7 Keys for Adjusting to the Post-Covid Attendance

7 Keys for Adjusting to the Post-Covid Attendance

How is your attendance? The answer to that question depends greatly on where you live and how long you kept your congregation locked down. Lifeway Research reports that, on average, churches are running at 85% of their January 2020 attendance figures.1. “While some pre-COVID churchgoers have not returned to church at all, much of the decline in attendance is from people who are attending less often,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of Lifeway Research. Churches are not alone in seeing fewer in-person engagements.

Restaurants see similar results. The Takeout Revolution is Just Beginning headline in the Wall Street Journal caught my attention. Here is a quote from the article, “America’s biggest restaurant companies made a bet during the pandemic that you would rather eat the food cooked on their premises someplace else. Now they are gambling you will want to do so for years to come.”2. The article gives the staggering statistic of all orders placed at U.S. fast-food restaurants in 2022, 85% were taken to go.

Fast-food restaurants are adjusting their focus to meet the demands of their clients. What should churches do to meet this change? In this edition of the Coach, entitled 7 Keys for Adjusting to the Post-Covid Attendance, I want to give you seven keys to focus on. Here are my 7 key points…

  1. Understand and accept the shift in church attendance. Church attendance was already in decline well before Covid sprung out of the lab in Wuhan. In the last 10 to 15 years, those we consider our faithful are now attending around two times a month or less. If your faithful are in attendance less, it stands to reason that those nominally engaged with your church will attend even less. So, what should you do?
  2. Adapt to changes in church attendance. This is one of those ‘it is what it is’ moments. I doubt there is any going back to the way things used to be. We need to realize the trend in attendance and thus make plans to adapt and adjust what we have always done. How?
  3. Move towards an engagement strategy. In early 2019, I read the following statement about attendance, “To effectively communicate your message, you’ll need to stop building your strategy exclusively around physical attendance.” Why? As my friend, Dave Anderson, says, “Church attendance is not decreasing. It’s decentralizing.”3. The more you engage with your members, the more likely they will stay with you.
  4. Provide your members with 24/7 access. How? Everything must be offered remotely, in person, at any time, and on any day. Technology has made this possible in ways we could only dream about. From online worship attendance to online small group attendance to online giving, you must provide multiple options with digital platforms that make it easy for people to engage with you wherever they are.

To set this up, check out my sponsor, OnlineGiving.org https://www.onlinegiving.org

  • Think beyond 9 and 11 on Sunday morning. A wise church will realize that a 9 AM and 11 AM service time on Sunday will not help with the reality of the business of people’s lives. We must provide multiple worship options and platforms to communicate through.
  • Develop a new scorecard for churches. Pastors have set the standard for success around attendance numbers for years, and we need a new scorecard focusing more on life change than physical attendance.
  • Focusing on making disciples. Crowds leave every time things get tough. Disciples stick it out. The only way to keep members engaged is by adapting and implementing a discipleship track that is 24/7/365. You might engage with fewer people, but the results will be long-lasting.

Check out my Bonus Section for the tools I recommend to keep engagement high with your members.

How does this impact giving? Well, I am glad you asked. Fewer people in your chairs or pews will mean less in your offering plates. You can track the decline in church attendance since the 1960s with the decline in giving, and the charts look almost identical. Covid revealed the tendency away from physical church attendance. If your faithful are only attending once or twice a month, how do we stay engaged with our congregation in this high-tech world of the 21st Century? It starts by realizing you must stop building your strategy exclusively around physical attendance.

Mark Brooks – The Stewardship Coach

  1. https://research.lifeway.com/2022/11/08/churches-are-open-but-still-recovering-from-pandemic-attendance-losses/
  2. https://www.wsj.com/articles/americans-are-gobbling-up-takeout-food-restaurants-bet-that-wont-change-11674882022?mod=Searchresults_pos1&page=1
  3. Rethink Communication: A Playbook to Clarify and Communicate Everything in Your Church, by Phil Bowdle, 2019 Center for Church Communication page 34.

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