3 Ways Leaders Can Help to Make Church Attendance a Habit
If you’re a pastor’s wife, then you know that Sundays are hard.
And if you’re a pastor’s wife and Sundays aren’t hard, please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell me your secret.
Because Sundays are rough at my house.
There’s no amount of preparation I can do on Saturday to prevent a difficult Sunday.
And over the last 15 years, I’ve sort of accepted that.
My husband’s job is to tell people about the life-changing good news of Jesus dying for their sins and offering eternal life in heaven.
It makes sense that the devil would attack my home on Sundays.
In the back of my mind, I picture Satan out there wreaking havoc in my life on Saturday night.
I imagine him going around letting the air out of my front left tire and making our milk expire and waking my kids up 5-6 times through the night.
I have accepted this as par for the course, and while I don’t always smile my way through it, I am rarely surprised.
But as I was talking to some friends at church, one of them mentioned how difficult Sundays were for her family.
I asked why.
She explained that it seemed like every Sunday something went wrong making it extra difficult for her to get her family to church.
The other ladies in the group agreed, and they exchanged stories of the crazy things that had happened to them on a Sunday morning.
I was shocked.
My family wasn’t the only one under attack on Sunday mornings?!!?!
And then I was embarrassed.
Of course we weren’t!
We aren’t special because my husband is in vocational ministry.
Satan doesn’t want anyone to hear the good news of Jesus.
He doesn’t want any of us to fellowship with other believers.
He doesn’t want any of us to teach our children that even though it’s difficult, it’s worth it to go to church.
Which really got me to thinking, Why do some people come to church regularly and some don’t?
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When you look at the demographics and history, there’s no real rhyme or reason.
Being raised in church doesn’t mean you’ll continue it as an adult.
We’ve all heard the shocking statistics of how many college kids leave the church.
Age doesn’t matter.
In many churches, there are as many once-a-month or once-a-quarter attendees in the young adult group as in the senior adult group.
So the only answer I’ve been able to come up with is that for some people, coming to church on Sundays is a habit.
Which is awesome.
Because once something is a habit, it’s super hard to break.
Unfortunately, habits can also be super hard to make.
So how can leaders help to make church attendance a habit?
Let’s look at three very specific things the church can do to help people develop the habit of coming to church.
1. Tell them
Have a conversation with your congregation.
Explain to them all the reasons they should regularly come to church.
Extol the benefits of regular church attendance, being an active part of the body of Christ, fellowshipping with other believers, raising your children in church.
Preach a series about it.
Challenge your church to develop the habit.
Ask your department leaders, deacons, and elders to record videos and share testimony about how important it has been for them to be habitually in church.
Make it an emphasis in your Sunday school every couple of years.
Have a church-wide challenge of 12 Sundays or 16 or 20 or whatever.
Related Post: How to Minister to the Mom at Church Without Her Husband
While Psychology Today says it takes an average of 66 days to develop a new habit, it doesn’t take 66 Sundays to get into the habit of going to church.
It may take 66 days of exercising every morning to make it stick as part of your routine, but making church attendance doesn’t take 66 Sundays before it becomes a habit.
In my experience three or four months does the trick.
So find ways to tell your church that the habit is important.
2. Reward them
What if you had a challenge and the people who completed the entire challenge were all entered into a drawing to receive a huge prize package?
I mean huge.
Gift cards to dinner, movies, Amazon, and cash for a babysitter.
I mean your church spends $400-500 on this amazing prize package to really get people to want to win it.
Sure, they may start out doing it for the chance to win the prize, but they’ll gain a lot more from developing the habit than they’d ever get from the prize package.
Or you could run a challenge in the children’s Sunday School department.
Offer kids with perfect attendance for 12 weeks a really awesome prize that kids that age would want.
Few things will get a parent to church faster than their child begging to go.
And I get it.
“We shouldn’t have to bribe people to come to church.”
We also shouldn’t have to worry about school shootings, AIDS, abortion, and a hundred other modern-day atrocities.
But we live in a fallen world.
And if your church can offer a $500 prize package that helps families develop the habit of attending church, isn’t it worth the investment?
