7 Ways to Respond As People Attend Church Less Often

Everywhere I go, I talk to pastors who are experiencing the same thing.

People who attend church are attending less often.

If it was a problem before the pandemic, it’s an even greater problem now.

People who used to attend every week are attending 2 times a month. People who were around twice a month often now show up once a month. And attenders who used to come once a month are showing up half a dozen times a year.

This is true of rapidly growing churches, mega churches, mid-sized churches, Bible churches, and churches like Connexus (where 60% of our growth is from previously unchurched people.)

You can get mad at people…but that’s not really that helpful. If all people get is judgment or ‘should have done better’ when they show up at your church, why would they keep coming? You don’t line up to be judged either.

There are fewer and fewer of us every year who

Feel guilty when we miss a Sunday (I do…but I’m a dinosaur…I know it)

Have a natural instinct to head to a gathering of Christians on the first day of the week

Miss church when we can’t get there

Some church leaders I know wonder whether people will even attend physical buildings a decade from now. I believe they will, but maybe not in the droves people are even today.

So what’s going on? And how can you ‘compete’?

Well, culture is changing.

But two of the biggest factors that used to drive attendance in the last 20-50 years are now reproducible online.

Two decades ago:

If you wanted to hear great preaching, you had to go to church. Podcasting and online campuses have changed this.

If you wanted great music, you had to go to church. Okay, maybe church music wasn’t that great 20 years ago. But somebody liked it. Now, for $20, all your favorite songs are on your phone wherever you go.

So what do you do?

Is the battle lost? Not at all.

Here are 7 ways to respond as people attend church less often:

1. Create an Awesome Online Presence.

Launching an online campus is something I think most churches have done in the past two years, but between Facebook, Twitter, podcasts, app, website and blog, people can pretty much stay connected in several ways. And even giving to church online has never been easier. (70% of our offering comes in online.) Many people tell me when they’re not physically present they stay in touch via all of these media. Don’t judge your people for not being there, help them stay connected instead.

Don't judge your people for not being there, help them stay connected instead. Click To Tweet

2. Elevate Personal Relationships.

Somehow facilitating a personal relationship is easier and more effective in person. Churches that value personal relationships (even for thousands of people through groups) will always attract people who value personal connection (which is, I think, almost all of us).

Churches that value personal relationships will always attract people who value personal connection. Click To Tweet

3. Love People.

Can you fully love people without being fully present? Do human relationships go to their deepest level in person? I think so. 2 in 5 married couples meet online today. But even those 2 in 5 couples who meet online don’t stay online…they get married. Love can be expressed online, but its fulfillment happens deepest through personal contact.

4. Create an Irresistible Experience.

There is something that happens when you are in the room and in the moment. A live concert is never quite the same as watching a song on YouTube or even a concert in full HD on a kicking home theater system. Church is more than the sum of its parts…between the preaching, music, creative elements, human interaction and hallway conversations. You get much of it online, but not all of it. At least not yet. (By the way, if your church is boring, you’ve already lost the battle. Start there.)

5. Offer Offline Surprises.

Do something fun in the parking lot, foyer, or service that you don’t broadcast. Create some fun moments. One year we handed out an awesome Canadian treat – gourmet butter tarts – to everyone who attended on a particularly long weekend. People who missed it were completely bummed.

6. Create a Culture of Serving.

When you get up early to set up and tear down, lead a 2nd grade small group, greet people with a smile, serve on the production team, or serve meals to the homeless, somehow you find a place in service of a goal greater than yourself. Make serving guests and others outside your community part of your culture.

Make serving guests and others outside your community part of your culture. Click To Tweet

7. Prioritize Kids and Teens.

Parents can catch a podcast or watch online, but kids really miss out when parents miss. To be with their friends who are running in the same direction, and to have another voice (small group leader) who knows their name, favorite food, and hopes and dreams saying the same thing a loving parent would say, is so far, unreproducible in the online world. I believe that when the parents miss church, the kids are the biggest losers. The more you prioritize families, the more families will prioritize Sundays.

The more you prioritize families, the more families will prioritize Sundays. Click To Tweet

The shift in our culture is probably irreversible to some extent. But you have something unique to offer – online and offline.

What are you learning about shifts in attendance and the things that you can help people with offline and online?

7 Ways to Respond As People Attend Church Less Often


  1. Don Davies on November 16, 2021 at 7:44 am

    Even when every body was absenting themselves during church services, me and my family continued attending and surely enough, day by day, people started going back to the church again. Thank you Pastor Keion, https://www.keionhenderson.com/church-podcast for continually pushing your church podcast and services despite the many challenges!

  2. Adam K. on October 10, 2021 at 3:41 pm

    Please let the American friends know what a butter tart is. They have no idea what they are missing out on. I only learned when I married a Canadian how great they were. Second thought, I wonder if some would have criticized Jesus as being gimmicky when He gave the people fish and bread. Something to consider.

