Pastoral Searches: 4 Common Mistakes & A 7-Step Playbook

Pastoral Searches: 4 Common Mistakes & A 7-Step Playbook

Searching for a new pastor is nothing new.

But if you're feeling overwhelmed by the thought of finding a new pastor, you’re not alone.

For good, bad, and ugly reasons, pastors often transition.

But look on the bright side.

Since this is the case, there’s a ton of helpful advice out there on how to find your next pastor.

In this post, I created a short guide based on the best available advice to help you put together a pastoral search. Before getting into the nitty-gritty, let me save you some heartache and lay out the four common mistakes to avoid when searching for a new pastor.

4 common pastoral search mistakes

You’re going to make plenty of small mistakes along the way, and that’s okay. But you want to avoid stepping on one of these landmines during your pastoral search. One of them could blow up your entire process. So, tread lightly. ?

#1 – Avoid advice

Let me state the obvious:

Finding a new pastor is challenging.

Know what else?

This task isn’t something your church does every day.

In this post, I’m going to share practical advice handed down over years of pastoral search committee experiences. Following these tips will place you on the right track. But there’s one colossal limit this blog post possesses:

It will not turn you into an expert.

Becoming an expert in anything takes time, dedicated practice, and experience.

Does this mean you shouldn’t move forward in your pastoral search?

Far from it.

Here’s what this means:

In your search for a new pastor, don’t overlook your potential lack of experience with hiring people. Instead, be humble. Acknowledge the possibility that you, your church staff, or your church members may not have the skills you need to promptly find the right pastor for your church.

This process isn’t a simple task you can mark off of a church project-management to-do list. The life of your church marches on without a senior pastor, and in his or her absence, you may lose church members, experience a decline in giving, or lose forward momentum. When (not if) this happens, your search for a new pastor will feel more urgent, which can lead your search committee to make a rash decision.

As you prepare to search for a new pastor, consider soliciting advice from outside sources, such as your:

#2 – Searching too fast—or too slow

Timeliness is of the essence.

When it comes to pastoral searches, many churches have erred in two ways:

1. Moving too fast

2. Moving too slow

First of all, there’s no need to move too fast.

Don’t offer the position to the first person you interview. Give yourself and your search committee time to interview several candidates. There’s no need to rush the process.

The other error you want to avoid is moving too slow.

It’s easy to make the position public, receive interest, and then never return an email or phone call. Moving too slow will cost your church the interest of great candidates, and an unnecessarily lengthy search process will negatively influence your church members.

#3 – Lack of communication

Searching for a new pastor is a public (church) thing—not a private matter.

Even though your church may have a board, bishop, or search committee who’ll make the final decision in hiring a senior pastor, you shouldn’t leave your church members in the dark.

Unfortunately, it’s easy to forget to keep your church up-to-date.

How’s the process going?

Has your search committee narrowed down their list?

Will you invite a candidate to interview soon?

These are just some of the questions your church members are thinking. Instead of tempting them to gossip, it’s best to continually share updates while being open and honest..

Know who else needs to know what’s going on?

People who’ve applied for the position.

As you work through the pool of applicants, be quick to let those who didn’t make your short list know, and provide them with encouraging words to keep pursuing their vocational call to ministry.

Have you identified candidates you’d like to learn more about?

It’s best to let them know as well.

As I shared above, you don’t want to keep your candidates sitting in the dark for too long.

#4 – Unrealistic expectations

Visionary leader.

Executive skill set.

Gifted orator.


Organizational builder.

These are just some of the characteristics you may be looking for in your next pastor, and it makes sense. It’s nice to have someone who can “do it all.”

But here’s the deal:

From vocational ministry to the business world, you’ll never find someone who is or can do everything. So, be careful that you don’t place unrealistic expectations on the pastor you’re searching for that Jesus himself can't fulfill.

In your pastoral search, your search committee will have to define exactly what you’re looking for in a candidate. During this process, be sure to clarify your church’s priorities versus qualities that are nice to have.

A 7-step playbook for finding your next pastor

Now it’s time to get work.

After pouring over a ton of different resources from denominations, networks, and independent churches, I put together this 7-step playbook for finding your next pastor.

Here is the table of contents:

1. Pray, pray, and pray

2. Build a search committee

3. Find an interim pastor

4. Know the vision of your church

5. Know who you’re looking for

6. Review your applications

7. Interview your candidates (thoroughly)

It's time to get started.

#1 – Pray, pray, and pray

At ChurchFuel, we’re practical people—it’s what we do.

We have a biasness for action, and a tendency to act first.

We’re not alone.

As a church leader, you’re beyond busy.

Your schedule (LINK) can be unruly.

You have more work to do than hours to do it.

Now, in the search for a new pastor, you have a huge task to accomplish. At this point, it’s easy just to put your head down, make a plan, and start knocking out the work you need to do like whack-a-mole.


Take a breath and prepare to pray—a lot.

Calling a new pastor to serve your church isn’t a simple task. Sure, you can hire anyone you like. But you want to do more than find a hired hand. You want to discover the next pastor God is calling to lead your church, and this is a spiritual matter that can only be accomplished through prayer.

As you prepare to search for a new pastor, here are three things you’ll need to pray for:

1. Wisdom

2. Search committee

3. Future candidates

As for wisdom, you need to submit your work to the Lord. Place yourself and your church in his hands, and ask for him to lead the way. A prayer for wisdom isn’t a one-time event. Seeking God’s input through prayer is something you’ll need to do on an ongoing basis.

In your prayers, you’ll also need to pray for your search committee. At this point in the process, you haven’t put together a search committee. But you’ll want to start praying for God to put together the right team.

Don’t stop praying for your search committee after they're formed. You’ll want to lead your church to pray for them throughout this process. So, however you share prayer requests with your church members, be sure to include a call to pray for your search committee.

Finally, you’ll want to pray for your future candidates. Ask the Lord to lead the right person to serve your church, and pray for that person’s well-being and family throughout this process.

#2 – Build a search committee

Remember, searching for a new pastor is a public (church) task.

This is a principle that undergirds finding a new pastor—especially when it comes to forming a search committee. If prayer is the fuel that drives your church, the search committee is the engine behind finding your church’s next pastor.

Since forming a search committee is vital to this process, let’s take a moment to talk about the following:

  • What is a search committee?
  • How many people should be on your committee?
  • Who should be on your search committee?
  • What roles should form your committee?

Let’s dig in!

What is a search committee?

A search committee is a group of people in your church who are temporarily organized to find your church’s next pastor. From developing a job description, screening candidates, and setting up interviews, the search committee leads the process of finding your church’s next pastor.

How many people should be on your search committee?

For your search committee, it’s best to have an odd number of people, in the range of 7–11.

An odd number of members will help your team to avoid a stalemate.

Shouldn’t the search committee unanimously agree on the decisions they make?

This would be nice.

But a unanimous decision isn’t necessary.

Here’s the deal:

Your search committee should be made up of people with different perspectives. When this is the case, there’s a good chance that not everyone will agree on whomever your church decides to call as their next pastor.

Don’t worry, this isn’t a bad thing.

When disagreements are present, then your search committee will be able to talk through differences, make a compromise, and move toward the middle in whatever decisions they make.

For your church committee, you don’t want fewer than 7 members, and you want to avoid having more than 11. If you have less than 7 people on your search committee, then there’s a good chance your committee will get overwhelmed by the work and move too slow during the process. On the other hand, if you have more than 11 people, you run the risk of taking too much time to make decisions.

Who should be on your search committee?

Your search committee should reflect your church.

Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Involvement in the church
  • Positions in the church

Regardless of the polity your church does or doesn’t have for selecting a search committee, make sure your committee reflects the life of your church as best as possible. This way you can ensure that this process is a public (church) task.

What roles should form your committee?

