3 Ways Social Media Can Help Curb Church Decline | echurch

3 Ways Social Media Can Help Curb Church Decline

There are many reasons why people attend church less frequently nowadays, but all too often churches aren’t even aware that this is happening. How can this be? Most churches track how many people attend every week, but not so many count how often each person attends. Lots of people are now leaving the church gradually, by attending less often. It may seem intrusive to keep track of how often your members attend, but decreasing attendance frequency is one of the biggest reasons why churches decline.

Let’s Do the Math

A basic exercise brings this problem to light:

  • Church A has 400 people who come 4 out of 4 weeks (yes, I know that’s not reality, but hang with me for the sake of argument). This attendance frequency means that the church averages 400 in attendance.
  • Church B has 400 people who come 3 out of 4 weeks (not too bad). But this attendance frequency means that the church averages 300 in attendance.
  • Church C has 400 people who come, on average, 2 out of 4 weeks (probably more realistic). They average 200 in attendance.

I’m sure that you get the point by now. Each church has 400 people who are part of the flock, but the average attendance at Church C is much less than Church A. As attendance frequency drops, the churches have drastically smaller averages, without being aware that they are “losing” anyone.

3 Ways Social Media Can Help Increase Attendance

Is social media the answer to this frequency problem? Of course not. But can social media help? Yes, I have seen evidence that it can.  Here are some suggestions on how you can start using social media to increase church attendance:

  • Kind reminders. I don’t want to advocate for legalism—an arrogant attitude that everyone must be at every church event. But people don’t just up and leave a church in one day; they fade over time. A family that used to attend nearly every week and now attends 10 times a year is gradually leaving the church. Social media can be a way to provide kind reminders that presence is important. It may sound ironic, but a digital tool can encourage actual presence.

Two key things to remember here: Be positive and gentle or, as I said “kind.” And second, make sure to tell people why their presence is important.

  • Communication saturation. As a researcher, I’m always looking for that point of “saturation,” where I hear the same thing from multiple sources. This is a good thing! It’s one of the ways you know you’ve got the story correct. It holds true for church communication. Social media is a tool to achieve communication saturation, where people are reliably able to get the right story (or location, time, etc.) from the right source. Technology is saturating us, so let’s use it to our benefit!  Use multiple sources (Twitter, Facebook, worship announcement) to ensure that people have correct information.  Communication saturation brings clarity.

Valuable to know: People who know they have the right information are unlikely to use the excuse of a lack of communication for not attending.

  • A new hub. The church grounds were once the hub of community, the place where – for better or worse – you went if you wanted to know what was happening in your town.  Word traveled from one church to the next, and depending on your denomination, you might be among the first in the know. Communication no longer works this way but social media gives us a new kind of hub. Today if you want information, you go online.  A church that doesn’t participate in this hub will miss a grand opportunity to shape the conversation.

Extra advice: I encourage church leaders to be active at the community hub. More people are likely to follow the individual leaders of a church than to follow the official church account on social media, though that is worth developing and maintaining as well.  

Pay Attention to Attendance Frequency

Far from the most important church health metric, attendance frequency is nonetheless too often neglected – and it’s a key reason why churches are declining. Social media is underutilized as a tool to help solve the problem of church attendance frequency, which is too bad because it really can make a difference. Be kind online. Use social media to create message saturation. And be active at the new community hub. You might just find that your social media presence encourages increased presence at your church.

blog-cta_demo

Sam Rainer
Sam Rainer

Sam S. Rainer III serves as president of Rainer Research and as co-founder of Rainer Publishing. Sam is the author of Obstacles in the Established Church and the co-author of Essential Church. He has written hundreds of articles for several publications. He is a frequent speaker on church health issues. You can connect with Sam at his blog, samrainer.com.

Related Posts
Showing 8 comments
  • Barbara DeFalco

    While I understand your philosophy of declining attendance, I don’t agree with using social media to counteract that issue. Unless you find out why people are attending less getting an email or other social media contacts encouraging you to come to church mages further aggravate and irritate the person. This may cause even less attendance at the church. I personally have contacted a church leadership asking about their programs and was told to look at their website. Wow I was looking for a personal interaction it was off putting to be told to go look at the website. I did not visit that church. Currently I have membership at a church and haven’t attended for the last 6 months and knowing has even contacted me or notice that I was gone. During this time my daughter received birthday card that was pre-printed with pre printed signed names which was the most impersonal card I’ve ever seen. It was like rubbing salt in a wound. Unless churches can find out how to connect with people the train in declining attendance will continue.

    • Derek Gillette

      Hi Barbara,

      Thanks for the comment and I’m sorry to hear about your recent church experiences. It’s unfortunate. I’m in the middle of writing up a generosity best practices guide for churches and one of the recommendations I make is the use of personal, handwritten letters. This is a simple act that demonstrates a ton of caring.

      I think what Sam was addressing in his post was a way for churches and church leaders to extend additional conversation online, but not to replace the act of in person conversation. When used as a complement to solid, in person relationship, social media can be a powerful ‘go deeper’ tool.

      I do wish you the best going forward and pray you’ll find a great church to call home,

      Derek

    • Franklin Montgomery

      Barbara –

      It appears as if you let your personal hurt get it in the way of reading this article with clarity. It is an excellent summary of how social media can help, or augment, reversing church decline. In fact, the title uses the word “help” to make clear social media is a means, and not an end. If you have been out of church for six months, your issues extend well beyond angst about social media. Don’t hurt the messenger and message of this article because of your own issues. This article is very good.

  • Bill Cate

    Neat theory, but how can social media help with a congregation that is largely disconnected? They don’t look at the Internet, they don’t have Facebook/Twitter accounts, and email is still secondary to the US Post Office.

    • Franklin Montgomery

      It’s more than theory, Bill. Your congregation is a definite outlier. I recently spoke in a rural congregation of approximately 60 adults, no children. I asked how many of them were on Facebook. The response? All but five of them. If 55 of 60 people in that rural congregation are on Facebook, I know its use is pervasive. I’m sorry your congregation is not connected, but that does not invalidate the article’s premise for the vast majority of congregants.

      • Amanda

        Another suggestion is to use mass text messaging. Our pastor sends text reminders for Sunday service w/a sermon topic/teaser, notes on special events, and the mid-week bible study.

  • Chaplain Bernell Wesley

    Social media is an awesome tool and I use it daily but more than a few commentators missed the point. One commentator mentioned he is writing a ” generosity best practices guide”, but who is going to read this guide? Church people are really like an exclusive club. Church people will read this guide but you can’t teach compassion, the deiving force of love. Barbara was seeking relationships and found the true heart of modern church business. People are expendible when they are not part of the accepted church family and especially so if they don’t serve the pastoral vision. You want 5o retain people then the modern church will have to stop playing control games through seminars, guides, and programs and truly l3arn to love and care for people.

Leave a Comment