This post is the fourth of a series posts of my reflections on the Small Town, Big Church Roundtable event I attended at The Rescue Church. I encourage you to read the first three:
1. It Takes ALL Kinds of Churches…
2. Three Reasons Your Church is Struggling Financially
3. Hiring Church Staff with No Money

Every church seems to have a revolving backdoor. In other words, a small church may see 50+ guests every year with many of these people becoming permanent members while continuing at the same attendance. This happens because people who have been attending the church regularly leave.

Watching people leave your church, especially when the reason is unknown, is one of the most painful parts of being a pastor.

This backdoor was a major problem at The Rescue Church. After reading the book Sticky Church, we have begun to search for solutions to the problem. This was also a topic which was brought up at the roundtable; below are three ideas that resonated with me:

1. You need excellent small groups!
If you are like many pastors, you may have audibly groaned when you read those two words: small groups. As pastors we hate to talk about small group ministries because we aren’t very good at them (that’s saying it nicely!). This has also been brutally true of the church I help lead.

We are currently experimenting with sermon-based discussion groups. These meetings have been effective in connecting people to each other and to God. An average group for us looks like this:
(30 minutes) – We have a meal together.
(15 minutes) – We share what is REALLY going on in our lives and pray for each other.
(30 minutes) – We spend time going through the discussion questions from the bulletin.
(15 minutes) – We close with prayer.

It is a simple but effective format. If you are interested in this, you NEED to read Sticky Church!

2. You need to personally follow-up with visitors!
It’s terrifying to attend a new church for the first time. After the service, the person will have an internal (or external) debate on whether or not to attend the following week.

If you want visitors to return to your church, you NEED to follow up with them personally. This means you need to have a way of gathering their information. We have “Connection Cards” which people can fill out and have a welcome gift mailed to them.

If you have their phone number, I highly recommend giving them a call. Thank them for attending the service and answer any questions they might have. Explain that you would be honored to have them join you again the following week!

3. You need to have a relational church!
The primary concept which continued to come up in our discussion was relationships. People stay at a church because of the relationships they have forged there. If the people in your church have the mindset of a country club and refuse to welcome guests to the service, your church will not grow!

You need to cultivate a deep love for guests in your congregation. This is more than going to grandma’s house after church with the same people every week. The people in your church should intentionally look for ways to welcome guests!

We have a “First Impressions” team at The Rescue Church. These are our greeters, ushers, coffee bar severs, etc. Although we have an official team, we are clear that EVERYONE is on the First Impressions team. This is something that we embed into the DNA of every person who attends our church. One of the greatest compliments I hear from first time guests is how genuinely friendly everyone at the church is!

Have you noticed that your church has a backdoor? What are some things you have learned to help close it? Let me know by leaving a comment!

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