I was itching to share these ideas with a blogger who sent out a pitch on Help A Reporter Out asking for ways to increase church attendance. So many ideas came to mind that I recited them into my phone and hoped for the best with Siri’s voice recognition and the Notes app. The reporter wanted only a maximum of two per submission and I had already come up with fourteen off the top of my head.
After picking two interesting ones, I emailed them to the writer with an offer to provide more.
Later that day came the HARO rejection message. The author wasn’t interested, but thanks for playing.
I was briefly crestfallen, but then decided to turn this list into a blog post. Let me know what you think.
How to Increase Church Membership Ideas
1. By far the best way to get more people to attend church is to get existing churchgoers to invite friends and neighbors.
You can support this by producing a little card or magnet with your church time etc. and address on it, and to give instructions and guidance to equip your members on how to invite new members.
2. Offer an additional, more convenient time.
My former parish added a Sunday evening service with the intention of freeing up parking spaces during Sunday mornings. What happened instead was that the Sunday evening time slot attracted a new group of attendees, especially young adults, who weren’t previously attending that church. When trying to increase your church attendance, sometimes more is more.
3. Sponsor cultural events such as movies, discussions, dances and concerts.
Attract the neighborhood to participate in non-threatening, fun events at your church, such as the Arlington Forum sponsored by St. Charles Catholic Church in Arlington, Va. Your neighbors will come for the entertainment and some will come back on Sundays.
4. Offer a music-free option Mass or service to attract a different crowd that might be interested in a more contemplative atmosphere.
5. Advertise on Facebook, particularly events related to the holidays such as Advent, Christmas and Easter. Also consider Ash Wednesday, which is usually the busiest day traffic-wise for church websites. (And a personal favorite of mine)
6. Create a what-to-expect video so newcomers know what they’re getting into.
This might include a few shots of the inside of the church, how the entrance procession works, how the service looks, and how newcomers are treated (are they singled out and made to stand at the end?) so people know what to expect. You don’t want the fear of the unknown to keep them from coming.
7. Be visible in the neighborhood.
This could be an outdoor Marian procession in May or sponsoring a booth at the neighborhood fair. Get noticed and then get attention.
8. Offer babysitting or childcare.
My first two boys are 18 months apart so when they were babies, sometimes Sundays meant my wife and I played divide and conquer. We’d go to Mass in solo shifts while the other watched the kids at home and then we’d swap. That’s not a great long-term solution and it doesn’t work for single parents. Offer a hand and let those young parents know they are welcome.
9. Better homilies and sermons.
You might think worshiping the Creator of the Universe is enough of a draw, but a personalized message explaining how the Gospel applies to our lives today will get people to return.
10. Better music.
Singing is praying twice. Good music is welcoming thrice.
11. Train your ushers to offer an appropriate welcome.
For more guidance, see Don’t Act Like a New York Waiter and 21 Other Things Church Ushers Should Never Do.
12. A small-group program to gently welcome back fallen-away churchgoers, such as Landings.
Give those who have had a poor experience in the past opportunity to be heard and to have sympathetic companions on the journey back home.
13. Newcomer dinners.
These monthly or so gatherings are an opportunity for guests to meet other established parishioners and fellow newcomers in a relaxed setting. Building this fellowship makes it easier for newcomers to return next Sunday knowing they’ll see some familiar faces.
14. Establish affinity groups such as for young adults, new moms, or even different sports.
Give people a way to feel like they can connect with a particular group and they will come back.
15. Transform your ministries fair into a community expo for volunteers.
Many churches sponsor a ministries fair, which is an open house for their current members to learn about volunteer opportunities at the church. (Ministry fair booth ideas) That’s great if you want your current attendees to participate more, but what if you want to increase church attendance? You need to introduce more people to your church. Transforming your ministries fair into a community volunteer fair for the whole neighborhood can attract newcomers who might be turned off by the term ministry, but are interested in getting involved locally. In addition to sponsoring booths for volunteer opportunities directly relate to your church, also include information about volunteer opportunities in the community, such as homeless shelters, food assistance centers and tutoring. Invite outside groups that are looking for volunteers to participate. You’ll attract a larger pool of volunteers and some of those committed visitors will turn into regular attendees. (See also The Ministry Fair Alternative)
Looking back, many of these suggestions involve attracting newcomers. It turns out increasing attendance is often a function of attracting new comers. And many of these ideas will help you increase community in a way that attracts newcomers and inspires your current membership.
Have you tried any of these techniques at your church? Share what you might think could work or drop in a new suggestion below.