  3. Anthony DiMaio (@AmericanWritr) on October 10, 2021 at 7:04 am

    Forgive me. I kinda feel like we have lost the basic fundamental benchmark discovery from the late 60’s and 70’s. When Chuck Smith started his services, I feel that it was the weight and authority of his sermons that drove people to come out to hear him. But secondly, and maybe more important is what happened in the late 70’s when I came to faith: the power of God was so strong that we didn’t have these seeker-sensitive churches, we had these God is here churches. Every denomination was getting blasted with the power of God. Even synagogues were being impacted, thus Jews for Jesus. So just a thought, instead of trying to get people to come out to church, maybe we can direct most of our efforts to get God back into church? It may take some fasting of this idolatry of programs and sermon series, but it’s worth a shot! I remember back then, people would be standing in the lobby. We even had meetings in the NYSE where there were 50 people coming out on a Tuesday morning. Get God to come back, and everyone else will come back too!

    • Philip Wong on October 10, 2021 at 8:19 am

      I think we need God in everything we do whether it is physical or online ministry.

    • Ed Martin on January 6, 2022 at 3:15 pm

      This is the right way! Too much credit has gone to today’s culture and not enough on who God is. A revival start off with prayer and when God shows up, the people come and not the other way around.

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  5. […] know what’s going on. What we’re seeing nationally is that attendance is lagging. As Carey Nieuwhof points out, “People who used to attend every week are attending 3 times a month. People who were around […]

  6. Stephanie Bradshaw on May 21, 2018 at 7:39 pm

    What I can’t figure out is how the church is supposed to live it’s mission, not only to spread the good news of Jesus and salvation but also to live in community with one another if we aren’t coming together on a very regular basis? How are we taking care of orphans and widows if we never show up on the same Sundays?

  7. Jordan on September 11, 2017 at 3:35 pm

    Carey, do you have a link to the research that points to committed attenders attending church 3 out of 4 times a month?

  8. Emily on January 16, 2017 at 12:01 pm

    I’ve been through a whole bunch of blog posts this morning, and haven’t found what I’m really looking for….
    I know that “regular” attendance doesn’t mean weekly for a lot of people any more.
    I love the idea of getting people engaged rather than simply aiming for attendance.
    How, practically, do we involve and engage people whose attendance is irregular (and sometimes unpredictable) but who want and need to be serving? How do we engage someone when we don’t know when we’ll see them (and often they don’t know either because their work schedule isn’t released until a week or two before)?
    I want to bring people in and get them engaged. I don’t know where/how to start.

    • Ed Martin on January 6, 2022 at 3:25 pm

      Emily, the key here is involving people / serving but the question at hand is for what? Here is the answer.. the church doesn’t need more people serving in the ministries that cater to our own (worship team, ushers, banquets, media, production..etc). The purpose of the church in this World is to spread the Gospel.. fulfill the great commission that the Lord left us and will ask us about at the end of all things. Point the people to the mission, equip the people for the mission and go out.. but really go out! I mean literally go out and fulfill it.. The Lord will answer and will add those that are to be saved to his church. We don’t need to attract other Christian, we need to go after the un-churched and believe me the harvest is great indeed… I hope this helps! God Bless

  9. Amy on December 4, 2016 at 12:47 pm

    What a joke. The “irrissistiable experience” is God Himself. REALITY check, maybe He’s not showing up in full glory.
    This is a joke and doesn’t cut to the core of what’s really happening. Have fun with your live concerts and rationizations.

    • Ed Martin on January 6, 2022 at 3:26 pm

      High five, totally agree!

  10. Marcus Taylor on July 22, 2016 at 8:21 pm

    I go to church to brainstorm other Christians and pray with them not for a particular feeling or a free gift.
    I can get what I am looking for from reading or watching a video the same as I can from hearing a live speaker if the truth is there. I’m not after a feeling I want truth and to be with people who want the same.
    When it’s about a show and a lot of noise then I’d rather stay at home. If I want a buzz I’ll go for a blast on my motorbike.

