Church Involvement

Creating a Culture of Involvement in Every Church

Month: October 2016

Keeping Members From Going Out the Back Door

door1“Closing the Back Door: Keeping the Members You Have”

Most church leaders and ministers recognize that there is a retention problem in our congregations.   It appears we baptize 20 to 40 people a year and yet that many (if not more) disappear or leave the church (I call this members going out the back door of the church).   There are 3 reasons why people leave the church: (1) they fall away, (2) they move away or (3) they pass away. We have some control on #1 and no control over reasons #2 and #3.

What May We Do About Those Who Fall Away?

I think there are three basic reasons why we have this retention problem in some churches and why people “fall away.”   We need to fix the problem.

First, in some congregations we promote baptisms to the neglect of spiritual growth.   We are in a hurry to baptize people (nothing wrong with that) and then we ‘forget’ or neglect those we’ve baptized because we’ve got to get to the next person that we wish to baptize into Christ.     Simply put, we are all about teaching and baptizing folks and then we forget/neglect the ones we’ve taught and baptized.     Some churches have poor retention because they have no plans to teach and mature new Christians.   Many of these novices grow tired of coming to church and not having the personal attention they need to grow and they slip out the back door.

Second, there is confusion over the role of preachers and elders.    In some sense, both evangelists and pastors are to equip the saints for service (cf. Eph.4:11-16). However (in many congregations) we expect the located evangelist to fulfill His God-given roles of preaching, teaching and evangelizing the lost PLUS many congregations expect the preacher to fulfill the role of a Pastor (feed the [saved] flock, protect the flock, discipline the flock, comfort the flock, go after sheep that have strayed, equip saints for service, visit every member, keep up with every member, get every member involved in ministry, mentor every member, do all the funerals and weddings, and basically be everywhere, etc.). What happens in many cases is the preacher does not have the energy or time do both: he simply cannot fulfill his biblical calling well and he cannot do the work of the elders/pastors well.   The result:   more members ‘go out the back door.’   However, when an evangelist fulfills his primary biblical roles and elders/pastors fulfill their God-given primary roles, the back door gets shut and few people can walk out the back door.   At the very least, those attempting to go out the back door are intercepted.

A third problem is that many new members aren’t befriended by other members of the church—and they fall away (go out the back door).   Brother Fravil Yeakley (church growth expert for the churches of Christ) many years ago told us that new members must make at least six new friends immediately upon becoming members.   If they don’t, they will fall away within six months.   I’ve seen that prediction come true too many times.   Every growing church needs to have some ministry or means of new members being befriended.   It may be through worship assemblies, Bible classes, small groups or ministries.   Whatever that means is, it must be an intentional.

The point?   We all bear a responsibility to increase the retention rate and close the back door.   Please share any suggestions you may have. Trav



Why Aren’t Some Members Involved?

getinvolved_1000Why Aren’t Some Members Involved?

Why aren’t all of your church members involved in some sort of ministry in your church?   Is it laziness or ignorance?   Or is it something else?

They’ve never been asked.   Some members have never been approached and been asked to get involved.   Whose fault is that?   I know members shouldn’t want to be asked, but there are members who will not get involved until they are personally approached and asked.     We have to decide to either ask or continue to watch these folks stand idle on the side lines.

Some members are not equipped.   Some folks are not involved because no one has taken an interest in equipping them to serve.   Some folks need some guidance and unless they get it, they will not serve.

Some folks are worldly.   The third soil of the Parable of the Soils was the thorny ground.   This soil represents folks who are too busy with worldly pursuits and concerns to have time to serve and bear fruit.   This is the toughest member to deal with because he/she has an excuse for every request or offer you have for him/her.   Bottom line: they ain’t got time for the Lord’s cause.   However, in my personal experience with these folks, I simply refuse to take “No” for an answer.

Some of the church’s ministries are not challenging enough. Let’s face it: some of the ministries in the church aren’t very challenging or rewarding.   Many of our ministries in the church are maintenance ministries and some members (especially millennials–those born in the 80’s and 90’s) are not interested.   It’s not that they think such ministries are beneath them; they are interested in helping folks in very practical ways.   The solution is to allow these people to come up with their ideas and then empower them. People want to make significant contributions to others and they want to experience spiritual growth as they serve.  Such requires that our ministries are fresh and challenging.

Some folks have been overworked and been unappreciated.   It’s kind of like, “once a Bible teacher, always a Bible teacher.” There are folks who have served for years and have never had a break and in many cases these folks have never been shown any public appreciation or been honored.   Most people do not serve to receive recognition or honor.   However, we all need to be appreciated and honored (honor to whom honor is due is a Biblical concept).   And, we all need a break from time to time.

Some folks have had bad experiences. Something went wrong, someone got upset, someone took control away, someone criticized—something went wrong. Some volunteers will “bail out” quickly when things get rocky in a ministry and may never return to volunteer for a ministry.

As a leader do what you can to prevent bad things from happening and making the serving environment one that is conducive to getting and keeping good volunteers.

Travis Irwin

Involvement Minister

Athens, TN


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