Here are the three essential roles you need to fill in your search committee:

  • Chairperson
  • Secretary
  • Communications director

The chairperson is the man or woman responsible for leading the search committee. The chairperson’s primary role is to schedule meetings and oversee the work that needs to be done.

The secretary will take notes and help everyone stay on track.

Finally, the communications director is the person responsible for communicating with the church and with the candidates.

Don’t overlook this last position. Without having a dedicated communications director, you run the risk of keeping your church and candidates in the dark or slowing down communication to a standstill.

#3 – Find an interim pastor

In between senior pastors, your church will have a considerable gap to fill—especially in the pulpit.

One idea to consider during this pastoral transition is to identify an interim pastor.

An interim pastor is someone you can hire, an assistant pastor, staff member, or even shared responsibility among your church's leadership. Whatever your church decides, be sure to clarify the most critical work that needs to be done in the absence of your previous pastor, and ensure that someone or a group fulfills these responsibilities.

Here’s what else you need to know:

Having an interim pastor will help you fight the urge to hire someone too fast.


An interim pastor can preach and take on other responsibilities while your church works toward calling its next pastor.

#4 – Know the vision of the church

There’s one vital step your search committee needs to take before moving forward:

Your search committee needs to agree (not by a vote) on the vision of your church.

Thankfully, this isn’t something your search committee will need to define. This is something your church has probably already nailed down in a vision or mission statement. So, your committee won’t have to recreate the wheel at this point.

Here’s why this important:

The mission and vision of your church will influence the type of pastor you call.

In one way, the location of your church (urban, suburban, or rural) will naturally influence the type of pastors who will submit an application or be open to considering serving your church. Differently, your church’s mission, worship style, and philosophy of ministry will also influence what type of pastor you hire.

Here’s what else to keep in mind:

What is your church’s vision for the future?

For the answer to this question, your search committee needs to take stock of where you’re at and what type of pastor you need to help you get to where you want to go. When your team is armed with this information, then they’ll be in a better position to define what type of pastor can help your church fulfill its mission, which leads me to the next point.

#5 – Know who you’re looking for

Creating a job description is one of the first big tasks your search committee will need to complete.

Don’t treat this as a simple task to complete.

This job description is so much more than a random posting on a church staffing website. This description stakes a claim about your church and the type of pastor your church is seeking. What is more, the description you create will also influence the kind of candidates who apply.

When creating the job description or ministry profile, here are specific things you want to include:

  • Academic qualifications
  • Ordination requirements
  • Ministry experience
  • Necessary skills
  • Personal, familial, and spiritual characteristics
  • Job (pastoral) expectations
  • Philosophy of ministry
  • Ideal ministry setting
  • Personal testimony and call to ministry

Don’t rush this process—your search committee won’t be able to complete this in one evening. For a lot of this information, if your church is affiliated with a denomination or network, then you can lean on your network for input.

Keep in mind the future of your church. For example, if your church needs help breaking the 200 barrier, then it’s ideal to find a pastor who has experience doing this.

Know what else?

Depending on the size of your church, you’ll need to be careful of what type of pastor you call. For example, it’ll be difficult for a pastor of a 200-member church to lead a church of 2,000. Can he or she learn how to do this? Sure. Unless you have the time or a transitional plan in place where your current pastor will mentor the next pastor, then prayerfully move forward if your committee “believes” a candidate may fit the bill.

Here’s a different side of this coin to consider:

A pastor transitioning from a solo situation to a team or a team to a solo situation may struggle.

Here’s why.

The skills anyone needs—including pastors—to work with or without a team are different. If someone is skilled at being a solo pastor, then he or she will need time, resources, and support to learn how to work well with a team.

If a pastor akin to working with a team is considering a solo pastoral opportunity, then be sure to ask him or her if they’re ready to work without a team. This might seem inconsequential. But the type of work required in a solo setting versus a team setting differs, and the pastor considering a call in this scenario needs to consider this.

#6 – Review your applications

Let’s say you’ve already completed the steps listed above.

What is more, let’s also imagine that a couple of months have already passed, and you’ve received multiple applications.

What do you do next?

Are you supposed to interview every candidate?


After you receive applications, the first step your search committee should take is to create a short list. Based on the criteria you established in the previous step, examine applications and decide whether each candidate fits the qualifications.

At this point, there are three things you can do:

1. Pass

2. Pause

3. Go

At the first step, you can simply pass on candidates who do not meet the requirements for the position. As a search committee, you need to be prepared to receive applications from candidates who do not meet the qualifications—especially in the area of skills and experience.

In pastoral searches, many people will wrestle with a perceived internal call from God to serve as your next pastor. Some candidates may be called to serve in vocational ministry. But based on their pastoral experience, they are not the right person for your church. In these cases, it’s okay to say no and to let them know as quickly as possible.

During your search, there will be other candidates who you’re on the fence about. In these moments, it’s okay to pause and further explore this candidate. When you run across candidates who you’re not sure about passing on or moving forward with, you can follow up with them to ask a few questions. This can be done via email or someone from your search committee can speak with the candidate directly and report back to the team.

Finally, if an applicant meets the qualifications for the position, you can go—move forward—with interviewing them as a potential candidate, which leads me to the next point.

#7 – Interview your candidates (thoroughly)

Have your short list handy?

Great, now it’s time to move on to the interviews.

How many candidates should you invite to interview?

Well, it depends.

At a minimum, we suggest interviewing at least 3–5 candidates.

Now, when I say interviews, I’m not only talking about a friendly fireside chat over the phone. What I have in mind is inviting the candidate and his or her spouse to visit your church for a few days.

For this process to be effective, you’ll want to schedule 3–4 days and make sure they connect with multiple people and groups, including:

  • Church leaders and spouses
  • Ministry leaders
  • Volunteers
  • Long-standing members
  • Shut-ins
  • Small groups or Bible studies

Basically, you want candidates to meet as many people as possible.

By making multiple connections through your church, you’ll be better able to gauge how well your church members respond to candidates.

What is more, during your interview process, there are three areas you want to look into:

1. Experience

2. Personal life

3. Family life

Let’s take a look at these in detail!

#1 – Experience

When it comes to a candidate’s experience, look closely.

Here are some things to be on the lookout for:

  • Sermons
  • Bible studies
  • Social media accounts
  • Supplemental material
  • Recommendations

When your committee is reviewing a candidate, it’s essential to connect with his or her referrals or recommendations. This is a time-consuming yet vital step you don’t want to skip. There have been plenty of cases of churches who did not connect with a candidate’s referrals, and then discovered months or years later of significant issues that disqualify him or her from the ministry.

Here’s what else you’ll need to do:

Invite your candidates to preach and teach.

At a minimum, you want every candidate you’re seriously considering to preach. It’s one thing to listen to a candidate’s sermons. It's another thing to hear him or her preaching from the Bible for your church.

Also, depending on your church and the candidate’s time, it’s also a good idea to have him or her teach a Sunday school class, lead a small group, or whatever is essential for your church.

Requiring this step will give you and your church first-hand experience of each candidate’s ability to preach and teach.

#2 – Personal life

The pastor you call is your next shepherd.

He or she should be able to set a grace-filled example of what it means to live and love like Jesus.

There’s only one way you can find this out:

By asking each candidate questions, listening, and chatting with referrals.

Here are just some of the questions you’ll want to ask:

  • What are your views about [fill in the blank]?
  • What do you think about the use of alcohol? Smoking?
  • Can you describe your devotional life?
  • What place does family have in your life?
  • How do you approach sermon preparation?
  • Are you involved in your community?
  • What hobbies do you have?

There are many more questions you can ask. But this list will get you started.

#3 – Family life

Finally, the last big area you want to explore is a candidate’s family life.

Assuming your candidate is married and has kids, you might ask these questions:.

  • How often do you go out with your spouse?
  • In what ways are you discipling your children?
  • How would you describe your relationship with your spouse?

