What’s happening with church attendance?
In just the last few weeks I’ve heard some of my fellow pastors say
- “What is it with people lately? Does church just not matter anymore?”
- “Is it just me, or do people in your church use the summer months as a get out of church card, too?”
- “Anyone have ideas how to keep people committed to church attendance? It’s getting harder every year.”
- “Why don’t people make church attendance a priority like they used to?”
As a pastor, I sympathize with these frustrations. Shrinking or inconsistent attendance can short-circuit our plans, frustrate our expectations, and reduce our ministry impact.
But I also see a problem with the way we often look at this.
Committed To Jesus First
It’s not our job to get people to commit to the church. It’s our calling to help them commit to Jesus.
Yes, I know they go hand in hand. I’ve written regularly about the importance of church attendance and its relationship to spiritual well-being here and here for starters. But committing to Jesus and committing to the church, while interlinked, are not the same thing.
As church leaders, our emphasis has to be on helping people worship and serve Jesus. Church attendance is only of value when it serves that cause.
So yes, we should keep inviting people to church. Gathering with other believers is a central aspect of spiritual growth. But we should never leave anyone with the impression that church attendance is the point. Following Jesus is the point.
The Right Emphasis
While we should always pay attention to attendance patterns (and, even more importantly, to the actual people who we miss when they don’t show up), when church members skip a few more services than usual it doesn’t necessarily mean they lack commitment to the church or to Jesus.
If that drop becomes a habit, then we have a concern. But even then, the concern shouldn’t be how committed they are to the church, but how committed they are to Jesus.
When we vent about church attendance as though it’s our primary concern, we unintentionally put the emphasis in the wrong place. And we make people think that attending church, while important, is the end goal.
Church attendance is never the end goal. It is always a means to an end. Gathering with other believers in a healthy church environment helps us do that, but just being in the room isn’t the point.
The point is to worship Jesus, fellowship with other believers, and learn to become better disciples. If we invite people to do that, then create an environment where it can truly happen, everything else will fall into place.
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