Someone recently suggested to me that the key question for understanding what is happening in a congregation is to ask attendees this simple question: “Why do you go to church?”
Some answers are obvious and most applicable to long-term members:
- I attend out of habit.
- I attend because the Bible teaches Christians to attend worship.
- I attend because I think this is what Jesus wants me to do.
- I attend because my family attends.
These are not bad reasons for attending, but they are reasons that will generally fail to persuade anyone else to attend.
The morning after my conversation with the woman who posed the question, “Why do you go to church?” I came across this item, Stories – Your Website’s Secret Sauce, on the Lewis’ Center for Church Leadership’s website by Will Rice.
The article was not what I had imagined from the title. However, the article put the question about church attendance in the correct perspective. People begin attending church either because they seek transformation or because they have experience a transformation. And people continue attending for the same reasons.
Instead of asking long-term parishioners why they attend, convene a focus group of newcomers. Then, ask them to talk about why they attend your church. Their answers will identify your congregation’s strengths that attract newcomers. Capitalize on those strengths. Promote and expand them as the path to growth.
This approach to church growth appeals to me as a simple application of the appreciative inquiry method of leadership developed by David Cooperrider and his associates.