  11. Sharon37 on January 5, 2015 at 3:58 pm

    No one mentions that for centuries only the wealthy and elite could read the scriptures. Since WW2 education started to become more available and the illiteracy rate has gone down. People are now able to critical read the Bible for themselves and many questions about conflicting things particularly in the New Testament and how the NT was put together by King Constantine and the motives behind it. Also, the bigotry against minorities, gays, Muslims, or other religion shows a deep intolerance of how people choose to serve God. Let people read the word for themselves and stop involving fear into people when God really is a loving God, Noone really know what happens after death and how God judges is. But, our instincts tell is that God is a God of peace and harmony and love towards all, the racism emanates from the religious right that it is obvious to everyone. I’ve heard it on Christian radio shows and stop listening. One pastor called Obama a monster. Another calling for war against Muslims. It doesn’t sound right to younger people who want to build bridges with other reasonable minded people across the world. We have had enough hate, fear, ignorance. Enough of it. Please, enough of it. We have read history books and our scriptures and we know the future is not the way of ugliness shown in most churches today. Also, all of the money going into buildings instead of people is ego driven. I volunteer with organization such as Random Acts of Kindness and sometimes through the church I attend but all of the anger, judgment, racial segregation, republican propaganda is driving me away to focus more individually in connecting to God or through smaller groups in my home.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on February 20, 2015 at 2:56 pm

      Sharon it’s heartbreaking sometimes, isn’t it? I love it when churches define themselves by what they are for…not what they are against.

    • David DuBois on September 20, 2018 at 1:46 pm

      I won’t set foot in a church that doesnt value me as a child of God. I am gay and go to a church which welcome and affirm me.
      My generation will not worship somewhere where we are considered as sinners.

      • James on November 2, 2018 at 10:28 am

        Umm… isn’t that ALL churches? Aren’t we ALL sinners saved by grace through faith not by works? Hopefully “your generation” will worship Jesus anywhere and everywhere because we are sinners and He’s our Savior.

        • Yvonne on August 3, 2019 at 4:35 pm

          We may all be sinners but being gay is NOT a sin.

          • Jacques on May 9, 2021 at 9:16 am

            Where did you read that homosexuality is not sin? Give me scripture please, i am still learning.?

      • Frank on October 10, 2021 at 7:20 am

        Have you ever read Romans 1:18 – 32?

      • Ed Martin on January 6, 2022 at 3:28 pm

        That’s because to become a child of God you need to repent from your sin, accept Jesus as your Lord and savior, obey his commandments and be filled with the spirit.. you my friend haven’t done the first thing.. repent, repent..

  12. davpettengill on October 22, 2014 at 10:49 pm

    It is unfortunate because when Pastors seek to help church members to understand that being a part of the Church is not about their entitlements or privileges but about sacrificing for the kingdom of God they usually face intense pressure from angry parishioners or are run out of the church so the members can bring in a new pastor who will pander to their wants.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on February 20, 2015 at 2:56 pm

      Right Dave…being the church is about what we give, not just what we get.

  13. CurtisMSP on August 9, 2014 at 8:05 pm

    How often did the disciples attend church?

    • Matthew Rissmiller on August 10, 2014 at 1:11 am

      just about every day. They went into holy communion with Jesus on his final night of life in the last supper. The sermons he spoke to his people were relentless.

      • CurtisMSP on August 10, 2014 at 4:01 pm

        And Christians today can do the same thing. But it doesn’t necessarily involve attending church in a big building with professional clergy. And if a Christian today did attend church in the manner if the disciples, would they show up on anyone’s count as having attended church?

        • Matthew Rissmiller on August 10, 2014 at 8:57 pm

          no, but Christians are called to follow Christ… didn’t see anything in the bible requiring us to follow those who call themselves Christians. We are called to love one another as he has loved us.

          • Keymooney on February 23, 2015 at 12:27 am

            Paul taught us to follow him in the same way that he followed Christ. Following Christ simply means to deny our own ways and begin a journey of learning to live the way he lived. He both taught and modeled what it is and what it looks like to live in God’s kingdom. His departing instructions to us were to do as he did — build God’s kingdom God’s way. That is accomplished by making disciples of all nations, baptizing them, and teaching to obey Jesus’ commands. What a beautiful and perfect way to live — the way our Maker designed for us to demonstrate how great he actually is.

        • dan on December 12, 2014 at 2:26 pm

          If you are confident that you have all the tools you need to get closer to God in that way then do it. But it’s very hard to execute the great commission from the comfort of your home.

          • CurtisMSP on December 12, 2014 at 2:34 pm

            It is not done alone. The disciples met together with other Christians, in community with each other, in their homes.

    • Ed Martin on January 6, 2022 at 3:30 pm

      every day says the word

  14. Gathering for worship at church… | philcoleman on August 9, 2014 at 10:49 am

    […] subscribe to a blog of a very creative, innovative pastor in Canada.  He suggests 7 ways to respond as people attend church less often. His is a pretty good […]

