How should we treat infrequent church attenders?
It’s that time of year again.
Bustles of bright dresses will abound, families will arrive in large clusters, and many church doors will be darkened by crowds of infrequent attenders: it’s Easter.
Easter, along with other special “church moments” like Christmas and weddings, can be a difficult time for those who lead in the local church. There is a question that looms over many leader’s minds during this time of the year: how should we interact with infrequent church attenders?
You know the ones I am talking about:
The young couple who grew up in the church, and still calls it their church home, but is scarcely seen 90% of the year.
The husband who makes himself wake up early on Sunday two times a year so he can stay in his wife’s good favor.
Many of us have to fight an urge to roll our eyes, or make snarky comments to these people as they meander into our church buildings again. Some of us might even take a more abrupt approach. I won’t put this person on public blast, but I once heard from a close friend that he decided to preach one Easter (in 1996 mind you) a sermon titled: 12 Reasons Not To Forsake The Assembly. I’m sure all those people came back with a heart of understanding and were ready to change to way of living after that one. . .
All jokes aside, this is a serious issues for many of us, church leaders and regular attenders alike. We want to show these people Christ’s love, but there is a deeper desire to call these people out and simply shut our doors to them. So how do we treat these people?
I think it’s quite simple.
You love them, regardless of how you feel about them.
Carey Nieuwhof, in a blog you can find here, breaks down 5 ways to embrace these infrequent attenders. Here are some helpful hints as we approach this coming Sunday and all the Sundays that will follow this one:
Develop some empathy. We no longer live in a world where church, or even faith, stand as a pillar in the average household. A person who attends 12, 8, even 2 times a year might view this as a huge improvement from where they once were. Plus, if you scowl at every person who walks in your door on Sunday, do you think they are going to want to return?
Separate the mission from the method. Our mission is to lead people into a relationship with Jesus, not to get them to attend our church service multiple times a week. We should be unconditionally obsessed with our mission, not with filling seats.
Use technology to help people every day. If our mission is to lead people into a relationship with Jesus, then we should be using every avenue we can to accomplish this mission, and this extends beyond our church service. While we might not be able to reach many people face-to-face, there are still many ways to have a positive impact on their life and faith.
Start measuring outputs. According to a recent study, 57% of Americans read their bible four times a year or less. Only 26% read it more than 4 times a week. What if instead of focusing on our input as a church (how many people are attending), and begin focusing on our output as a church (what kind of people are leaving our service).
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.” Rather than judging and condemning those who make their way into our churches this Sunday, why don’t we try loving them?
Here is my point: instead of casting hate on those who aren’t where you’d hope they’d be, love them. That is the only response I can find with Jesus as he dealt with people who were living in opposition with his life and teachings. He loved them. Unconditionally.
Being in church is important, but is it more important than being Jesus to people? This Sunday, if you approach people with a bigger heart and a weaker pride, the church would be a far more attractive and contagious place.