You don’t want to leave these questions to your candidate. During the interview process, you can also ask his or her spouse similar questions to gauge their relationship.

Before moving on, there’s one last thing I’d like to emphasize:

Require your search committee to maintain strict confidentiality.

It’s okay for your team to speak in general terms. But it’s best for everyone to hold back their thoughts on individual candidates until a final decision is made.

Calling your next pastor

In the end, it’s time for your church to make a decision.

How this decision is made will be influenced by your denomination or network. For example, do you allow your church committee to make a decision or recommendation, does your church’s leadership (elders, deacons, board) make the decision, or does the entire church cast a vote?

To make your decision, we don’t suggest requiring a unanimous vote. Instead, we suggest requiring two-thirds (2/3) of your committee or church to vote in favor of your next pastor.

Regardless of whom you call, your work isn’t done.

It’s now time to partner together with your future pastor to share the gospel, make disciples, and be a light in your community.

Launch a Second Worship Service: A Short Guide

Launch a Second Worship Service: A Short Guide

You want to launch a second worship service, and you know that is easier said than done.

You can feel the need.

You can see the potential.

You’re ready for the new responsibilities.

But you also know about the:

  • Internal challenges
  • Work involved
  • Tension with leadership
  • Uncertainty among church members
  • Need for new volunteers

Don’t let perceived (or real) hurdles discourage you. If you sense the need for potentially adding a new worship service, then prayerfully move forward.

In this post, I’m going to share some helpful guidelines and tips, including:

  • 2 reasons to add a new worship service
  • 5 common mistakes to avoid when launching a new worship service
  • How to launch a new worship service

Let’s dig in!

2 reasons to add a new worship service

As a church leader, it’s essential to learn how to work with people.

From your church’s leadership (elders, deacons, board) to volunteers to church members, there are a variety of relationships you have to learn to navigate well.

Working with people is especially essential if you’re launching a new ministry, ending a ministry, or initiating a significant cultural shift in your church, such as adding a new worship service.

Before making any sweeping changes, there’s one question you must answer:

Why should we (the church) add an additional worship service?

The answer to this question will not only help you nail down the practical details. But the answer will also guide you in casting a vision your church can see and embrace.

Not only do you need to know why you want to add an additional service. But your church’s leadership and church members need to know why too. They have to feel the tension in making the decision.

Let’s take a look at two big reasons why many churches add a second worship service:

1. It provides an opportunity to reach more people.

2. It empowers additional volunteers.

An additional worship service is one opportunity to reach more people with the gospel. There are two reasons why this is the case.

First, people in your community who have not committed their lives to Jesus are not committed to prioritizing life in your church—yet. This isn’t because they’re “bad” people. This has everything to do with the fact that they have not experienced new life in Christ, and they don’t have the desire or interest to rearrange their lives around going to church.

You’re probably thinking:

What does this have to do with adding an extra worship service?

In short—a lot.

In general, when you have one worship service, you are limiting (some) people from being able to participate. For some individuals and families, your worship service may be too early or too late. What is more, if there’s a conflict with the time of your worship service, then many people will feel inclined to pass on visiting your church.

However, if you offer more than one worship service, you can place your church in a position to reach more people. This is one big way you can help potential visitors overcome hurdles in attending your worship service.

Another significant reason your church should consider adding a second worship service is for empowering additional volunteers.

Depending on how many church members you have and the volunteer opportunities you provide, launching an additional worship service will naturally offer more volunteer opportunities. From children’s ministry to greeters and ushers, your volunteer needs will increase.

At first, empowering more volunteers may feel overwhelming.

Before you grab a paper bag to keep from hyperventilating, take a moment. This can be a good thing.

As God leads your church to reach more people in the community, he will also call your church community to participate in his work by volunteering. This is why it’s essential to cast a vision and focus on reaching more people—not on the additional work you will need to do.

Alright, I know you’re ready to move forward.

Hold on!

There are a few landmines to watch out for.

5 common mistakes to avoid when launching a new worship service

The thought of adding another service can sound promising.

Your church is experiencing positive momentum.

You’re reaching new people in the community.

You have led new people to join community groups.

You see the potential of adding another worship service, and you feel compelled to plow forward in faith. Before rushing forward with your head down, there are five mistakes you should identify and avoid:

1. Rushing the process

2. Not planning

3. Not preparing your leaders or volunteers

4. Creating “different” churches

5. Lack of promotion

Let’s take a look at these.

#1 – Rushing the process

I’ve already alluded to the first mistake: rushing the process.

This is an easy mistake to make—especially if your seating capacity is already bursting at the seams. But it’s never a good idea to rush anything. In the words of Solomon, “Desire without knowledge is not good, and whoever makes haste with his feet misses his way” (Prov 19:2).

As we’ll see below, adding a new service is not only a logistical decision—e.g., what time, how many volunteers. It will also be a significant cultural shift for your church. Making this move too fast could be detrimental for your church, which leads me to the next big mistake churches make.

#2 – Not planning

When you add another worship service, there are a ton of moving parts involved. From identifying the motivation to getting the support of your church’s leadership and members, to then figuring out all of the details, you have your work cut out for you.

Pastor, hear me loud and clear here:

You should not manage this process alone.

There are way too many details for you to manage.

Depending on your church’s situation, delegate this responsibility to a staff member or volunteer who can oversee all of the moving parts.

Besides, as a pastor, you should focus on preaching and teaching, providing pastoral counsel, and casting a vision for your church.

#3 – Not preparing your leaders and volunteers

Another mistake churches make when adding a worship service is not preparing their leadership, staff, and volunteers for the new challenges.

When you launch a second or third service, you will place new leadership burdens on your team, and they must be prepared, coached, or mentored. If anything, be sure to provide yourself with accountability.

It will take time and experience in facing new challenges before you know what to expect and how to handle the new hurdles.

#4 – Creating “two” (or more) churches

There’s one big challenge you’ll face when adding more worship services:

How can you make it one church with many services?

Think about it like this.

When you add a new service, people in your church will start to divide between the different options, and this trend will continue the more services you add. When this happens, people will naturally cross paths less, and, unless you’re purposeful in building community between your multiple services, then your church members can feel like they’re involved in different churches—not just different worship services.

Be prepared to respond to these questions and plan on making purposeful strides toward making your church feel like one.

#5 – Lack of promotion

Adding an additional service isn’t like the Field of Dreams.

Adding it to your schedule doesn’t mean people will automatically come. In fact, you should expect to see a bunch of empty seats if you don’t promote it well.

As with starting anything new, you have to tell your church members over, and over, and over again. From church bulletins and direct mail to emails and social media updates, get ready to talk about your plans—a lot.

How to launch a new worship service

Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty.

Below are seven tactical things you need to keep in mind when adding a new service.

Treat these tactics like guiding principles you can use to help you think through the details of launching a new worship service.

#1 – Get a vision

Casting vision isn’t a one and done thing.

To cast a compelling vision for your church, you first have to receive direction from the Lord, and then you have to get to work.

Here are the steps involved:

  • Get clarity
  • Make it memorable
  • Encourage participation
  • Promote it

The first step you need to take is to get clarity.

As I pointed out above, you have to answer this question:

Why should your church add a worship service?

When you think about the answer to this question, take the time not only to clarify why you believe the Lord is leading your church to make this change. But take the time to start thinking through the objections you’ll hear. This way, as you move toward promoting this change, you’ll be prepared to address objections from within your church.

The second step you want to take is to make it memorable.

Sharing logistics, details, and a new service from the pulpit isn’t exciting. Create a slogan your church members can sink their teeth into and remember.

Don’t worry about crafting something snazzy like you’re a Madison Avenue ad man or woman. Instead, focus on creating something that’s clear, concise (one sentence or just a few words), and compelling.

When casting a vision, you want to encourage participation.

For example, if your motivation is to reach more people in your community, remind your church that God is calling them to participate in his work by building relationships with people, being hospitable, and inviting people to join the worship service.

