Monday, May 30, 2011

Where did everyone go?

From a Previous Blog: (I’m skipping over #4 for now)
Make sure that you have a vision of not only increasing membership, but also attendance. If people do not come anymore, find out why. Did they move? Is there a problem with transportation? Hurt feelings? Find out and fix it. Have a team solely responsible for this. People who feel led to minister to others through comforting words or who can also find solutions will make good members for this team.
I’ve seen churches where the membership gives up when attendance starts to fall. They decide that there is nothing that can be done about it. The “family” or the “clic” that is running the show has run the show into the ground and there is nothing that they can do about it. In these cases, it takes someone who will stand up and get together a group that is louder, bigger and most passionate than the trouble makers. Then they start to change the way that things are done, instituting ministries that reach out to the community and draw others back.
But sometimes churches falter and no one really knows why. One problem is that the pastor hasn’t done as suggested in an earlier blog and surrounded himself with people who are “in the know” in the community, so that they can alert him to any problems that they see arising.
Other times, it is simply that the ministry doesn’t meet the needs of the community. Use the guidelines that I gave earlier and fine tune your ministries to what is needed in your community.
Lastly, some churches become stale and too comfortable in what they are doing. They become a “family” that winds up being “exclusive” instead of being “inclusive.” People start to feel left out, no one asks how they would like to be an active participant in the church, so they wander off, many times fed up with church to the point that they don’t seek another one to attend.
The pastor realizes that they have gone missing, and many times he/she may not know the circumstances surrounding their disappearance. This is when he should go visit them, or have the elder/deacon assigned to them pay a personal visit (I’ll cover this in the next blog). Be upfront. Be blunt. Ask them to be blunt. But don’t be offensive or take offense at what they have to say. Use their words to consider what needs to change. Was it their perception? Or do they have a point? Stand back and observe the ministry/person/committee that they are talking about. Do you see the same things becoming apparent. Take action to correct the problem before it runs someone else off.
Have a visitation team that goes out to people who are unchurched or who have left the church and talk with them. Show them that the church is actually interested in them. Many times this is enough to draw them back. Once a visitation member builds their trust, they may confide things that no one was aware of before.
Keep a dialogue going with these people. Only by working on trying to correct problems and preventing them from happening again can a ministry be successful. Will there never be problems? NO. There will always be problems as long as there are humans. But there will almost always be solutions also. That is why Jesus died on the cross for our sins and then was raised from the dead. A solution was needed. God has given us examples through His word and through the life of Jesus. It’s time for us to put them into action.

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