  15. Wayne on August 8, 2014 at 9:30 pm

    I found your comments refreshingly current and extremely accurate in many areas. As one who was extremely involved in a mainline denomination for over 50 years, I found “worship” there to be increasingly banal, vanilla, and all too often just warmed up feel-good-Christianity. I found that I was not getting to the heart of worship. There was no sense of Praise of God, no teaching of the Word, where worship had often devolved to pageants, where mission was about the people going, and with little fellowship beyond smiles and handshakes. The last thing many mainline churches will do is to stress community, small group, accountability, or participate in learning by working in the Word. There is enough politics on the evening news. Church conferences seem to be about how to build the walls stronger to keep the few souls in. At the age of 60 and after serving on every committee known to human and wanting to cry, I left and found a Community Church near us where each week we assemble to Praise God, to reach out to each other, to serve in Mission (not to take selfies), to grow in small groups, and to be fed in challenging teaching that makes us uncomfortable at times. It is not about numbers in Pews. I don’t think our Lord cared about how many followers were with Him. That accounting of numbers will come–See Revelation. Pastors that truly share the Word are needed, but the whole mainstream Church hierarchy needs serious re-examination. Many of the lay leaders in Churches are just burned out. Laity are as much to blame as the paid staff. The lay members must be accountable and demand excellence,and take back the leadership. The numbers not physically attending church regularly is but one small sign of a bigger problem. The Great Awakening, and the Revivalist Movements of the past faced the same relevance issues. If the Church is truly the Body of Christ and His gift to us, then it will survive but maybe not in the form we think. Can we be open to that? Oh, Great God, I pray it is so.

    • Ed Martin on January 6, 2022 at 3:34 pm

      not so my friend.. Repenting i always relevant, accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior also and following the Word of God, as it is written.. is always the same. That includes congregating, praying for one another, worshiping and most of all.. the Great Commission. Focus should not be the worship.. or anything else.. change your prayer and say.. thy will be done God.. not how you think things should be.

  16. […] the importance of relationships on Sunday and how to respond to declining attendance, this post on 7 Ways To Respond As People Who Attend Church Attend Less Often can […]

  17. Brad on June 10, 2014 at 2:37 pm

    Another helpful thing for pastors is preach sermons of substance. We’ve sat through too many “safe” and vapid sermons. It’s obvious that a lot (not all, of course) of clergy have decided the mission is “butts in seats” and have eschewed sermons of substance for sermons of convenience. Of course the joke is on them because as pastors and churches have become more politically correct, their memberships have waned. But they’ll never get the correlation. As a fellow parishioner from a church we attended for years but finally left said, “I’m tired of going to church and never hearing any meaningful commentary of what is happening in the world.” Many things in the world and our country are going to hell and a lot of pastors don’t seem to notice are are too afraid to discuss it. Many pastors will gladly go all in on giving, tithing, and a whole host of guilt ridden sermons referencing the comparison of the camel going through the eye of a needle being easier than a rich man going to heaven. Ok Pastor Fearless…now lets hear a sermon about the infanticide movement euphemistically calling themselves, “pro-choice.” How about the immorality of moral equivalence? How about teenagers “hooking up” who (in addition to violating multiple commandments) permanently damaging their psyches while weak, enabling parents look the other way, terrified to make “judgements.” How about the sanctity of marriage? Anything in the Bible we might find that references this timely topic? Unfortunately too many pastors are cowards, afraid of offending anyone and unable to see that they are the ones oftentimes driving out their congregations. People yearn for the truth, too many pastors are terrified to speak it.

  18. Riley on May 1, 2014 at 3:08 pm

    Truly people can’t be expected to take weekly church attendance seriously if they’re never taught to keep the Sabbath, in winsome and positive way, can they?

  19. Five @ Free Flow Friday! | Intentional Pastoring on February 7, 2014 at 10:03 am

    […] 7 Ways to Respond as People Attend Church Less Often by Carey […]

  20. Scott Douglas on January 17, 2014 at 11:21 am

    Great article Carey, We are looking for ways to make our offline experience a “can’t miss” event out in the parking lot. I now have a couple of ideas, and a reminder of how important those personal touches are from one dinosaur to another. Thanks!

    • Carey Nieuwhof on January 17, 2014 at 1:30 pm

      Love that Scott. I was not aware I was a dinosaur but appreciate the info. 🙂

  21. Christoph Koebel on January 17, 2014 at 1:06 am

    having a topic like this is a reflection on the spiritual condition of our churches. With a Pastor having 5 weeks vacation. 2 weeks paid further education and 4 weeks paid by the church mission trip that making 11 weeks..So he missed Church more than many faithful members

  22. newgirl on December 8, 2013 at 6:12 pm

    I’ve gone to churches that offer either a weekly or monthly after-service meal. It’s surprising how many people will come out on the food and fellowship days.

  23. Voices Of Flint on August 20, 2013 at 2:23 am

    I don’t go to church because……… one wanted my W-2 and the other would not let us leave until they got 250 more dollars………I got up and left and never been back. Never was a member. Then they try to make you say amen…..I might not want to……they be like say it say it…….I’m not a sheep and the preachers are not God……..but the flock treat them as such.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on October 1, 2013 at 6:54 am

      So sorry to hear of your bad church experience. I hope you find a community of grace. And us preachers are definitely not God. You’ve got that right.