Adding a new service isn’t something you can do alone.

This is something your entire church needs to embrace.

Finally, after you have these three points nailed down, you’re ready to create a communication plan.

Here are some big items to keep in mind:

  • Announcements
  • Social media
  • Direct mail
  • Word of mouth
  • Bulletins
  • Flyers
  • Email
  • Video
  • PowerPoint SlideShare

In your promotions, don’t just start the week before.

Instead, plan on talking about this for at least 4–6 weeks ahead of time. What is more, keep in mind the timing. For example, if you plan on promoting a new service during the summer, it may take longer since many of your church members will not be in attendance every week.

#2 – Get buy-in from your leadership

Making big decisions isn’t easy, and you can’t make them alone.

When you want to make a significant shift in the church you serve, it’s essential to get buy-in from your leadership.

You may believe that a change is necessary. But your church’s leadership may not “see” the vision or feel the need to support adding a new worship service.

As you work to get buy-in, be sure to share the “why” behind the “what.”

Be prepared.

Lead them to feel the pain point you identified earlier.

Cast a vision for them to rally behind.

What is more, take your time during this process.

You don’t want to rush forward unless you have the support of your church’s leadership.

#3 – Be mindful of your church's culture

For better or worse, your church has a culture.

It’s why and what you do.

It’s your values, beliefs, attitude, purpose, habits, behavior, norms, tone, and more.

As you prepare to add a new service, you need to take stock of your church’s culture.

Unless adding a second worship service has been a part of your church’s culture, it will be more challenging than you think to make the change. The unknown will make people nervous, and other church members will circle the wagons and protect the way things used to be.

As a church leader, no one will know your church culture and members better than you.

In preparing to change, identify what you believe will be the common rebuttals, and be prepared to respond. What is more, be ready to listen. Like, really listen. You will learn a ton about your plans and the people you serve along the way.

One last thing about this point.

There are two types of people you want to identify:

1. Early adopters

2. Late adopters

After clearing things with your church’s leadership, connect with the early adopters in your church. Share the vision, and invite them to participate in serving as ambassadors. Having people outside of your leadership circle to share the excitement will go a long way in creating momentum within your church community.

As for late adopters, you want to know who this group is within your church, walk alongside them during this change, and encourage and challenge them to accept how God is leading your church into the future.

#4 – Set a time

Here’s one common refrain when adding a service:

There’s more to adding a worship service than adding a new time slot on Sunday.

For example, as you think through the timing (when your new service begins and ends), it’s best to take into consideration the entire day. In other words, you may need two new times for both of your worship services—instead of simply adding a new service at a new time.

Here’s one benefit:

When you require every church member to make a change, it will lead everyone to adapt to the new service, which tends to lead to better participation across the board.

#5 – Create community

How do you create community when your church adds a new service?

There’s no silver bullet to this question.

Some churches have found that providing time and space in-between services can help people connect before or after a worship service. Other churches give a Bible study in-between services, whereas others decide to move these studies to a different time and day. Still, other churches emphasize leading people into small groups to create community during the week.

Whatever choice you make, be sure to foster community, and lead your church members and first-time guests to take a next step in getting further involved.

#6 – Be ready to preach (a lot)

Adding an additional service isn’t a cake walk.

You’re now adding another preaching time to your schedule.

This might not sound like a lot on the surface.

Here’s what you need to know:

According to some experts, preaching for 30 minutes is comparable to working an 8-hour workday.

Since preaching is physically taxing, it will take a toll on your body and mental well-being. So, if you start to preach more often every week, then you should prepare to preach less throughout the year.

If you haven’t already, create a plan to have guest preachers fill in the pulpit for you throughout the year. By making a plan now to take a break in the future, you’ll be able to recharge later and you’ll have something to look forward to.

#7 – Go big or go home

It’s not every day you add a new worship service.

Make it big!

Start a new sermon series.

Throw a party.

Invite some food trucks to dish out some treats.

Follow your promotion plan above, and empower your congregation to invite their family, friends, and neighbors.

Basically, you want to pull out all the stops for this launch.

Over to you

There you have it.

Easy, right? ?

Don’t feel like you need to go about making such a big change alone.

Lean on your church’s leadership, a mentor, or work with a ministry coach to help you receive a vision from the Lord, add a worship service, and march forward in fulfilling your church’s mission.

Is Livestreaming Right For Your Church? A Short Guide

Is Livestreaming Right For Your Church? A Short Guide

Trends in the Church will influence your church.

I’m not talking about negative cultural trends or anything theological.

What I have in mind are actual, positive trends churches explore to share the gospel, make disciples, and engage their church members.

One of those trends is livestreaming, which makes perfect sense.

With countless people on social media platforms (e.g., Facebook, Instagram, YouTube), and the cost-effectiveness of livestreaming, many churches have jumped into these waters face first.

This isn’t a good or bad thing.

It just is what it is.

What about your church?

Should your church start livestreaming your services, Bible studies, or events?

Well, it depends.

In this post, we’re going to talk about:

  • Three reasons why you should use livestream
  • Whether or not your church should livestream
  • How to livestream at your church

Let’s get started!

Three reasons why you should use livestream

It’s essential to know the why behind what you want to do.

So, why should your church use livestreaming?

Here are three of the most common reasons:

#1 – People watch (a lot) of video

Here’s something you may have noticed:

We are slowly becoming a video world.

Think about it.

Everywhere you turn, you have access to a screen that can play a video. From televisions throughout your home, to mobile devices (phones, iPods, tablets), computers at work, and screens in businesses and public places, videos are constantly vying for our attention.

Not convinced?

Then take a sip of these sobering statistics:

  • Nearly 58% of worldwide Internet usage consists of video streaming (Global Internet Phenomena Report)
  • 45% of people watch more than an hour of Facebook or YouTube videos every week (WordStream)
  • More than 500 million hours of videos are watched on YouTube every day (Business Insider)
  • 72 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every 60 seconds

Know what else?

We haven’t reached the limit of videos.

According to one study, video streaming is predicted to make up 82% of all Internet traffic in the next few years.

This deluge of video has molded the way everyone (including yourself) interacts with the world around them. In short, we are growing to prefer consuming video for nearly everything.

Now, don’t read these statistics and rush to pre-produce your worship service every week and broadcast it on Sunday.

Instead, my goal is to encourage you to see how livestreaming is one way you can tap into this shift in media consumption.

There’s more to video than changes in the culture.

There are two really practical ways livestreaming can benefit your church.

#2 – Reach absentees

Every week, you’ll have people who are unable to participate in your worship service for various reasons, including:

  • Shut-ins
  • Illness
  • Vacation
  • Business travel

Today, just because someone is absent, it doesn’t mean you can’t engage them with your ministry—live. Your church members will likely prefer to keep in touch with their church when they’re absent if possible. By livestreaming your worship service, you can help absentees stay connected while they’re away.

#3 – Reach more people

Livestreaming your services is one way you can reach more people.

Think about it.

Before visiting your church, the vast majority of people will check you out online first.

They’ll visit your church’s website.

They may see something about your church on social media.

In either case, when potential first-time guests can experience your worship service online, then they will feel more inclined to visit.

They’ll get a feel for your style.

They can see what to expect.  

By providing livestream of your worship service, you can help them overcome their fear of visiting your church for the first time.

Before making a commitment to livestream your services, there’s one question you need to answer:

Why does my church really need to livestream?

Livestreaming is no longer a trend or just something to be aware of.

It’s here.

Many churches are currently livestreaming their worship services or have experimented with it at some point. Since this is the case, other churches (maybe yours?) are now joining the livestreaming movement.

Before you make a move, hang tight.

For starters, just because a different church is livestreaming their services or just because you read the stats above doesn’t mean you should start livestreaming this week.

Here’s why:

When it comes to reaching people, every tactic works and every tactic doesn’t work.

