The Key to Keeping People Coming Back to Church Is Friendship
Rob and Joanne attend Harvest Christian Fellowship, in Riverside Ca, where thousands gather weekly for services. When asked what keeps them attending, they answer without hesitancy, friendships. Their answer is simple, yet goes to the very heart of what draws people to church and keeps them there.
On the other side of the coin, Mark, a new Christian and recovering addict, attended a local church one Sunday and was met with suspicious stares and coldness, as many were disturbed by his tattoos and ear studs. Whether large or small, churches are wise to emphasize the nurturing of friendships and to indentify the things that kill them. I have identified 5 “Friendship Killers” below:
* Cliques: We all have a network of close friends we hang out with. Open cliques are ‘groups’ of friends who invite others into their circle. Closed cliques ‘shut off’ all new comers and circle the wagons when the group feels threatened by the advances of a new comer.
* Judgmentalism: Walk in any church on a giving Sunday and if you leave feeling condemned, chances are you have experienced a taste of a judgmental attitude.’ Judgmentalism and a sense of self-righteousness suffocate friendships and create an atmosphere that is angry, mean-spirited and closed off.
* Gossip: My friend Sherry measures a ‘gossiping’ church by what people say about their pastor and each other after a Sunday service. If people are constantly complaining about the sermon, worship, the youth ministry or what Sally is wearing the atmosphere takes on a negative feel to it. And when the service is over, people just want to go home.
* Financial Trouble: Charles called them ‘shake down’ Sundays; when the pastor would spend 30 minutes haranguing the congregation about the lack of funds for the new educational wing. Churches that focus on programs over people have lost their priorities.
Fortunately, the majority of Churches understand the power of ‘friendships’ and how it correlates to keeping new-comers coming back. Healthy churches are not afraid to nurture friendship through Small groups, dating ministries for single adults and creating an environment of a ‘loving’ Christian community.
* I originally used the term Legalism, but after a reader noted the distinction between Legalism and Judgmentalism, I changed the term to best fit the context of what I am conveying.
This article “The Key to Keeping People Coming Back to Church Is Friendship” by Bob Abair was excerpted from: www.smartministry.com web site. May 2011. It may be used for study & research purposes only.
This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”