  24. Chris Synesael on July 31, 2013 at 10:25 am

    Check out ‘Everyday Church’ by Chester and Timmis. Great read on this subject.

  25. Tim Walker on July 3, 2013 at 2:45 pm

    Fantastic article! As a pastor and church planter in the inner-city, I really appreciate your wisdom and insight. I’ve come to the realization that the hardcore followers of Jesus don’t need most of the things mentioned ( with a few exceptions) but those on the edge, who haven’t made that level of commitment, need a variety of things to help them stay connected. Too often church leaders discard them as insincere, lukewarm or any number of other religious tags we’ve created for them out of our frustration. You’re helping us not just reach the “sold out,” but those who aren’t sure they’re even willing to “buy in.” Thank you so much!

  26. Andrew on July 2, 2013 at 8:17 am

    The overall problem with your article is that you have not addressed the heart of issue of those that have chosen not to attend. The whole reason we attend church is to come together to give glory to God as a body of believers not to see what we can get from the service. The heart issue is that the people are worshiping themselves and are selfish. It is all about them and many of your recommendations centered around making it more about them and less about God. Center your service around the worship of Jesus Christ and preaching boldly the gospel of Jesus Christ that is what we need and should seek

    • cnieuwhof on July 2, 2013 at 8:29 am

      Andrew. I think that sounds great and I admire your devotion, but both Jesus and Paul took the situation of their ‘audience’ into mind. Jesus addressed the disciples, the woman at the well and the Pharisees all within their particular context. Paul always contextualized his message, even explaining his philosophy in 1 Corinthians 9:22. I think churches that fail to do this fail to connect with the people they are very much trying to reach.

      • Matt on March 4, 2014 at 4:12 pm

        Where’s the line between contextualizing and consumerizing? And if you had to decide which side of the line would you choose to place after service giveaways as a tactic to regain attendance? I think we need to find better ways of making our services deeper, and communion seems to be the best place to start for me and at the same time it is the element of worship I hear mentioned the least.

        • guest on April 3, 2014 at 12:54 pm

          Ding ding ding!!!!! What is the ONE THING you really can’t get unless you attend worship? Actually holding Jesus in the palm of your hand.

          Why do we want people to come to church, anyway? So the full pews make us feel warm and fuzzy? So we can tell the world how awesome our church is because ____ number of people come? Or because we want them to have a real, personal, encounter with Christ?

          So, you can either offer them a real, personal, encounter with Christ, right there in their hand, and on their tongue, or you can give them free donuts in the parking lot because we’re the coolest, totes magotes. One of those two will result, over time, in a sustained relationship of trust in Christ, and one will not.

      • angeb68 on December 27, 2014 at 7:52 am

        God is truly worshipped with an obedient lifestyle. The word says “They that worship me will worship me in spirit and in truth” This is the problem with most Christians…they actually believe that worship is reserved for church attendance and not for them personally. Many of them do not have a personal relationship with God through His son Jesus Christ, so they mistakenly use church attendance a the blanket for worshipping God. We are supposed to pray daily, read the word daily, live the word daily, fast as often as necessary, praise God daily, worship God in spirit and in truth daily and all of this is for the individual Christian to perform. Going to church and connecting with others is and should be an extension of our relationship with God. If we are truly in fellowship with the father, in the light as He is the light and doing His will then our motivation for going to church should be about loving people; not judging them, condemning them, and making them feel so low that they never come back. Yes, God wants us to tell the truth to each when we are wrong, but He wants it to be done in love and to edify and not destroy. Christians today are so cruel and if I didn’t know God like I do, I would not have anything to do with Him, church or Christians. God help your people!

        • Carey Nieuwhof on December 27, 2014 at 11:43 am

          Thanks for sharing your story. I am so thankful you have a personal, vibrant relationship with God. I love however, that God also designed us for community. Not all Christians are bad people…some of the most amazing people I’ve met in my life are Christians. Seriously. They’re changing the world for good. I would encourage you to keep trying to meet Christians. There’s power in community.

      • Sharon37 on January 5, 2015 at 4:13 pm

        There is something that happens when people sit down and enjoy a meal together. It builds a sense of comaderie, improves social interactions, makes people feel wanted. People aren’t looking for food but want to feel accepted and not go in a big building for an hour and come out without talking to someone especially the pastor. Why don’t pastor do weekly visits on Sunday into a new members home and visit one member every Sunday, I’m from MS and that’s what my pastor did. Maybe it was an African American custom but it was an honor to have the pastor over and you felt like you knew who would baptist your child. Now, it’s just walk down and get dunked.

