Christians are leaving the church in large numbers and we all should be worried.
Bringing people into the church is only one part of the evangelism cycle. Keeping them in the church is another.
Therefore, if your church is only concerned about going out there to preach the gospel without strong strategies to keep them in church then you are like someone who goes out to draw water in a broken bucket.
You may get to where you're going but not with a full bucket of water.
Read on to learn the answer to the question above.
Have you ever wondered why so many Christians are leaving the church?
Recent studies show that over 57% of millennials have left the church, and only about 43% of adults attend church regularly.
A recent survey by Neil Monahan and Saeed Ahmed published by CNN shows that there are more Americans who claim no religion than there are Catholics.
That is over 23% of Americans don't go to church or claim to belong to any organized religion.
The numbers above should be alarming to any Christian who is dedicated to spreading the gospel of Jesus and preparing people for his second coming.
Ask yourself the questions:
- Why Christians are leaving the church?
- What are we doing wrong, and how can we fix this?
The good news is that not all is lost. I'm sure you'll be happy to know that even though a lot of people are leaving the church, they are not leaving God.
You should be happy that the seed you help saw is still growing and God is working his miracles in people still.
Let's look at some of the reasons why people are staying away from church.
- Physical limitation - many people are not physically able to go to church.
- Work - more and more people are forced to take up two or more jobs.
- Church not meeting people's needs - Some people feel that the church is not addressing real issues that are relevant to them.
- Church decentralization - people are now able to consume the gospel online
- Relevancy - A lot of people feel that the church is stuck in the old-time religion that it is not relevant to the times.
If the above reasons sound new to you or you simply do not agree with me then I urge you to ASK. Do a quick survey asking your members what some of the challenges are when it comes to the church.
Reasons Why Christians Are Leaving The Church
For centuries, the church has been the authority for all things spiritual and life. People went to church to find meaning, belonging and answers to everything life.
However, things have changed in the past few years. People now have other options to consume the gospel and get answers quickly without relying on the church pastor or member for help.
To many of us, the church is a once a week event.
I'm sure you’ve heard the saying “out of sight, out of mind.” This is so true, people will only think about something they interact with or something that brings value to their everyday life.
I had an opportunity to talk to Megan, a lady who has recently stopped going to church.
Megan had attended the same local church for over 40 years. She was raised up, married, and raised her three children in the same church.
A few years ago, Megan got sick, and she couldn't attend church anymore. For a few weeks and months, people came to visit her but soon stopped.
Since going to church was second nature for Megan, she found herself getting depressed and sad with every week she missed church.
Megan's children got together and bought her a tablet for her to watch the church service online since she couldn't physically attend church. But soon Megan discovered something even more beneficial to her needs.
Megan had discovered the power of the internet ( Google, YouTube, and Facebook ). Soon she was able to watch whichever sermon she wanted. Further, Megan discovered online support communities that were there for her 24/7.
For the first time in her life, she had access to peer help and support. She found people online that did not judge her. They were purely interested in helping her and each other without conditions.
I'm sure you know a Megan somewhere, or you probably have gone through her situation.
I know I have at least part of it and I know what it means when you can't go to church for one reason or another.
So what can the church do to help people like Megan?
The church has mastered the art of evangelism and conversion. However, the times have changed, and as a result, the church is failing miserably with nurturing its members.
First, let us look at the times we live in and how the church is failing to meet people's needs.
The Times Are Changing We live in amazing times; the world is becoming smaller and smaller by the day. Things are getting easier, faster, and online. When you need an answer to something, all you have to do is google, and you get a response instantly.
Due to technological advancement, things and experiences are becoming personal, and people are learning new things at a faster rate than the world's education systems can teach.
I'm sure you've heard of terms like DIY or Autodidact ( learning without professionals).
I am also sure you've heard of Artificial Intelligence (AI) you'd know that people have different experiences online based on their personality and things they like.
My YouTube or Amazon home pages will be different from yours because we have different interests.
For the first time in history, people are enjoying the most personal experiences online. Unlike schools or churches where everyone gets the same lessons, the internet provides an experience that is relevant to you.
So why do I talk about the internet and the experiences above?
Well, you need to know that the people that the internet serves are the same people the church is trying to nurture and reach out to through in-reach or outreach evangelism campaigns.
The business world has spent a lot of money and time doing research and studying how people behave and interact online. As a result, they've discovered how to reach people wherever they are in a personal way that is irresistible and effective in driving massive sales and profits.
This information is essential for the church to know because when it comes to spiritual or church matters, things start to slow down and offline. When someone wants a solution to a problem, the business world provides them with the answers before the church does.
We live in a digital age, and everything we do must reflect its characteristics.
The church must strive to be relevant to the times without changing their message, mission, and goals.
I get push-back when I tell people (especially the elderly) about the need for the church to be relevant to the times. They say that God does not change and that if the old strategies worked before, then they should work now.
They say that the church must remain modest and not go with the flow.
Well, indeed, God does not change, but he does new things all the time.
Let's look at some things that put the church at a disadvantage in the digital age.
- The church is one of the oldest institutions, which means that it's not easy to make changes.
- The church is always last to adapt to new things.