In other words, the timing may not be right for your church.

From having someone who can take the lead in production to not being a good fit demographically for your church community, there are several factors involved in deciding whether livestreaming is right for you.

One deciding factor in whether to livestream is your church’s budget.

In short, do you have the money to invest in producing a high-quality livestream or not? For most churches, spending the money to create a high-quality livestream isn’t a good idea.

Is it possible to just stream your worship services with one of your phones?

Yes, you can technically livestream with your phone.

And yes, it is possible to do this because social media platforms have—in a way—made this possible since so many celebrities and brands shoot livestream videos with their phones.

But here’s the deal:

Production value is still important.

It’s not fair, but people in your community will hold your church’s production value to similar standards as businesses. They’re used to watching videos from individuals or businesses with big budgets. So, when they watch whatever you produce, they’re going to have—to varying degrees—similar expectations to something they just watched online.

What’s the moral of the story?

Don’t haphazardly step into livestreaming your worship services unless you’re ready to produce them to the best of your ability.

Still ready to move forward with livestreaming?

Well, let’s take a look at what you’ll need to make it work.

How to livestream your church’s worship service

To get started, there’s some essential equipment you’ll need:

  • Camera
  • Tripod
  • Lighting
  • Livestream service

In this post, I’m not going to get into the weeds of the details. But here are some helpful resources you can refer to for guidance:

Now, regarding livestreaming your services, here’s what you need to know:

You can publish your livestream directly on Facebook and elsewhere, or you can use a service to schedule and simultaneously broadcast your worship service (or another event).

Here are some options to consider:

Is livestreaming right for your church?

This is a question only you can answer.

Remember, it depends primarily upon the size of your church, your church community, and your church’s budget.

Is livestreaming an option for every church?

Yes, it’s an option.

Is it right for every church to livestream their services or other events and classes?

It depends.

Think through the following questions:

  • Is your church ready?
  • Does your church have the budget for high-quality production?
  • Is the timing right for your church?
  • Do you have anyone in your church who can support this work?
  • Will the cost and time provide a return on investment for engagement and reach?

After you work through these questions, you’ll be well on your way to deciding whether livestreaming is right for your church.

19 Ways to Equip Your Church to Invite Others

19 Ways to Equip Your Church to Invite Others

Teaching your church to invite is one of the most important things you can do as a pastor. It’s one of those keystone habits, and it affects nearly everything else in the church.

Personal invitations are more effective than social media, advertising, and direct mail.  In fact, if you don't create a culture of inviting, other efforts will likely fall flat. A church that has a culture of inviting is likely going to be a growing church. 

It's important to prepare your church for guests.  You might want to take a look at these things before you go to your congregation and ask them to invite.

But when your church is ready, you must equip your people.  Not just ask them, equip them. 

Here are 19 ways you can equip your people to invite others.

#1 – Stop asking for a few weeks. If you constantly say something like “don’t forget to invite your friends next week” people might tune you out. Leave it alone for a while, so you can…

#2 – Then ask big. Instead of a small mention each week, devote a considerable amount of time to talking about inviting. Let the congregation know next week’s service is designed for new people, share stories, and ask big.

#3 – Provide invite cards. You can make it easier for people to invite by giving them simple tools like printed cards.  Print them for an upcoming series and make versions students and teenagers can use.  Make a display for them somewhere in your lobby and teach people how to use them.  Here are lots of examples.

#4 – Encourage Social Media Use During the Service. During a welcome, encourage everyone to take out their phones and share a status update or Tweet. People don’t have to wait until later in the week to invite someone, they can do it from their iPhones at church. Besides, it’s time churches stop greeting people like it’s 1999.

#5 – Provide lawn signs. Print up a few lawn signs and make them available for people to put in their front lawns. If people will do it for politicians, some will do it for their church.  We've actually got a full graphics package for some fun yard signs inside the Church Fuel resource library.

#6 – Make an invite page on your website. Create a page on your website with graphics, sample Facebook posts, and ideas for people to invite their friends.  Tell your members everything they need to invite people online is on that one page.  Make it easy for them.

#7 – Create shareable content. It’s not tough for you because you’re a professional Christian, but sometimes, it’s scary for people to invite their friends to church. So create helpful content that is easier for people to share. It might be an inspirational quote or a helpful article.  It could be a list of local restaurants that let kids eat free.  People share humorous and helpful stuff, not announcements and sermon series graphics.  It might not seem like much, but if you can get people to share content from their church, it will make it easier for them to talk about their church. 

#8 – Write Facebook Posts for People. Instead of just telling people to invite their friends on Facebook, create a post they can cut and paste. Remember, the easier you make something, the more people will do it.  Make the images and write the posts.  

#9 – Send a text reminder on Saturday. Use this sparingly, but text your members, volunteers or regular attenders on Saturday night and ask them to invite a friend to church tomorrow.  A tool like Text in Church will get the job done.

#10 – Give away t-shirts for guests and those who bring them. Our friends at Venue Church in Chattanooga have been doing this for years. Every guest gets a t-shirt when they visit, but those who bring guests get one too.  Plus, when people wear good looking t-shirts, it’s free advertising.  Pro tip:  Don't give away cheap shirts unless you like stocking the racks at Goodwill.

#11 – Thank people personally. When someone brings a friend, thank them personally. Send a thank you note that says, “Jimmy came to church Sunday and he said you were the one that invited him. Thank you so much for extending that invite.”  Members will find ready-to-use templates for these cards in the Church Fuel resource library.  You might want to add a “How did you hear about us?” question to your connection cards or kid's registration cards.  New people will often let you know who invited them and you can say thanks.

#12 – Tell stories of inviting. There is no better form of communication than stories – it’s how we learn best. So make sure you’re telling stories about inviting in your sermon and throughout your service.  Remember…every story you tell doesn't have to end with “So I found Jesus and now I'm a missionary.”  

#13 – Always welcome guests. Even if there are 15 people in the church service and they are all related to you, intentionally welcome guests and let them know what to expect. It’s a powerful way to reinforce to your regulars that new people are supposed to be here. It’s a culture thing.  This is also one of the keys to making sure your church is really ready for guests.

#14 – Talk to guests during your sermon. Make sure every message has a moment where you’re addressing new people. If you reference a series, make sure you provide context for guests. If you say the name of a ministry, make sure you explain what that means to guests.  Without that simple explanation, nobody knows what Xtreme or Waumba Land is.

#15 – Create a custom audience on Facebook. Create a group of church members on Facebook (it’s called a Custom Audience) and then run ads to that segment of people. It’s perfect for reminding people to invite, and driving them to the inviting resources you created for them.  If you have more than 200 members, you should be running these kind of internal ads to your people.  It is not expensive and someone in your church can figure it out.

#16 – Shoe Polish Sunday. The Sunday before a really big day, have some people and shoe polish ready to write on people’s rear windows. Make sure they give permission, of course.  This doesn't cost a lot of money and helps create a culture of inviting.  

#17 – Display names. Ask your church to write down the first names of people they would like to see come to church and find a creative way to display these.   One church had their members write names on the front of the stage.  Another built a display using building blocks (representing families).

#18 – Prayer Time. Organize a time of prayer, either in person or online, to pray for those who need to be invited.  You could have a prayer service, or you could do it online.

#19 – Tear-Off Postcards. Send a perforated postcard to the homes of your members or regular attenders. One half talks about inviting and the other half is designed to give to a friend or neighbor.

Some of these ideas will work right out of the box.  Others might inspire even better ideas.  

But the key isn't just to ask your people to invite, it's to equip them to invite.  Give them the tools, explain how to use them, and your people will rise to the occasion.  

If you want to know more about this, check out the Inviting Course from Church Fuel.  It's an online course to help you create a culture of inviting in your church.  The course has training videos you can watch and share with your team, tons of actionable resources to help you take next steps, and real-church examples from churches who are doing this well.

