty of ways to do just that.
Use a mass messaging service
First, you need to utilize a mass messaging service to reach out to all of your members. At Text-Em-All, we provide a platform that will help church leaders build a more connected church congregation. With our help, you can increase church attendance in no time at all.
How will a mass messaging service work?
Consider the usual ways a church will reach out to its congregation. What do you usually do to alert people of any updates or upcoming services? In tiny towns, you might go door-to-door, telling your members of updates or special sermons. Typically, the standard approach is to have a guestbook that people sign when they either enter or leave the church. It's a good way of tracking numbers, and you can ask for contact details simultaneously. From here, the obvious step is to call each member and alert them of anything important.
Similarly, many churches create weekly bulletins that are handed out at the service. Already, you can see why this might be an issue. The only people that receive them are the ones in attendance. So, how will other members know of any updates? With the previous idea, it's effective at gaining contact information, but it takes time to call each member individually - and there's no guarantee someone will answer.
With a mass messaging service, you can tackle both issues easily. You can set it up so messages are sent to every member at a specific time each week. This provides details of the next service, inviting them to come along. A simple nudge like this can be all it takes to encourage someone to attend your church that week. It's all done in seconds, so there's no time spent calling each individual person and letting them know when the next service is. Plus, it negates the issue of people missing previous services. If someone didn't attend last week's service, they still receive information on when the next service is and what it will focus on.
How else could you use a mass messaging service to increase church attendance?
Primarily, the SMS service helps send out reminders for events. This is how most people will use it, sending mass texts out to the entire group whenever there's a new event on the horizon. It jogs their memory, increasing the likelihood of more people attending each service or church event.
Furthermore, you can also use this service to improve people's connection with your church. You don't have to send out invites all the time - you could send some wise words of wisdom now and then. Send out a bible verse quote every week or so as a nice little boost for your members. They receive a positive message, which improves the connection they feel to your church. It can help people who are having a bad time, which encourages them to go to church regularly. You build a real sense of community and belonging by doing something like this.
On that topic, you could ask members if they would like to sign up for a 'word of the day' type of service. In essence, anyone that agrees to this can be added to a separate messaging group, where you send them a quote every day. Again, it's a fantastic way to share the Lord's teachings and give people something to think about during the week.
You can already see how church attendance will be improved by implementing a mass messaging service. However, that's not the only thing you should focus on. Consider these other ideas to go alongside your new texting service:
Encourage members to invite their friends
Mass messaging services are more effective when you have a larger pool of members to send messages to. Of course, increasing church attendance among your current members is vital, but you also need to draw more people in. One of the best ways to do this is by encouraging existing church members to bring friends/family to the services. At the end of each sermon, make a point of asking everyone to bring someone new next week. It's unlikely that everyone will be able to bring someone along, but you may get a few new faces here and there.
You could even host a unique service once a week/month that focuses explicitly on new members. It could be titled 'bring-a-friend-day,' and you could have lots of refreshments while making the service an introduction of sorts for new members. People might be more likely to come along when they know there's food, and also when they're not thrown in the deep end. They're slowly introduced to the church; you can explain what your mission statement is and how things are done - it's a lovely way to encourage new members.
Make new members feel welcome
Following on from the previous point, first impressions count. When a new member arrives, make sure you know about it. Speak to them personally and encourage other members to talk to them. It helps them feel part of the community, which encourages them to keep coming back.
Always make sure you have an usher or someone at the entrance greeting everyone that comes in. They can spot newcomers and personally greet them, inviting them into the church. Prepare welcome packs for new members as well, so they have more information on your church. It also gives them things to look at when they're at home, further solidifying their belief that this is the church for them.
When someone feels welcomed into a new environment, they're more inclined to return to that environment. This is one of the easiest ways to retain new members when they arrive!
Provide follow-up calls/messages
You need a system in place that lets you gain contact information from new members. Most churches will have a guestbook or church card that people can fill out. As such, your first step is implementing a system like this! The second step is getting people to actually fill them out.
One handy idea is to have your ushers hand the cards to new members when they arrive. Explain why they should fill them in (so they can receive updates about services) and provide an incentive. There was a relatively recent survey that suggested donations are a fantastic incentive to use. For every person that fills out a card, your church donates to a local charity. This way, it's almost rude not to fill in a form!
From here, you can collect new member info and follow-up. This is actually another good use of your text messaging service; collect the new contacts into a group and send out a welcome message to them. It's such a simple step, yet it helps them feel even more welcomed. You can thank them for attending, provide details of the next service, and open yourself up for questions. This works really well in cases where someone might be on the fence about coming back - your message convinces them that it's worthwhile.
Increase engagement during services
How can you increase church engagement? A couple of years ago, a survey found that 12% of people don't attend church because they lack the time. This is a brilliant starting point: decrease the time of your sermons. Shorten them to around 30 or 45 minutes, rather than 60 minutes or more. You'll have to condense things, but this will keep people engaged. More people will be able to attend, and they will be more attentive during the sermon.
Another idea is to encourage new people to speak at each sermon. Get members involved and ask around for speakers every week. It improves engagement as there's always something new from a different voice at every service! There are plenty of other methods to enhance engagement in your church, with many excellent ideas presented here.
In summary, these are proven ways to increase church attendance. Communication is key, which is why a mass messaging service like ours can be beneficial. Encourage members to invite new people, make new members feel welcome, send out text alerts and updates, and keep people engaged. All of this will help you see a remarkable improvement in your church membership.