by Fran Trascritti
SPRINGFIELD, IL – Covid has come. People have left. Attendance is down. So how do we get them back?
This is one of the most common questions asked by church leaders as we look forward to 2022 and beyond. And the question behind the question: Is the current attendance a new normal for the church?
For a while, probably. But here are a few general observations, both from the latest research and from hearing from leaders while consulting throughout the state:
Worship attendance is down. LifeWay Research reports that the average church is at 63% of their pre-Covid attendance.
Giving is close to or above budget.
Bible study group attendance is much lower than pre-covid.
Ministry to the local community is well received by those accepting help.
Let me argue that all of this is encouraging.
First, we can appreciate the fact that we’re not alone.
It’s great news that we still have a core group of members actively attending, serving, and giving to the mission of the church. Praise God for those loving, serving saints!
Second, we have a way to grow our leaders.
One way to start is to launch our Bible study groups ministry and help them again become a strong part of the church. After all, whether the groups meet on campus or off campus, a robust groups ministry provides structure, trains leaders, promotes intimacy, and deepens spiritual growth.
Even more, Bible study groups that operate with a team structure is the wisest approach. Several people within the group can become involved in important tasks, both in growing each other and growing the number in the group. This helps to develop people as they grow, serve, and share their faith.
Third, we can reintroduce our church to our community.
Since ministry efforts (such as food distribution) have often been well received by the community, we have an opportunity to reshape and reintroduce our churches to communities who need Jesus!
It also means that we can rethink what membership in a church means: that every member is not just a minister, but even more, every member is a missionary. In other words, our core people, the faithful ones who are with us, can be on mission to reach people in the local community with the gospel as we come out of Covid.
Fourth, we can invite our neighbors.
Research indicates that people still do trust their neighbors, and Lifeway reports 51% of them said they would come to church if their neighbor invited them. Our core group of church members can and should invite friends, relatives, associates, and neighbors to church.
When we not only train our people to share their faith, but also inspire them to do the simple things like inviting those they know and love to church, we can see a gospel movement happen as lives are changed forever.
All is not lost. People need hope. And the church still stands.
Remember that in many cases we still have a core group of faithful members. They stand ready to be mobilized to do high quality, purposeful, and gospel-focused ministry, and that ministry is welcomed by the community.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Fran Trascritti is IBSA’s Team Leader for Leadership Development. FranTrascritti@IBSA.org.