The Small Church Pastor and Church Attendance

Several pastors this week were admitting failing to maintain steady church attendance. Each one had experienced low attendance over the last few months and were concerned.

“What is wrong with my people, they use every excuse they can find to miss church?”
“We had a great outreach on Saturday but had our lowest attendance on Sunday.”
“Do people even care about faithfulness anymore?”
“We need our musicians, singers, and greeters to be at their post but they continue to miss and don’t even let me know they will be absent – what am I doing wrong?”             “When you pastor a church of less than 100 every person counts.”

Even though pastors have taught on faithfulness, pastors are struggling with a variety of lame excuses. From “the cat had kittens” to “my nose was running.” One person just “needed a day of rest,” after spending the day at a Fall Festival. “It’s like the church is at the bottom of the list,” a Pastor moaned. One light-hearted pastor quipped, “Well, at least this church is going down slower than the last one I pastored.”

But doesn’t attendance, faithfulness and spiritual growth matter? Yes, it does but let’s look at some of the problems with church attendance.

1. THE CHURCH IS LOSING MEMBERS – I started with the worst scenario. When members of your church are leaving disgruntled this is devastating to a Pastor who has been trying to do his best but couldn’t heal the rift. Prayer and fasting are mandated in such moments and a week in a secluded location can sharpen your leadership abilities in this time of crises. Show the remaining congregation strength and security by reassuring your followers and by being honest and hopeful.

2. THE ATTENDANCE IS LOW – There will be seasons of highs and lows brought about by vacations, health reasons, and holidays plus, in rural areas, harvest time. Pray and stay encouraged. Keep in touch with your absentees. No matter where you pastor or who you pastor, there will be absenteeism.

3. UNFAITHFULNESS – There will always be certain somebodies who treat church attendance as a guest instead of a member. Absenteeism is in every church and the unfaithful have the lamest excuses. Not surprising, many Baby Boomers interpret faithfulness as Sunday Morning attendance on every other Sunday. To add to the problem, unfaithfulness hurts the church finances because the unfaithful members rarely catch up on their tithe giving.

4. PLANNED ACTIVITIES – Many events are being planned on Sundays from Family Reunions, Birthday Parties, and Concerts and even, shopping. With the church being live streamed, multiple services throughout the week and online Bible Studies, it has become much easier to stay at home. Reading a devotional has been equated with listening to the Pastor preach the Word of God. Maybe the church needs fewer activities but more mission mandated activities.

5. THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM – Attendance is not the measuring stick of the Pastor’s success level. Many pastors are great men of God but lack a support system around them. Yes, spiritual growth and church health are anemic when faithfulness to the House of God is not taught but a pastor shouldn’t beat himself up because people have lost their desire. Preach the Word, stay in love with Jesus and continue to love people.

What can we do about it? Sometimes, nothing. If we preach about it – we are scolding. If we teach on it – we are critical. And, if we ask where they were, get ready to hear excuses from A to Z. So what is a Pastor to do?

• Realize absenteeism will happen. If it isn’t a habit – don’t make it a bigger problem. Things come up and people will miss for credible reasons.
• Don’t be too harsh but express heartfelt concern when you haven’t seen a member regularly.
• Pray for each of them and send a card or text every time they miss. Let them know you miss them.
• Be willing to change service times or days if you need to make it more plausible. We changed our Wednesday night service from 7:00 to 6:00 and served dinner for those rushing in from work.
• Quit saying, “Where two or three are gathered there am I in the midst of them,” every time you have a low crowd. Don’t excuse unfaithfulness. Preach your best message and worship God. Keep focused on Jesus and not on people who are missing.

Copyright by Jim Laudell. Materials may not be copied, reproduced or distributed without the written permission of the author. You may share on Facebook, Twitter, and other forms of social media while giving credit to the author. This post should not be construed as medical, legal or professional advice.

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