Every church ministers in seasons: Christmas season, Easter season, VBS and church camp season, fall ministry launch season, hunting season, travel baseball season, and snowbird season, to name a few.
You might be wondering, “Is he serious? Christmas and Easter are not the same as hunting and youth sports.” If you think this, know that I wholeheartedly agree with you. But sadly, many members of our churches see this very differently. They might not ever say they believe this is true with their words, but their church attendance declares it from the rooftops: “My hobbies and kids’ activities are as important as my church!”
As pastors and leaders, this declaration—whether spoken or not—causes frustration, hurt, confusion, and even anger sometimes. We know church membership and attendance are non-negotiable. We know the body must gather on the Lord’s Day and no season is more important than God’s commands about this. When our members do not take church attendance as seriously as God’s Word instructs, there is a temptation for pastors to take it personally.
The truth is, every church deals with these kinds of issues. So how do we respond as church leaders? Should we throw up our hands, sigh loudly, and declare, “It is what it is”? I believe we should respond by showing our members why church attendance is different than anything in the world and why it is worthy of being a regular part of their week.
Respond through thanking
Every pastor and leader is thankful when people show up on Sunday. But do you ever actually thank them for coming? This can be done individually, through writing them a note, or shooting them a quick text. I would challenge you to say it from the pulpit—often. Let people know you see their obedience to the Lord and appreciate their regular attendance.
Respond through teaching
I am a book-by-book, verse-by-verse preacher. I like long preaching runs and plugging in to a book for months and sometimes years so our people will know the depths of the riches of God’s Word. When you preach one-off sermons, that steady rhythm is interrupted. Sometimes you struggle with dealing with important issues like church attendance because it doesn’t fit your rhythms. Consider these ways to teach these important lessons in the life of the church:
- Once a year, preach a monthlong series on a theological topic and start with ecclesiology.
- Teach your leaders and teachers about the importance of church membership and attendance and then encourage them to pass those truths along to those in their spheres of influence.
- This is a big one—teach these truths to kids. When children know what God expects, that information forms in them in a different way than in adults. God designed kids this way for a reason, so they can know Him and know how to follow Him well. Preach it and teach it at all levels and see how it becomes part of your church DNA.
Respond through talking
If you find that thanking and teaching aren’t enough, go to your members struggling to attend consistently and talk to them. Do it in a way that is not heavy handed, but as a shepherd or friend. Don’t use cliche’s like, “You don’t have to go to church to be a Christian, but Christians should want to go to church.” Instead, let them know you miss them and that you care for them and their family’s souls. Tell them you desire for them to be obedient to all of God’s Word and want what is best for them. This conversation might be hard, but it is worth it.
When pastors thank, teach, and talk about the importance of church attendance, we will help our people see the importance of the church body in their lives and watch them respond with obedience that will lead to fruitfulness through God’s grace.
This article originally appeared at the SB Texan