To give you a quick example, in 2019, we still have people that are against using cell phone Bible in church. This was also the case when printed Bibles were introduced to the church. I don't see people reading from Bible scrolls anymore.
As you go through the next few points, I want you to imagine an old church in a digital age. We are going to look at this church through the digital age lenses. Here we go...
One of the best characteristics of the digital age is personalization.
Earlier I talked about how we all have different experiences online. We all get a unique experience based on the way we engage with the internet.
The business world has discovered that the customer is an essential element in business. Hence they try by all means to create a personalized experience for each customer.
They rely heavily on customer feedback to meet a customer's needs.
The story begins and ends with the customer.
On the other hand, the church works in reverse. Let's take an example of a sermon.
In a traditional church setup, the preacher decides what to preach. People go to church without knowing what message is prepared for them. There's nothing wrong with this method; however, it does not reflect the times we live in where everything seems personalized.
I met a lady by the name of Lucy who told me that she's been depressed all her life, and she never heard, not even once a sermon or a program at church where they talked about depression.
She told me that her church family prayed for her when she was down, but there was no real solution or help for the actual issue she was facing.
I am not suggesting that you prepare a sermon for each and every member of your church but finding out what your members are struggling with helps you prepare sermons that are relevant to them.
For centuries the church was a place where people went for not just their spiritual needs but to get answers to life.
People would walk into a church anytime and found someone there to help them. It's a different story these days.
People are so busy that no one has time to help others. I have even heard situations were Pastors have second jobs to be able to make earns meet.
As a result, most churches only exists on the day of worship.
What happens when someone needs help during the week? Or when the church is out?
One of the main characteristics of a digital age is being able to get feedback or answers instantly. The digital age gives people the on-demand power to access the information they need when they need it.
If you don't believe me ask Blockbuster or a chain store going out of business due to Amazon and Netflix.
The church is not positioned to provide answers or solutions as fast as the internet, and so most people will get the answers from google before church.
As a result, the church becomes a place where people go to worship and not as the authority for everything life.
Since the 2000s we've seen a lot of churches take advantage of online streaming their church service.
This is great as a lot of people tune in from the comfort of their homes. However, live streaming also presents some issues that go against the digital age characteristics.
It's important to take note that most people in America are working more than one job and have crazy shifts that preclude them from attending church regularly.
This means that having a stream at a particular time may not work for a lot of people unless you have some hosting solutions that allow for on-demand playback.
For most people, the only scheduled activity in their lives is work because they have to pay bills. If the church does not have a solution that nurtures people that are not able to attend church, then it's missing out and probably losing out.
Before I talk about the solution, I want to draw your attention to one of my favorite stories in the Bible.
The story of Jesus feeding five thousand people with three fishes and two loaves of bread.
I know I am not alone when I say I probably heard or read this story a thousand times.
The story always points to the miracle that Jesus performed. I mean, how is it possible that five fish and two loaves of bread could feed five thousand people and still had leftovers?
I have always told this story when talking about miracles. Well, until now.
I think this is a perfect story that illustrates the power of problem-solving. You see, Jesus is Lord, and if he wanted, he could have preached for days without those people getting hungry. But Jesus wanted to show that people need much more than the word of God.
As a church, we must identify people's needs and find solutions to those needs.
We need to realize that people face real problems, and unless the church steps in to solve them, it is preaching in vain. We are also allowing the circular world to have the last word on everything.
When I was a young boy, I used to lose my toys a lot. I would then go to my mother crying because I couldn't find the toys where I left them.
My mother would always ask me if I looked everywhere even in places I usually don't put my toys.
That used to frustrate me a lot. Eventually, I would find the toys.
I guess the moral of the story is that when you're going through problems and need a solution, you should go to places you don't even expect to find the answer.
This is true with a lot of people, including our church members. When they need a solution that the church does not provide, they'll go to places you'd never expect a Christian to go.
The truth is that people need real answers to real-world problems, and we have an obligation as a church to help guide them to a solution.
The answer to the question, "how do you fill up a broken bucket with water?' is:
Fix the bucket.
The church is like a broken bucket, it has a leak. Some churches have bigger leaks and others have small ones. Regardless of the size, the point is that we have to fix it.
Just like fixing a leak in a bucket, we must first find out where the leak is. We must then figure out what kind of material the bucket is and then the best way to fix it without causing any more damage.
First, we also must find out where the church leak and figure out how to prevent any more leakages.
We can simply do this by asking people what their challenges are and figure out how to help them solve those problems. Not knowing what our members are struggling with will cause us to prescribe the wrong solutions. Sort of fixing the bucket with the wrong material.
Secondly, we have to segment our members according to their needs. Our goal here is to add value to your members by providing information that is relevant to their needs.
Thirdly, the church has to figure out how to provide or the best way to distribute the information. If your evangelism strategy only includes people that come to church, then you're missing out on the most powerful ways to evangelize.
Your evangelism strategies should also include digital distribution and gathering.
Studies show that people are just leaving the church but not leaving God. This means that they still consume the gospel. Our job is to make sure that we feed the internet with information that is helpful to them.
The Way Forward...
- Build a digital ministry
- Redefine your purpose
- Validate your ministry by asking people what their struggles are
- Segment your members according to their needs
- Digital evangelism and outreach strategies
- Analyze and replicate.