During my more than a decade in local church ministry, I have been to countless seminars, trainings, and have read numerous books that discuss the seemingly infinite number of ways to get more people into church. It seems as if every few weeks there is some new idea “guaranteed” to have more people become involved in the ministries of your church, but usually all these “guarantees” just make the person who has come up with them a little richer.
Some of the wisest insight I ever received in what it takes to get a church to grow came during my time at Acts 2 United Methodist Church in Edmond, OK. When I started at Acts 2, it was just moving from the middle school cafetorium where they had been meeting for several years to our first permanent building. We knew when this transition happened, our attendance was going to have to double from 125 a Sunday to 250 to be able to cover our expenses and continue, and even increase, our scope of ministries. I was personally invested in the growth of the church because if we didn’t grow, I was the first staff position that was going to be fired since I was the last one hired.
As we prepared for this transition, we as staff spent a great deal of time and research trying to figure out what would be the best way to get the church to grow. We read books, met with other growing churches and even hired a consultant. What we found out was 85% of all people who come to church start coming because someone they know invites them.
When I first heard this, I was shocked. I thought what got most people to go to church was slick mailings, professional advertising campaigns or charismatic ministers. Honestly, it hurt my ego a little because I wanted to believe I played a bigger part in people wanting to come than I actually did. Now granted, those factors do influence whether some people start coming to worship, but only about 15% of them. What this helped me to realize is no matter how good we do as a church staff at advertising, marketing and outreach, or how charming I might think I am, all of these factors will only ever be marginally as effective as what you do as members of the congregation. In short, to have more people come to St. Paul’s UMC, it is going to take you, the congregation, inviting them.
During the first five months of 2015 here at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church we averaged 79 people attending our worship services. Since June 1, we are averaging 107. That is a 26% increase! I credit most of that to the work you all are doing in talking about what is going on St. Paul’s and encouraging people to come. If this trend of new people coming, and former worship attenders coming back, it will take the continued efforts on all of our parts to invite people to come and welcome them once they do.
If you continue to invite people to join us for worship, I, along with the rest of the worship team, will continue to make sure what they experience in worship when they get here will be something that makes them want to come back.
I fully believe if we all continue to do our parts and work together to revitalize St. Paul’s UMC, the sky will truly be the limit.