        • Carey Nieuwhof on January 5, 2015 at 4:17 pm

          Sharon thanks for this. You know the church at it’s best is almost all of these things. The closer we come to being the community you hint at, the more we are like Christ. Whether the pastor does it or not is less important than the fact that community connects with each other.

  27. Clay G. on June 20, 2013 at 10:44 pm

    Also, there’s the changing generational perception that church happens outside of four walls. 🙂

  28. […] 7 Ways to Respond As People Attend Church Less Often. […]

  29. […] 3. Occasional is regular. When they start coming, they don’t always attend every week. Giving them easy, obvious and strategic steps to get connected is important. Disconnected people generally don’t stick. (I wrote more about the declining frequency of church attendance here.) […]

  30. Trent on May 14, 2013 at 11:18 am

    Yes maybe there are more people tuning in online, but I submit to you that more people are becoming non believers. They are being influence by the media, the internet, their friends and their family. You see it everywhere, there’s a definite shift in Christianity in the world today. The word GOD is forbidden in virtually all that we do and see. Sad but true…

    • Sharon37 on January 5, 2015 at 4:21 pm

      I think many people are questioning irregularities in the New Testament and starting to question Christianity as a whole. I still believe in God but I don’t believe that a religion that was created by a King in the 4th century has more credence over any other religion. Religion is a manmade concept. There is only us and God. No intercessor is needed. So, more people are following the Old Testament and turning away from Christianity. We know there is a God and is evident in our existence and order in the world. However, Christianity seems manufactured which is why so many inconsistencies. It seems like they’re making it up as they go along and as times change. Being nondenominational means that I respect other religion and don’t hate Muslims. It means that I pray to God through prayer, nature, helping someone, just moving mankind forward into being beings that God wants us to be. We’re tired of the negativity and judgmental attitudes.

      • ErinErin on February 20, 2015 at 2:33 pm

        Sharon…sadly, the strident voices of intolerance and negativity tend to be the ones online, or on radio or TV and that’s what gets promoted as the only version of Christianity. The current version of conservatism comes across as stingy and without compassion. Which is why the progressive arm of the church wants nothing to do with them. Some think that Constantine was the best thing that happened to Christianity because it became the “mainline” religion and spread. I am not one of those people.

  31. lindsey on April 29, 2013 at 7:43 pm

    Thanks for your leadership and heart you shared at the orange conference. It was my first time attending, I found it very helpful. I was introduced to your blog, you have some tremendous material here! Keep up the good work.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on April 30, 2013 at 6:43 am

      Lindsey, thank you! I loved Orange Conference and was honoured to serve this year. Inspiring! And glad the blog is helping.

  32. Bonnie Barba Acosta on April 21, 2013 at 11:23 pm

    In the little fellowship I attend, every one of us have valid reasons, some more frequently than others, to be absent. The thing that is wonderful is that we aer connected well enough that when someone is absent, or planning an absence, others are aware of the why, and ready to meet a need, pray for the sick, lend a hand, or give a ride. Several have elderly parents who live elsewhere, and need to make regular visits to them, some have rotating work schedules, or plain old work exhaustion and a need to rest. The important part is being connected, and the blessing of being able to hear a message on the radio, online, or by tape, having others call or stop by to make sure you have any help that is required, or just to give a hug. If people are connected, this happens,

  33. Narrow Gauge on April 8, 2013 at 5:04 pm

    There is really nothing new here. These are all being done in church after church and people are leaving the church at unprecedented rates. I think this has been tried and proven to be ineffective.

    While I agree with several of your suggestions (Relationships and People) I respectfully disagree with many of your other suggestions. I agree with the agnostic who responded. People don’t go to church and continue to attend because they might get an unexpected treat in the parking lot or a free butter tart just for being there. If that is why they come, then you better have that every week, because once you stop, they won’t come back. Are you seriously suggesting this as a way to get people back in to church? Give away a free Galaxy IV next Sunday and I think you’d pack the house!

    Children and Teen ministries have been a priority for the church for the past 20 years. I do agree that any church without something decent will not have a lot of families attend. But parents have so many other options to keep their kids entertained, if they don’t see the value of attending church, I don’t think the kids program will be that effective in bringing the whole family. Many parents will just drop the kids off and go shopping. We’ve all seen that happen!

    If you mean by “Irrestistable Experience” that those who attend walk away committed to following Jesus, strengthened in their faith, willing to sacrifice for their King and Savior, laying down their lives to become more like him, then I agree with you! But if you mean we give them a great show, entertain them for a few minutes in their busy week and send them out the door unaffected and not caring enough about the call of God on their lives to follow Him, then you are wide of the mark. All too often, that is what I have seen in a great church “experience”

    The people I have talked at length with about this topic, would get back into attending church if it was effective at helping them follow Jesus. Isn’t that the purpose of the Church? For far too many of us, the church model being shoved down our throats is more harmful than helpful. I wouldn’t want to serve in a church that had these 7 ideas on how to keep people in church.