Get instant access to this course when you join Church Fuel here.

7 Ways to Attract People to Your Church—This Month

7 Ways to Attract People to Your Church—This Month

Your church isn’t growing. You’ve been doing the same thing for months or years. You can’t remember the last time you witnessed someone commit his or her life to Jesus. You’re disappointed. You feel stuck. And you’re not sure if God’s at work in your church.

Here’s the deal: You’re not alone.

According to a recent study by Exponential and LifeWay Research, 6 out of 10 Protestant churches have plateaued or their attendance is declining. What is more, less than half of the churches surveyed saw fewer than 10 people commit their lives to Christ.

Now isn’t the time to give up, throw up your arms, and walk away. If you’ve been planting seeds in the life of people, it’s only a matter of time until God grows them and brings people to faith (1 Cor 3:6).

How can I be so confident? Simple.

God is faithful, and we’ve had the opportunity to help many churches break the 200 attendance barrier. In our work, we like to keep an eye on what churches are doing to attract people to their church with the goal of making disciples.

In this post, I’m going to share seven things your church can do to attract more guests this month.

Let’s get started!

1. Get ready for visitors

The first few minutes of someone visiting your church are crucial. I can’t stress this enough.

Here’s why:

Most people decide whether to return to a church within the first 6–10 minutes of entering the campus.

Faith Perceptions has found that friendliness alone won’t make guests return to a church, but an unwelcoming encounter is enough to send them packing.

I know you’re excited to reach new people for Christ.

But before you launch a new outreach campaign or invite new people to your church, your church has to be ready to welcome first-time guests. If you’re not ready, good outreach and marketing efforts will only make your church fail faster.

Think about it like this:

If you were a farmer and you prayed for it to rain, but you didn’t prepare your fields for the harvest, then you lost out. Or let’s say you’re a business owner; you make widgets and you launched a marketing campaign to sell 100 widgets, but you only have 25 on hand or your widgets are terrible. If that’s the case, then your marketing efforts will cause your business to fall flat on its face.

Not convinced this is true? Here’s something else to chew on:

For better or worse, most people will make a decision about your church within the first few minutes of their experience. What is more, if you don’t follow up with your visitors, then you run the risk of not connecting with them again.

Ready to get started?

Here are a few things you’ll need to get ready:

  • Your website
  • Parking
  • Signage
  • Church connection cards
  • A welcome plan
  • A follow-up plan

Let’s take a look at these in turn.

The first impression you make with any potential visitor is online.

Most people who are thinking about visiting a church will search online for somewhere to visit before thinking about stepping foot into your worship space.

To create a good first impression with your online visitors, here’s a list of  information you must have on your church’s website:

  • Location
  • Directions
  • Service times
  • Parking information
  • Childcare information
  • What to expect

Don’t take this information for granted. These are the most commonly searched questions by visitors.

If you need to, ask someone who’s not familiar with your church (even if it’s a family member or friend) to check out your website to see if they can easily find what they would look or if they were planning on visiting your church.

Alright, so someone has visited your website, and now they’re ready to visit your church. The next place you need to prepare is your parking lot.

To get your parking lot ready for visitors, here are 3 things you need to consider:

  1. Marking visitor parking
  2. Providing clear signs
  3. Placing parking lot attendants

These three tactics alone should place your church well on it’s way to preparing for visitors.

After people exit their cars, the next thing you need to think about is providing clear signs. Not only signs in your parking lot(s) pointing people in the right direction, but signs in your foyer and lobby letting visitors know where to go to get information or where your sanctuary is located.

Remember, visitors will be feeling nervous.

Make it easy for them to get around your facilities.

Now, there’s a good chance you have no information on your guests. To make sure you don’t lose touch with them after their first visit, be sure to provide church connection cards to capture their contact information.

Having a hard time getting people to share their info?

Provide first-time guest gifts for visitors to encourage them to share their info.

A lot of what I’ve been talking about deals with “marketing assets.” But even if you create eye-catching material, it cannot replace the importance of creating a welcoming environment for people.

From placing greeters and ushers at key locations to building a welcoming church culture, you want to prepare your church members to identify, welcome, and make visitors comfortable at your worship service.  

The last piece you need to prepare is your follow up.

You’ve led someone to your worship service.

You’ve created a great experience.

You’ve gathered their contact information.

Now it’s time to follow up with them to invite them to take the next step. We’ve covered this in detail elsewhere, so let me recommend reading The Best Follow Up Process for First-Time Guests.

Alright, your church is ready to welcome visitors.

Now it’s time to talk about attracting guests to your church.

2. Identify specific needs in your community

Think about the felt needs of your community.

Do you really know the needs of individuals or families?

Do you understand their common objections to Jesus?

Are you aware of what may compel them to visit your church?

Immersing yourself in your community is vital to reaching your community for Christ. As a church leader, you have to get to know the community you serve. If you’ve lived in the area for any length of time, you probably have a pretty good idea about some basic information, such as the schools, demographics, average income, family dynamics, and employers.

As you get to know your community, you want to build relationships and answer this question:

Why would someone want to visit a church—especially your church?

Apart from asking someone this question, a survey by Pew Research unearthed the top reasons why someone may visit a Protestant church in the United States:

  • To become closer to God
  • So their children will have a moral foundation
  • To make themselves a better person
  • For comfort in times of trouble

Based on this survey, there are really practical things your church can leverage to attract guests to your church. Here are just a few things that come to mind:

  • Preach a sermon series on drawing closer to God or parenting
  • Provide Bible studies or resources on living a “better” life
  • Offer counseling services or partner with a counselor
  • Build a healthy small group ministry to connect people together

These general ideas will just get you started.

After spending time with people in your community, you may unearth different needs or angles you can take to answer questions and provide guidance for people to learn to live and love like Jesus.

Don’t be put off by the idea of meeting the spiritual and physical needs of your community. Jesus himself met the spiritual and physical needs of people, and he calls us to do the same today.

Share the gospel.

Find out the spiritual questions and struggles in your community.

Meet the physical needs of people.

3. Make it easy for people to plan their visit

As I mentioned above, people in your community are searching for a church online. Not only is it a good idea to provide basic information on your website, but many churches today have found success in promoting a “Plan Your Visit” option online for visitors.

Here’s how it works:

Make it easy for your website visitors to then physically visit your church by providing a simple, clear process.

Before getting into the details, here are a few examples of what I’m talking about:

To pull this off, you can add an app or have your developer build a dedicated page or pop-up.

Remember, many people who visit your church’s site are looking for a church. By adding a “Plan Your Visit” section on your site, you are letting them know you’re interested in having them visit your church, and that you want to make it as easy as possible.

The info you add in this section will be similar to what I suggested above (e.g., what time does your service start, what’s your address, what can I expect, and what should I do with my kids). But there’s one thing you should be sure to include: An automatic reminder.

When someone shares with you their email address, you can send them an automated message (email) reminding them what time your service starts and other details. This little feature will encourage people to follow through and not get cold feet.

4. Ask people to visit


If there’s just one thing you take away from this post, let it be this point:

Most people will attend your worship service if they’re invited by someone.

Based on one survey, 82 percent of unchurched people would consider attending a worship service if a friend, neighbor, or coworker invited them.

This percentage is huge.

There are no other outreach events or tactics you can use that can even come close to matching these results. Don’t believe the hype from other ideas. Asking someone is still the single best thing your church members can do to reach more people.

In the business world, this is known as word-of-mouth marketing, and it’s just as effective. I know technology can make it feel easier to reach more people (like social media advertising), and it’s definitely worth pursuing. But don’t overlook the importance of challenging your church members to invite people.

Practically speaking, as a church leader, here are ways you can equip your church members to invite people:

  • Provide evangelism training
  • Offer simple suggestions people can use to ask someone to visit
  • Use invite cards
  • Create shareable social media content
  • Share stories/testimonies during your announcements or sermon

These tips are just the tip of the iceberg.

