How did you end up at the church you attend?
I bet you have your reasons.
Maybe you even wrote them down when you were church shopping or searching for a job.
Most people have a list, even if they don’t know it.
It’s often intuitive.
Do you know what people are looking for?
Research is helpful in this area and I’ve noticed trends in my own conversations with people who recently chose to make our church home or recently decided to leave.
So, here’s the top six reasons I believe people choose a church.
The number one factor in choosing a church, even for Gen Z and millennials, is the sermon.
People want to understand the Bible.
People want to listen to a compelling communicator who is authentic and real, and who teaches the Scriptures in a way that is relevant to life.
If there is one area to focus on in your church, this would be it.
Are the sermons compelling?
Do they help people connect the Scriptures to their lives?
A major factor in people choosing a particular church is whether or not they feel welcome.
Here’s the challenge: Guests often make their decision about warmth and how welcoming your church is within the first five minutes.
The parking lot…front doors…atrium experience is often the indicator.
Here are a few comments I’ve heard about churches that didn’t feel welcoming:
The thing about warmth and a welcoming environment is that it often has to be trained into our volunteers and congregation.
Something we have found helpful is the 5-15 rule, which states that within 15 feet you make eye contact and smile and within 5 feet you say hello.
Just watch out because I have become so indoctrinated with the 5-15 rule that I do it on the street and at the mall and now I’m just generally weird.
But hey, at least I’m friendly.
Worship style has been something to argue about in churches for about a million years.
It sure would be nice if everyone just had the same taste but well…we don’t.
Churches navigate this tension through a variety of strategies.
One church I was on staff with had multiple services with multiple styles.
The church I’m now on staff with has one style at every campus.
In fact, each week we have the exact same worship set at each of our campuses.
I’m not really giving advice on how to navigate this issue, I’m just trying to make the point that people still make decisions on what church to attend based on the style of worship and so, if we want to be relevant, we have to pay attention to the stylistic opinions of the people in our communities.
I find it helpful to think of style as a tool and not a tenet of orthodoxy.
The style of worship in churches throughout the world has evolved through the centuries and what was cutting edge and controversial eventually becomes stale and boring.
Churches that remain relevant over many years hold their opinions on style loosely, recognizing that we must become all things to all people in order to reach them for the Gospel.
I think someone said something about that in the Bible somewhere…
I wish the trend were different, but here in the United States, there is a common script.
People put church and sometimes their faith on the shelf after high school and pick them back up again when they have kids.
Perhaps your greatest opportunity to reengage those who have drifted is with your kids’ ministry.
A great children’s ministry not only builds the faith of the children, but it serves to reconnect their parents to your church.
It’s an incredibly important ministry.
I would say that same for student ministry.
Twenty percent of the middle and high school students who regularly attend our student ministry come from families who are not connected to our church and every year, many of these families get roped into our church through their teenagers.
If I were starting a church from scratch, I would focus heavily on building a world-class ministry for kids and teenagers right out of the gate.
It’s that important.
Relational connectedness is important to all people, but it is a huge priority for younger people.
And, keep in mind, feeling connected is different than feeling welcome.
Connection is about authenticity on the stage and experiencing real relationships with the people you attend church with.
This is why I believe so deeply in small groups as a ministry strategy to build relationships.
The church is supposed to be like family.
People choose churches where they feel connected.
This is why, even though there is a huge trend around digital church right now, I just don’t believe it is the answer.
The church is about real relationships centered around Jesus.
Increasingly, people are looking for a church that cares about the community in which it finds itself.
I believe that this passion for community engagement and tangible expressions of Christ’s love for people in the community is great news for the future of the church.
The upcoming generations are well equipped to engage the complexities of our culture and I am very hopeful that the church will thrive in America in the coming generations.
With that said, young people will not stay long in churches that don’t appear to care deeply about the needs of the surrounding community.
Here’s something we are learning as a church: We don’t have a “heart” issue when it comes to community engagement, we have a “communication” issue.
What this means is that our church is deeply involved in serving people in our community.
We have tons of people involved and we are giving away lots of money to great ministries in our city.
The problem is that people don’t know about our involvement because we haven’t made a big deal about it because it feels weird to “toot our own horn” on how we are serving.
Our solution to this problem has been to share more stories about how our people are engaging the community and how our people’s financial generosity is serving our city.
I share this because you may find yourself in the same situation.
People choose or don’t choose your church for a variety of reasons, but I believe these six are some of the most common reasons.
I’m hopeful that this list served as a helpful reminder and perhaps sparks an important conversation in your church.
Also, we’d love to hear your thoughts, questions or even the reasons you believe people choose churches. Thanks for reading.