Stop Trying to Close The Back Door – Open It!

It’s no secret that churches have lots of fluctuation in members and attenders.  Church leaders bemoan the fact that too many people quickly leave out the proverbial back door.

I understand the concept. We don’t want new people to attend for a few worship services, only to fade away after a few Sundays.

But, I have a few friends and family who have the tradition around their house that everyone who is anyone comes to the back door.  People who aren’t really known that well – salesmen, deliveries and others ring the front bell. They can tell who is connected by who comes to the back door.

What if we, instead of trying to constantly close the back door, just opened it up?  By opening it, I mean, working to bring people through who are already connected in some way.  This obviously is just one slice to the issue, but maybe in keeping a steady flow of people who are connected, there will be less opporunity for people to leave out that same door.  Here are some thoughts for keeping a focus on bringing people in through the back door:

1) Focus on bringing people who are already connected to someone.  We always cast a wide net when it comes to invitation.  However, study after study says, the best way to grow and keep people connected is by personal invitation.  Each person attending with a friend has an automatic connection.

2)  Follow up with everyone. It’s the best kept secret of all!  When someone says they are “church shopping”, don’t believe them. Find out who guests are, get their info however you can, call, contact and connect with them.  Thank them for coming.  Invite them back. Meet a need.  Be proactive.

3)  Create ministry opportunities for the flock to bring in others.  Special events maybe a better opportunity for inviting friends and neighbors.  Examples include:  outdoor family events, special concerts, Christmas season musicals and other special Christmas services, community events that are held at your church building.

4)  Meet more than the pastor.  Intentionally seek out hospitable, bedrock church leaders to share the burden (and joy) of connecting with new people in the church. Through greeting, new member groups and classes, etc. give new people an opportunity to meet others in the church.

5)  Continue to build a invitational culture – sheep beget sheep. Develop cards, e-vites, handouts and postcards to remind people to invite others in their neighborhoods.  The shepherd doesn’t create sheep – sheep do.  It’s dangerous to havebelieve the pastor is the only person who can connect with and invite new people to the church or to faith.

6)  Preach messages on invitation, connection, evangelism. Jesus modeled friendships, connections and evangelism.  Invitation is a huge part of the Gospel – Follow me.  Come and See.  Those phrases offer hope of something more and people took Jesus up on it.  They still do today.  As my friend Bo used to say, “Preach It!”

7)  Choose the right words in communication and publicity.  Leave out “us” when inviting the community. When giving directions don’t say Don’t say, turn left on HWY 15 and “you can’t miss it”.  People want to be comfortable and confident when they are trying something new.  Give them the inside scoop – the best place to park, the best door to enter, what to expect, what they need to bring, how to register or RSVP, etc. And choose the right words as you teach your congregation about invitation and connection.  Make sure they know that the job of the church is to be the hands, feet and voice of Jesus – the salt and light – in the community around you.

8)  Line up service opportunities.  When people serve together a bond is made.

9)  Captilize on programs, ministries and outreaches.  There are people who consider your church their home, whether they are officially attend or not.  The people who meet in your building for boy scouts, AA, kids events, VBS, preschool and other community connections are great cadidates for becoming part of the church – and they are already connected.

Keep the “back door” open, but keep people coming through it at such a stream, it’s hard for anyone else to get out.   People need connections to stay engaged.  Not everyone is a extrovert, but everyone needs friendships to some degree.  Help develop those in meaningful and fulfilling ways.


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