Here’s a list of 19 Ways to Encourage Your Church to Invite Others.

5. Optimize your church’s website

“If you build it, they will come.”

This promise may have worked well in the movie Field of Dreams. But it’s worthless advice for church websites.

Here’s the actual deal:

If you promote your church’s website, people will come.

When it comes to promoting your site, there are different tactics you can use, such as posting about it on social media, including it in your church’s bulletin, or mentioning it in direct mail.

These different tactics are helpful in the short term. But the most effective thing you can do to turn your website into a tool that regularly leads new people to visit your church is to optimize your website for search engines.

This tactic is referred to as search engine optimization (SEO), and for your church, it means optimizing your site to rank for local searches like “church + zip code” or “church nearby.”

Remember, as I pointed out above, most people in your community will check out your website before they visit your worship service. These people will not generally review pages of church options online. They’ll primarily take a look at the churches on the first page of their search results.

What’s the bottom line?

If your church’s site doesn’t rank toward the top of the first page of local search results, then there’s a good chance no one will find your site in search engines.

To optimize your site, there are several things you can do:

  1. Claim your local listings (e.g., Google, Bing)
  2. Claim your church on local directories
  3. Encourage reviews
  4. Optimize your site for relevant keywords
  5. Include your church’s name, address, and phone number on every page

Use these tips—along with other tactics—to optimize your site for search engines.

6. Run short-term outreach events

During the life of your church, it’s easy to start going with the flow of things.

Every week, your church does the same thing.

From gathering your people together for a worship service, Bible studies, or mid-week services, there’s a rhythm to the life of your church.

This isn’t a bad thing at all. But if you’re not careful, the rhythm of your church can be like sitting in a rocking chair that lulls you to sleep.

Thankfully, you don’t have to change your weekly rhythm to fight this morass and reach your community. You can arrange short-term outreach events to rally your church around a common cause.

The ideas are endless, so there’s no need to stick to an annual event unless you’re experiencing consistent results. Feel free to mix up what you’re doing to reach different people in your community. For example, if you want to reach families, then you’ll need to organize a family event. However, if you want to reach single adults or couples, then the outreach event you organize will be different based upon attracting that target audience.

Here are two free resources we created to give you some ideas:

  1. 13 Fall Outreach Ideas for Your Church
  2. 7 Summer Outreach Ideas

There’s one added benefit to short-term campaigns that’s easy to overlook:

This is also a great way to increase your volunteer base and train volunteers.

When putting together your plans, be sure to open up the opportunity to volunteer to your church. You might be surprised who steps up to help out.

7. Advertise on Facebook

Pop quiz:

Do you know where most people in your community socialize?

If you guessed social media, you’d be correct.

According to the Pew Research Center, 7 out of 10 adults in your town spend their time on social media—especially Facebook.

Practically speaking, to reach people in your community, your church needs to consider advertising on Facebook, since just having a Facebook Page no longer cuts it.  

For starters, advertising on Facebook probably isn’t what you think.

It’s not expensive.

It doesn’t require a ton of technical expertise.

And it’s not like sending a piece of direct mail—it’s hyper-targeted.

When it comes to advertising on Facebook, you can run ads promoting “Plan a Visit” or an outreach event you’re organizing. Or you can promote a piece of content you created—such as a sermon clip, a Bible verse image, or a short video—to be seen by more people.

Not sure if Facebook advertising is a good fit for your church?

No sweat.

You don’t have to sign a contract with Facebook or commit to spending thousands of dollars. You can test a short-term campaign for little money, and see what type of results it generates.  

Over to you
In attracting people to your church, don’t overlook the actual people in your community. It’s really easy to think of outreach and marketing in general terms. But as you spend time with your neighbors and community leaders, you’ll be able to take these ideas—and others—to form a specific plan to make disciples of people in your community.

It’s Not Always You: Why People Leave Your Church and How to Keep Them

It’s Not Always You: Why People Leave Your Church and How to Keep Them

People are thinking about leaving your church.

In fact, according to one study, 15 percent of church members have thought about leaving their church in the past six months.

These losses might not sound huge on the surface.

But take a moment to consider what would happen if you lost 15 percent of your members.

Would you need to stop a ministry?

Would you need to reduce your church’s budget?

Would you need to cut staff or decrease salaries?

Losing 15 percent of your members is a big deal.

The reasons people will leave your church range from good, bad, and ugly.

There are times you’ll lose people due to life or church transitions.

There are others times when people will leave over a difference of opinion.

But there are times when you’ll lose people because your church didn’t do well at keeping people connected—and these losses hurt because you know you could have done something different.

To help make your church “sticky,” I’d love to share with you the best practices in keeping people connected to your church.

In this post, I’m going to cover:

  • 5 unsurprising reasons why you’ll lose people
  • The 2 most common reasons why people will leave your church
  • 4 pillars of building Christian community
  • 4 key next steps you must provide visitors

Get out your pen and paper, and let’s get to work!

5 unsurprising reasons why you’ll lose people

You will experience change in your church.

Over the years, you can expect your church to go through seasons of growth, times of decline or stagnation, and transitions.

Before digging into why people choose to leave a church, it’s essential to know that some people will leave your church over the years for unsurprising reasons.

Said another way, when life in your church or the life of your church members goes through a change, expect to lose people.

Here are five unsurprising reasons why you’ll lose people:

  1. Life changes
  2. Church Relocation
  3. Pastoral transitions
  4. End of church programs
  5. Change in beliefs
#1 – Life changes

At some point, the members of your church will experience significant change.

When your church members undergo transition, oftentimes, these life changes will lead them to find a new church home.

Here are a few examples of significant changes to anticipate:

  • Relocation
  • Divorce
  • Marriage or remarriage
  • When a member of your church moves to a different community, they’ll leave your church.

Celebrate members who make these life-altering decisions, and help them to find a church home in their new community.

When a married couple divorces, expect at least one partner to find a new church home.

Regardless of what transpires during this difficult season, strive to provide ongoing support and counsel to help them gracefully walk through this transition.

What’s more, when someone gets married or remarried, there’s a chance he or she will leave your church to join the church of his or her partner.

#2 – Church relocation

If your church moves into a new building, you will likely lose some people.

According to research, when you move your church into a new building, you will lose people just because you’re in a new location.

Did you move to the other side of town?

If so, the distance may be too great for some people to travel. When this happens, they’ll be forced to find a new home church closer to where they live.

#3 – Pastoral transitions

At some point during the life of your church, you’ll go through a pastoral transition.

Pastoral transitions are common, and according to one survey, the average tenure for a full-time pastor is six years.  

When your church experiences a pastoral transition, you will lose people in the process.

Whether it’s because of the difference in preaching or the loss of a friend in the change, some people in your church will leave when a member of your senior leadership moves on.

#4 – End of church programs

If you stop a ministry, there’s a small chance you’ll lose people.

This isn’t the case for every program in your church.

However, it’s likely people in your church have grown fond of programs and ministries you’ve run for years,. So, when there’s a decision to end a long-lasting program, you’ll likely run into tension with members or see some of them leave.

#5 – Change in beliefs

Many churches don’t make big changes to their beliefs.

But if your church goes through a significant shift in your doctrine, then expect to lose people.

According to one survey conducted by LifeWay Research, 85 percent of respondents said they would leave a church if there were a fundamental shift in their beliefs.  

Feel free to tweak your style of worship, and perhaps redecorate your worship space. But know that if your church messes with the tenants of your faith, you should expect to lose most of your church in the process.

These are some unsurprising reasons why people in your church will leave.

Now let’s turn our attention to common reasons why you’ll lose people.

The 2 most common reasons why people leave your church

Not every time someone leaves your church is natural.

There are other times when you could have influenced whether or not someone stuck around.

