Church Growth Strategies for the New Year
January is a time full of possibilities in the life of a church—and not just for the fresh start of a new year, or the new or resumed ministries, programs, or sermon series that will be starting up.
It’s also a time that’s ripe for church growth. Why? It’s a well-known fact that the Christmas season brings with it an upswing in church attendance, particularly among those who aren’t regular church-goers. But a study from Pew Research Center revealed that Google searches for “church” also spike around Christmas. These patterns mean that churches are attracting visitors—very likely those who attend church irregularly or only on holidays—that they have the opportunity to keep ministering to in the new year.
Is your church prepared with a strategy for growth this January and beyond? Read on for ways to keep those Christmas visitors coming back, encourage regular attendance, and impact your community throughout the year.
1. Follow up with visitors
Collecting contact information from visitors will give you the means to welcome them to the church and invite them back—and an invitation is a powerful thing. A recent study from LifeWay Research about holiday-season church attendance determined that 57 percent of those who don’t attend church regularly would go if someone invited them. You might build on that tendency by encouraging congregation members who asked a friend or neighbor to church over Christmas to offer another invitation once the holiday rush is over.
And making an organized effort to follow up with visitors (perhaps with a welcome packet, or an email or postcard with an overview of upcoming programs and events) will help you avoid missing out on any opportunities to extend that invitation.
2. Create a welcoming atmosphere
Yet, once invited, visitors aren’t likely to feel inclined to return unless they feel welcomed, noticed, and included. More than receiving a friendly greeting at the door and being handed a bulletin, a welcoming experience for visitors is ideally something that’s been built into the culture of your church.
Do visitors know where to go when they walk in? Is there a welcome center or information desk where they can ask questions? Is it easy to find the nursery or children’s areas? Do staff and church members make an effort to notice and reach out to guests? These kinds of considerations help make your congregation a more inviting place.
3. Develop opportunities for fellowship
But it can be hard to feel welcome and comfortable in a large room of strangers. One way to prevent visitors (and even regular attendees) from getting lost in the crowd of a Sunday service is through smaller groups or gatherings, which provide an opportunity for one-on-one interaction and discipleship as congregants grow in their relationships with each other and with Christ.
“Churches tend to focus on their large Sunday morning gatherings, but the seeds of church growth are often nurtured in smaller groups that help relationships go deep.”
–Tom Kline in Church Growth Strategy: Think Small
Yet Thom Rainer, President of LifeWay Christian Resources and formerly the dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism, suggests in his reflections on declining church attendance that groups may be “one of the most neglected areas of church life.” Groups of all kinds, for all ages and interests—from kids’ groups, to Bible studies for adults, to volunteer or activity groups—enable people to connect more closely on a personal level and more broadly as a community of faith. Those interested in visiting or joining your congregation will be encouraged to know that they’ll have a place where they or their children can belong and get involved.
“It’s healthy to want to touch more people’s lives. An increase in attendance numbers is the most obvious measurement of wide church growth. But don’t discount what is just as significant: growing deep. It’s important to measure church growth in terms of spiritual discipleship—going deeper in relationship with each other and with Christ.”
As your new year begins, be sure to explore the free resource, Start Strong: Must-Have Goals For Your Best Year Yet. Download it today for free for even deeper insights on how your church can cultivate healthy, long-term growth.