    • cnieuwhof on April 8, 2013 at 5:24 pm

      I sincerely hope you find a church like the one you describe or are a part of one. I guess I just have a different view on what the kind of church I’m describing produces. When I meet a good number of the people who attend the kind of church described above, I actually meet authentic disciples of Jesus. And many new authentic disciples of Jesus. For sure it’s not a perfect model, but no model is.

      • Narrow Gauge on April 9, 2013 at 1:35 pm

        Hi Carey,

        It is harder, I think, when you are pastoring, to see the overall big picture of how the church at large is doing. We can become, rightfully so, focused on the flock that we oversee. We don’t really know the big picture of how “The Church” is doing.

        I’ve been there, and have been a full time senior pastor, church planter, associate pastor, worship pastor etc for over 20 years. I am very happily a volunteer now.

        My perspective on this matter is shaped from visiting over 30 congregations, all over the country in the past 5 years (I travel a lot as a musician) I have seen a lot of the same thing, no matter what the church affiliation is. Of course, brother, I have not been to your fellowship.

        I have met some great people in those congregations, for sure. But the model of church ministry that most leaders embrace (which I also embraced for years) is ineffective in the large scale. The stats are in and they are there for anyone to look at. People are fleeing church. Those who stay are the most theologically illiterate in recent church history. The people in the pew know very little about God. The bigger and most important question to be asking is: why is this happening?

        I am part of an imperfect congregation that is thriving, reaching tons of young people, and has, for the most part, rejected the typical church model. People are hungry for the real thing, they are starving for it, and most won’t find it in the current church model. Without a doubt, some do and will.

        I value dialouge on this topic. I’ve been where you are, and I have also been where the congregation is. Who knows, in 10 years you may have a very different view of the kind of people the current church model produces. I know I did!

        • cnieuwhof on April 10, 2013 at 6:15 pm

          Thanks for the reply and for the honest dialogue. It helps me to hear your story. I have been 18 years in ministry so for sure I don’t have your experience. Increasingly I see 1 Corinthians 12 as applying to churches, not just individual people. For the body to be the body, it’s going to take many (different) parts. And of course that leads into 1 Corinthians 13 which is about love and respect for each other. The longer I lead the more I realize it’s going to take every church to make an impact. I’m glad when we can all work together on a common mission.

  34. Randy on April 6, 2013 at 11:41 am

    Carey, Thanks for sharing your wisdom and experience.
    Have you written on How to Create a Culture of Serving?

    • Carey Nieuwhof on April 8, 2013 at 5:18 pm

      Hi Randy. I have not yet. Good idea. Wonder if anyone has links to some great existing resources they can share.

  35. Brent Dumler on April 5, 2013 at 9:35 pm

    Well, not related to weekend worship service attendance…this comment is on team meetings. We recently held a very different/important meeting for all our kids ministry workers. Roughly 90 invites went out and we had 30 show up. We were casting some pretty big vision info and we couldn’t afford for 60 volunteers to not hear it. So, the day after the ‘live’ meeting I gathered my notes and MacBook in my office and re-created the training experience in a podcast. Then I emailed it to those who missed. This worked wonderfully and we received some really good feedback!

  36. LAA on April 4, 2013 at 7:10 pm

    Thanks Carey, I love your posts, this in particular has meant a lot as I was starting to get angry when noticing people not attending as regularly, not with them, but blaming our leaders. It is interesting to see this isn’t only happening on our Church, and it brings me off my soap box (one I hadn’t realised I was standing on until reading this). What really matters is loving God and loving others, without these two things we wouldn’t need a church – full or not 🙂

  37. Ron on April 4, 2013 at 9:24 am

    #2 is HUGE for us right now, too! If I have a personal relationship and find out they are going to be at church on Sunday, it’s more likely I’ll show up to hang out with them and catch up in person. This is even more true if I have 5 friends that might not hang out with each other, but I know they’ll all be in the same place at the same time!

    I think sometimes we worry too much about the frills and attracting people whose heart isn’t in it… even for a piece of candy or special experience…

    • cnieuwhof on April 4, 2013 at 12:56 pm

      It was all about a relationship in the first place – with Christ and with others. Wonderful to see that this will help the church reclaim and recover our mission as we move forward.

  38. Lawrence W. Wilson on April 4, 2013 at 7:57 am

    Carey, our average rate of attendance is about 56%, meaning the average person is there about half the time. Still amazes me, but it’s true. We’re working on #2, elevate relationships. I don’t think we can produce an experience that is more irresistible than a Colts game, but we can help people experience authentic connection. That’s usually why they came in the first place. Good post.