“Where your treasure lies there your heart lies also.” – Matthew 6:21
If the church isn’t willing to invest money to help families develop the habit of attending church and being an active part of a body of believers, is it really important to them?
Churches typically spend hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars each year doing VBS and sending kids to church camp, but don’t see a big return on that investment in terms of adding people to the church body.
And while I love hearing about professions of faith being made at VBS and camp, the most influential people in a child’s life are their parents.
It’s always sad to see kids come back from camp on fire for Jesus and send them home with parents who aren’t going to disciple them in their walk with Christ.
Let’s change that.
Let’s be churches who are passionate about getting families to make church attendance a habit.
3. Invite them
Have the Sunday school classes go through their rolls and invite people that they haven’t seen for a while. Or invite people who came one time and they never saw again. Or invite people that should be in that Sunday school class that aren’t.
This may seem like an old fashioned way to reach people but it’s still relevant today for two reasons.
First, the power of a card in the mail is pretty incredible.
People get so few good things in the mail these days that a handwritten card is a real rarity.
On Facebook, they are bombarded by events and Bible verses.
Their phones ring and ding all day long.
They pass so many billboards and ads around town that none of them stand out.
Their inbox is probably overflowing with unread emails.
But their mailbox?
It’s filled with bills, credit card offers, and junk mail.
A handwritten card from an actual person in their orbit is a rarity.
It stands out.
It gets talked about.
“Did you know I got a card in the mail from Ethel the other day??”
This works just as well for kids.
It might even work better because children rarely get any mail!
Just have the children’s Sunday school teachers mail cards to kids who are absent on Sundays.
Simply tell them they were missed and that you can’t wait to see them again!
Or have the kids in the Sunday school class write/make cards for their friends who missed.
You can use church postcards or let the kids decorate plain white cards.
The teachers could even take it to the next level and have the kids write a brief summary of the lesson on the card for the child who was absent!
The second reason mailing a card is effective is because the knowledge that you are missed is powerful.
Our society talks a lot about FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out), but we don’t talk much about the power of knowing that you were missed.
Knowing that the lack of your presence was not only noticed but lamented is life affirming.
And by mentioning the fact that they were missed you are automatically creating that FOMO because if they were missed at the event, then there was an event that they missed out on.
Paul wrote letters all the time.
And I get that it was the primary form of long-distance communication back then, and that we have tons of methods of communicating today.
But that doesn’t make it any less powerful.
So perhaps it’s time we took another page out of Paul’s book (see what I did there?!!) and start sending letters again.
An Important Note Worthy of a Bold Subheading
Don’t cherry pick your list.
I’ve seen it happen.
At his first church, my husband wanted to call people on the church roles.
We were serving at a church with 30 people in attendance that had over three hundred “members.”
My husband told a pillar in the church his plan and asked if he could have a copy of the role to work through.
A couple of days later he got the role sheets and was shocked.
Next to about two-thirds of the names were notes.
Some notes said where the missing members were thought to be currently attending, but other notes told the reasons why people left the church.
“Mary got angry with Bob about something he said about her daughter.”
“Joe has a drinking problem and he feels guilty when he comes to church.”
On and on with much of the contact info redacted.
My husband did his best to contact every person, redacted info or not.
He heard again and again about the reasons people left the church.
His answer was always, “I got food poisoning from a restaurant once. I stopped going to that restaurant. I didn’t give up all restaurants.”
If your church has people that are gone and angry, invite them to church somewhere else.
Their family, their walk, their soul needs the habit of gathering together as the church, but it doesn’t have to be your church.
Give them the grace to go somewhere else.
Church is, in some ways, an easy habit to develop.
Five days a week families get up and go to work and school.
Going to church doesn’t require a family to create a new pattern of morning behavior, just a new destination one day a week.
People who come to church receive encouragement from other people attending (or at least they ought to).
Starting the week with worship helps ground people for the challenges of the week ahead.
I could go on and on about why it should be a habit for people, but the people in your orbit don’t need my list, they need your action.
What ways have you found for church leaders to help people make church attendance a habit? Tell us in the comments!
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