Do you ever stop and ask yourself, "Why do people visit my church?" Do you ever ask yourself, "Why don't they come back?" Why is it that churches across the country see people coming in the front door only to have them exit the same door and never return? I know of churches that will draw a 1,000 visitors a year and yet average under a 1,000 in worship. What is behind this unfortunate phenomenon?
There are many reasons why people do not return to our churches after visiting for the first time. Some can't relate to the style. Others never make a connection with people. Many do not feel welcome. The list is endless. Today there are so many different types of churches that they have become a literal smorgasbord. People will hop around until they find something that satisfies their appetite.
To get an answer from any given situation there has to be a question asked. In this case, we have to ask the question, "Why don't people return to our churches after the first and even second visits?” To answer that question we have to ask another, “What are we doing that causes people to leave as quick as they enter?" and “What can we do to keep them coming back?”
For the sake of keeping this article short, we will focus on one solution. It can be summed up with this statement:
"People visit churches because they are searching for something different. Many have an understanding that the church is a place of help and spiritual guidance. Most have not had a spiritual experience with God but they know there is something different about the church. They are looking for something to help them through their difficult situations. They seek to fill the empty void in their lives. Many come with hurts and worries. What they seek is a touch from God that will change their lives forever. They need a spiritual encounter with the Creator of the Universe. They need a relationship with the Father and the Son. They need JESUS!
What do they get when they enter our doors? In most cases they receive music that is well-rehearsed. They may or may not get a message that is well-crafted to communicate a life topic. As church leaders, we have become good at programming our services to communicate simple truths of the Bible and Christian life. Most of us have become experts at presenting things well and in a professional manner. The area we fall short of often is in the area of spiritual preparation. We fail to present worship as more than good singing and performing. We fail to present our messages with power and prayer.
If the search for God is a valid, spiritual pursuit of the "visitor,” then as church leaders we need to become better at preparing and presenting things that will reveal God on this level. What do I mean? Is your singing a spiritual experience for those who attend your church? Is it a true worship experience that transcends the physical expression? Is the preaching spirit-filled and powerful? Or is it a well- written speech that is created to "wow" the people. When people sit through a worship service, do they walk away having been with God?
Non-believers take the time on Sunday mornings to get ready, get in their vehicles, drive miles to a nearby church, sit through an hour and fifteen minutes of programming, only to get back in their cars and drive back home….. unchanged and unaffected. Many leave our services feeling even more defeated because what they sought was not evident or presented in the church. One side note: This can also be said of the new believer who is searching for a place to grow and worship.
What do our churches need to be doing to help people return and hopefully come to Christ? If we planned our singing for the believer to truly worship, the lost would see the spiritual worship that flowed from God's people. If the preaching was filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, they would come to receive Christ because of the truths that were taught from a man or woman that operates and prepares through hours of prayer. If our services and programming were on a higher spiritual level, people will find what they seek. If we continue to operate in our own strength, they will continue to exit the back doors never to return. They will leave with no source of power in their lives that would help them to make it through their day. Most importantly, they will never come to know the life of knowing Jesus and spending eternity with Him. They will never know the life of one who has surrendered himself to God and the true joy that comes from it.
I pray that as we plan and prepare our worship services we will seek to lead our people in a spiritual experience. Plan singing that is true spiritual worship and not just singing. Plan sermons and teaching events that flow out of lives filled with Christ and His Spirit. People seek to connect with things that are spiritual. They are in a desperate search for it. What they don't need is more entertainment that takes place in a building that we call the church.