    • cnieuwhof on April 4, 2013 at 12:56 pm

      Lawrence thanks for sharing. How do you get the exact percentage. Do you track individual adult attenders?

      • Lawrence W. Wilson on April 5, 2013 at 12:25 pm

        Carey, we do track individual attendees. We’re a mid-sized church, so it’s still manageable to have a team of people who “take attendance” every week. It helps greatly with knowing when to check in on people for pastoral care, and when newcomers have crossed the invisible line that says “we’re here now.”

  39. Joe Lalonde on April 4, 2013 at 6:13 am

    Carey, great insights! All of these are true and something we’re struggling with as a church. Do you have any recommendations for getting your church services to stream live or to place them online to view? That’s the next move I feel our church needs to make and it’s been a struggle figuring out how to do this.

    • cnieuwhof on April 4, 2013 at 12:55 pm

      Hi Joe…I think having a reliable high speed connection (we’re in theaters, so we’re not there yet) and having excellent quality are two benchmarks. We’ve been upgrading our cameras, switchers etc in preparation for a launch in the next year. You want to export a good version that represents your church well for outsiders, not just a handycam at the back with a room mic. 🙂

      • Joe Lalonde on April 4, 2013 at 1:21 pm

        Thanks for the insights into what you guys are doing. We’ve got the high-speed connection and I believe our cameras are high quality. Any recommendations for switchers and service providers?

  40. Frank Bealer on April 3, 2013 at 11:43 pm

    Fantastic article! We have been using the check-in data in our eKidz program to evaluate attendance trends and have been challenged by what we have found. Some might get discouraged, we are simply taking it as a challenge to create a stronger connection for families to the local church.

    • cnieuwhof on April 4, 2013 at 12:53 pm

      Frank that’s such a great approach. We’re doing a similar thing. We’ll have to compare notes.

  41. Cyndi on April 3, 2013 at 6:48 pm

    How about once again teaching people that God made the church, imperfect as it is. That it is his instrument. That we go out of obedience. That sometimes guilt isn’t a bad thing. That online and personal relationships are not the same. That way too often people just don’t like anything messy even though it is people that create messiness. That most excuses people will give, even the spiritual sounding ones, are just that, excuses made by people who want to do what they want to when they want to. There is strength in committment and obedience.

    • cnieuwhof on April 4, 2013 at 12:58 pm

      Yes. 🙂

  42. CVR on April 3, 2013 at 1:16 pm

    Just to throw in the perspective of one of those people the article’s talking about (used to attend church regularly, but isn’t now)…

    I’d go to church if I was sure in my heart that there was a God that deserved my undivided attention and worship. I’d go to church if church was like no other group gathering because there was a supernatural being at the centre of it all. I’d choose physical church over internet-based church if I experienced there the same kinds of things there that came with Jesus in Bible times – radical teachings, unconditional forgiveness, miracles, healings, the dead raised – which you can’t get online. I’d go to church if I was convinced that I needed the forgiveness of a saviour, and that saviour was the Jesus of the Bible.

    I won’t go to church for butter tarts or a “live concert”. I won’t go to church because I feel guilty when I don’t. I won’t go to church because of efforts that can be articulated without mention of God or Jesus.

    • cnieuwhof on April 4, 2013 at 12:57 pm

      Hi CVR…thanks. I should say that if I was you I would be concerned about those things too. We are. It is implied, not explicit in this post. Jesus is the center of it all, even if our expressions of worship and church might vary culturally.

      • Scott on July 7, 2013 at 4:52 pm

        There is some gold nuggets in this article but I also find what is wrong with church today. Making church about who can hand out the best goodies and entertainment. It turns the body of Christ into business marketing scheme. I believe people are looking for what CVR says. They want real. They want to see and experience God. I’m a pastor and everytime I get drawn back to center… back to Christ… I’m made to feel like I have to compete with other churches. I have to be more entertaining. I have to have more bells and whistles. I have to have this and that or people will go on to a church that has it. That’s not what church is about. I’m not trying to say that is what you or church is about. I don’t know. I just know that it was comforting to hear RC Sproul once say, “Small church pastor… your goal isn’t to be like us mega-church guys. Its to be faithful I don’t think that is expressed enough.”

        • cnieuwhof on July 10, 2013 at 6:41 am

          Thanks for this Scott. I have been to small churches without the authentic power of the Gospel and to large churches without it. And I have been to small and large who have it in abundance. That said, I also realize I am not always the best judge to say where God is working and where he isn’t. Good points.

    • convert on June 9, 2013 at 9:32 am

      Go to a catholic church if you want to feel the presence of Jesus. He is always there in the Eucharist!

    • Frank Mandt on July 7, 2013 at 11:46 am

      You might try a Unitarian Universalist church if you want spirituality without dogma. We support a free and open search for truth and meaning in this life.

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