To help the people you’re reaching in your community to stay connected, you have to know the two common reasons why they’ll leave:

  1. Relationships
  2. Service
#1 – Relationships

People will visit your church and become a member for many reasons.

But they’ll stay long-term because of the relationships.

According to a survey conducted by Pew Research Center, having friends or family in the congregation is a huge deciding factor for many people choosing a church. For people 65 and older, it’s 45%, whereas for people 18–29 it jumps to 62%.

Your outreach efforts will connect with people in your community.

Your preaching, worship, and children’s program will be a draw for other people.

But first-time guests will be inclined to get connected if they build friendships with people in your church. Without these connections, your church will be a slippery slope—not sticky.

#2 – Service

Another big reason why you may lose people depends on whether or not they feel needed.

Your church is a living organism, and there’s a lot of work that goes into making it work.

If someone doesn’t feel like they’re a part of your church or needed to support what’s going on, then they’ll be more inclined to walk away.

Resolving these problems takes more than doing something differently.

You have take a step back and really take a look at what’s going on.

To help you keep people connected, let’s take a look underneath the hood of your church.

4 pillars of building Christian community

There’s more to keeping people connected to your church than tactics.

You must establish four foundational pieces:

  1. Supportive church culture
  2. Clearly defined church membership
  3. Define next steps
  4. Get a tracking system

These steps may not sound tantalizing, but they’re necessary.

Let’s take a look.

#1 – Supportive church culture

The most significant component of keeping people connected to your church is a supportive church culture.

In other words, you need to build a church culture that values reaching people with the gospel and building relationships with first-time guests. If your church embraces these tenants, then the tactics you employ will be adopted, and your church will make an effort to help people get connected.

You might be thinking:

What do I do if my church doesn’t possess these values?

First of all, don’t rush to make a change.

It takes time to change the culture of a church.

Take coal, for example.

On the one hand, a piece of coal is transformed into a beautiful diamond through the application of pressure over a long period of time. On the other hand, you will shatter this same piece of coal if you were to apply an intense amount of pressure through a single blow, like hitting it with a hammer.

This analogy isn't entirely applicable, but there’s an element of similarity.

To make a significant change in the life of your church (structure, programs, values) before your church is ready to accept the change could cause a big problem, whereas taking time to prepare your church can create a more positive acceptance of anything new you do.

Take the time to lead your church to care for the lost and build community.

In time, they’ll embrace these values.

#2 – Clearly defined church membership

One key to encouraging people to stay connected in your church is putting in place a high-threshold for church membership.

In short, church membership is more than a census. It is an attitude, it's a state of being. It's belonging to a covenant community of faith where talents are stewarded alongside other members of the body of Christ.  

Talk about the importance of church membership from the Bible.

Let people know what church membership looks like.

Provide your members with clear expectations and clarify expectations for your church and church leadership.

Participating in your church’s membership isn’t enough for most people.

They want to be a part of something much bigger than themselves.

#3 – Define next steps

After you know how to define church membership, you’re ready to define next steps.

A next step in your church is the next step a first-time guest or visitor can take to get further involved with your church and to grow in their relationship with Christ.

Gary Poole, the author of Seeker Small Groups, stressed the importance of next steps, saying, “It is essential for us to make clear ‘next step’ options available. Without them, the potential impact of each weekend element would be significantly weakened.”

This process needs to be simple, clear, and compelling. This way, everyone in your church and people visiting your church will know the next steps they can take.

To get a better idea of what I’m talking about, here are examples from different churches:

It’s ideal to make your next steps available online and in person. This makes it easy for anyone to learn more about the next steps at any time.

#4 – Get a tracking system

The last foundational piece you need to have is a tracking system.

I’m not saying you need to leave a “mark” on everyone who visits your church and track their whereabouts. But you will need a system to keep track of the members of your church and the people who visit.

Today, you don’t have to rely on spreadsheets and sticky notes.

You can use church management software (ChMS) to stay in touch with people and follow up with first-time guests. There are several software solutions you can use for your church.

The big idea is that you pick the one that best meets your needs and helps you keep track of people.

4 key next steps you must provide visitors

With your foundation in place, you’re ready to build a system to keep people connected with your church.

Here four key next steps you must provide:

  • Worship
  • Spiritual growth
  • Service
  • Relationships

Let’s take a look at the practical details!

#1 – Worship

The first step you need to take is to lead people to your worship service.

There are a host of benefits people experience when they regularly participate in a worship service. But one of the biggest things you need to be aware of is that regular worship attendance will cultivate a higher commitment to your church.

According to one study, people who attend a worship service once per week are twice as likely to be completely committed to attending their church than people who visit twice per month.

To encourage worship attendance, preach on this topic, include it in your membership class, and make this a part of your church membership.

As for first-time guests and visitors, you’ll need to implement a follow-up process.

After someone works up the courage to visit your church, it’s essential to follow up with him or her to thank them for visiting, and to invite them to worship with you again.

If you have a process in place, here’s how you can measure the effectiveness of your church’s follow up.

#2 – Spiritual growth

Another step you want to encourage people to take is toward spiritual growth.

For some people, the first step they need to take is committing to Jesus or getting baptized. You will need to consistently promote these two steps to your church. Leading people to commit their life to Christ and to publicly display their commitment through baptism is essential.

But here’s the deal:

Spiritual growth does not end with placing your faith in Jesus—it only begins.

As a church, you can help to cultivate the spiritual growth of your members through a variety of means, including:

  • Intentional Discipleship Relationships / Mentor Relationships (think Jesus with His 3)
  • Bible studies
  • Prayer
  • Resources

For Bible studies, your church can offer classes or short-term groups which meet throughout the year to study the Bible or theology.

Don’t think Bible studies are a good option?

Think again.

According to LifeWay Research, 19% of the people they polled expressed interest in their church providing more Bible study groups. Like any group or ministry in your church, Bible studies won’t be attended by everyone at all times. But it’s a felt need by a significant portion of your church.  

You can also encourage your church to read the Bible together as a whole. Many churches follow a Bible reading plan together, which can spur on conversation and accountability.

Everyone in your church needs prayer.

Be sure to provide an opportunity for people to seek out prayer from your staff, church leadership, or church members.

Another step you can help people to take in their spiritual journey is toward resources.

From selling books at a discounted rate to providing access to biblical resources from Rightnow Media, there are many ways your church can serve as a resource to your people.

#3 – Service

A third step you can lead people to take is to serve others.

In general, there are two ways to lead people to serve:

  1. By volunteering
  2. By getting involved in missions

As I pointed out above, people want to be a part of something.

They want to play a role—big or small—in furthering the work of the local church.

Make it easy for people to find ways they can volunteer.

Let them know via your website areas in which they can serve.

Set aside a place in your worship facility where they can get more information.

Make announcements.

As you put before your church how they can participate in God’s work, you’ll be surprised at how many will step forward to get involved.

Another step you want to lead people to take is to get involved in missions.

Being involved in missions is good in two ways. First, you’re sharing the gospel and providing relief for a community. Second, participating in missions work can also be a catalyst for people in their spiritual growth. Leading people to step outside of their comfort zone is an ideal way to lead people to grow in their faith by overcoming new challenges.

#4 – Relationships

A last step you want to encourage people to take is toward getting involved in relationships.

When it comes to helping people make friends in church, you can provide opportunities for this to take place—but you can’t force friendships to happen.

One way many churches foster relationships is through small groups.

From providing ongoing small groups to short-term group options, there are a variety of ways you can lead people to participate in small groups in your church.

There’s one more step you can provide:

Pastoral care.

People in your church or visiting your church will at some time desire pastoral care. They’ll want to talk through their problems with a pastor, and making this option available can be a huge relief for some people.

Keeping people connected to your church

There’s more to keeping people connected to your church than tactics alone.

You must …

  1. Build a solid foundation
  2. Put in place key pillars
  3. Provide clear next steps for visitors

After working through this process, your church will be better able to help people stay connected.