“How can I get more people to be regular attenders at our church?”, a Pastor asked me recently. Like most of our church clients, they have excellent ministries and a great campus of buildings. But they’re starting to decline in numbers.
Everyone wants a large group. People engaged with the ministry and committed to the financial needs of the church. But what if we’re asking the wrong question?
Have you noticed the changes happening in fast food restaurants lately? Pizza Hut recently announced (because of a decline in business) that they are adding more choices to their menu. McDonald’s also changed their menu to allow people to choose their meal components rather than ordering a pre-assigned meal. Qdoba Mexican Grill now has an easier way to order from their menus too so you get exactly what you want and not what Qdoba wants.
What do they know that we need to learn from?
Millennials (born 1982-2001) along with most of the Survivors (30’s and 40’s) want to feel in control of their choices (these are demographic groups called Next Generation). They want what they want when they want it. And the larger you are, the more skeptical the younger generations will be of you.
This is so different from the Boomer generation (50’s and 60’s). Boomers seem to want the “usual”, something pre-packaged by someone else who knows better, and often feel the larger the organization the more successful something is.
The church programming is often set up this way. Usually because the Pastors and leaders are in that older demographic.
We must change so we capture the attention of the next generation. Let’s learn from the fast food industry. Here’s 3 suggestions for change:
- Don’t seek to get a huge crowd. Find ways to make a larger group feel smaller. Or concentrate on a collection of smaller groups. And just because they’re not regularly attending, it doesn’t mean they’re not loyal to you.
- Add choices. Don’t herd everyone into the same things — allow people to choose electives, teachers, times, etc.
- Realize that younger generations feel as connected online as they do in person. Why? Because they get information, encouragement, motivation, teaching when they want it, where they want it. Make sure your web presence allows for this.
Will things change for most churches? I certainly hope so, or like many restaurants resistant to change, churches will continue to shrink while the next generation finds solutions in another way.
This post originally appeared for the digital Worship Facilities Magazine. Mark MacDonald is a regular writer for this and other national publications.