10 Really Big Questions About Future Church Attendance (and 10 Hunches)

10 Really Big Questions About Future Church Attendance (And 10 Hunches)

Talk to any church leader, and they’ll tell you it feels more challenging than ever to get people to come to church on a Sunday.

Even in growing churches (like ours), the competition for peoples’ time, attention and devotion seems to get more intense every year.

You’ve felt it too.

So what’s up? And where is future church attendance heading?

I’m a firm believer in the future of the church and the gathered church. It’s here to stay not because we always get it right, but because the church is Jesus’ idea, not ours.

Still, with everything in the culture changing, how do you navigate toward a better future?

One step is to start asking solid questions.

Why? Because usually the future isn’t pioneered by the clarity of the answers nearly as much as it by the quality of the questions.

Ask the right questions, and you’ll eventually get the right answers. Fail to ask the questions, and you’re sunk.

Here are 10 questions I’m asking right now and I’ve seen other leaders ask. I think they can help frame your discussion and move you toward better answers and a strategy to match.

I’ve also included my hunch when it comes to an answer to the questions, not because I’m certain it’s right, but because answering the question moves you toward a more strategic and proactive future.

So, with that in mind, here are 10 really big questions about future church attendance.

1. WILL INFREQUENT CHURCH ATTENDANCE BECOME THE UNIVERSAL DEFAULT?

If you grew up in church, you were likely raised never to miss a Sunday. Well, those days are pretty much gone. I outline 10 reasons for that in this post.

Frequent church attendance (say two to three weeks a month) seems to be most prevalent among

  • Volunteers
  • Long time (and older) church attendees
  • Families with very young children
  • Some new attendees and new Christians (at least for a season)
  • Quite honestly, lower-income families for whom travel is not an option

For everyone else, regular church attendance is giving way to non-engagement or online attendance.

As infrequent in-person attendance becomes more normative, it raises a series of other questions.

Hunch

Infrequent church attendance is usually a sign that people don’t see value in what you’re doing. And that’s a problem.

When parents who never ever miss their kids’ soccer practice regularly miss church, it’s a sign that they’re more engaged in soccer than they are in church. In other words, they just don’t see the value in attendance.

Want to drive engagement? Here are some ideas.

2. DOES INFREQUENT ATTENDANCE LEAD TO LOWER DEVOTION AMONG CHRISTIANS?

Some might argue frequent church attendance is not an indicator of devotion to Christ. But the bigger question is Is infrequent church attendance a sign of lower devotion to Christ?

Obviously, there is nothing that inherently says that’s the case, but generally speaking, people are less committed to things they attend less often.

Naturally, the goal of faith is to get people to commit to Jesus, not to a local church, but still, as I outline here, Christ and his church are intricately connected.

But consider this: Showing up at the gym once a month rather than three times a week usually communicates something. Skipping a weekly date with someone you’re supposed to be in love with is usually a sign of something deeper.

People usually commit to things they’re devoted to. Until they’re no longer devoted to them.

Hunch

Infrequent attendance is almost always a sign of lower devotion. We participate in the things we value most.

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Carey Nieuwhof
Speaker and podcaster Carey Nieuwhof is a former lawyer and founding pastor of Connexus Church, one of the largest and most influential churches in Canada. With over 6 million downloads, The Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast features today's top leaders and cultural influencers. His most recent book is “Didn’t See It Coming: Overcoming the 7 Greatest Challenges That No One Expects and Everyone Experiences.” Carey and his wife, Toni, reside near Barrie, Ontario and have two children.

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