Keep Members Coming

By Mark Wingfield for Associated Baptist Press
(Baptist Today, Feb. 19, 1998)

“The best remedy for inactive church members is to catch them before they drop out,” Chip Miller advises. “While it may not be obvious to those who aren’t looking, people on their way out the church’s back door almost always give clues of where they’re headed,” said Miller, a consultant with the Kentucky Baptist Convention. “One simple indicator is worship participation. For example, a person or family may begin moving farther back in the sanctuary on Sunday mornings than where they usually sit. Their worship attendance may become less frequent before they stop attending altogether. Sunday school attendance may begin sliding as well,” Miller said. “Or a person may stop attending committee meetings or participating in some other group or activity. Or parents may begin letting their children drop out of church activities as an early step toward a full exit. The extensive research of John Savage on this topic shows that ‘a pattern of attendance indicates what’s going on at a deeper level,'” Miller said. “Particularly with worship and Sunday school in a Baptist church, if anyone is absent seven consecutive Sundays, ‘he’s in trouble,'” Miller warned. “Another key is to understand what keeps a person bonded with a church,” Miller added. He cited three essential factors: 1) The person’s faith is being fed. 2) The person is part of a group where people know one’s name and finds identity and support. 3) The person has a sense of ownership in what the church is doing. “When one, two, or three of these begin to unravel, you’ve got trouble. The best way for a church to prevent people from sliding away from active participation is to learn to listen,” Miller said. “But in addition, keeping an accurate record of attendance and then reading those records also is vital,” he said. “If you don’t hear us, at least see us.'” 

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