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5 Ways to Embrace Infrequent Church Attendees

4. Start measuring outputs.

Perhaps the biggest takeaway for me personally from my interview with Will Mancini was Will’s insight that church leaders are programmed to measure inputs, not outputs.

We measure how many people showed up, what they gave, who they brought and even online traffic. But rarely do we measure outputs.

What if the church became as much a sending organization as a receiving organization?

What if you developed ways to measure spiritual growth? Like how much time people spend with God personally each day reading scripture and praying? The stats are surprisingly low. According to a recent study, 57 percent of Americans read their Bible four times a year or less. Only 26 percent read it more than four times a week.

What if you helped the people around your church change that?

And what if you got innovative and started thinking through whether people were better off five years after joining your church than they were before? Or whether they feel closer to Christ? Or whether they’re making a difference in their workplaces and neighborhoods? What if you helped them be the church, not just go to church?

Leaders get passionate about what they measure. So measure thoughtfully.

5. Celebrate wins.

It’s strange that when a child takes their first steps, we applaud wildly, but when a Christian takes their first steps, we call them immature.

Sure, so a new Christian doesn’t read their Bible every day or attend every week or give the way you want. I get that. Many long-time Christians don’t either.

Rather than judging them, why not love them?

Why not celebrate when they take a step?

Send a handwritten thank you note to each first-time attender. Welcome them when they come back. Throw a party when they show up again three months later. Celebrate like crazy when someone gives their first $5 gift. Jump for joy when someone decides to serve, or high five them when they decide to get in a group.

OK, I’m exaggerating a bit. The point isn’t to get weird.

The point is to celebrate. As Andy Stanley says, what you celebrate gets repeated.

Want to know how to celebrate? Follow my friend Bob Goff.

I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone with a bigger heart than Bob, or who takes more delight in things others might ignore or despise. Read his book. Stalk him (OK … don’t stalk him, but do follow him). Let some of his Kingdom of God joy rub off on you. If the church approached ministry the way people like Bob approach life, the church would be a far more attractive and contagious place.

Wait … Can’t You Be More Practical?

What about more practical ideas? Most of what’s above seems so … intangible.

Two years ago, I wrote about seven more practical ways to respond as people attend church less often in this post. All seven ideas are still relevant.

But I wanted to focus on the bigger picture … which is really getting all of us to admit that a new day is here.

The trend is not going away.

You can fight it or you can fund it.

History tends to be on the side of people who fund innovation, not on those who fight it.

Why not innovate for the kingdom? (More on that in Part 4 next week.)

The irony in all of this, of course, is that if you really do shift your mindset on this and start helping people, they’ll want to be around you more. In fact … although this might not be your direct goal … your attendance might actually increase.

So … what are you learning?

What’s the hardest part of this discussion for you?