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 the number of people who 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’s. 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:
1. Kind reminders
I don’t want to advocate 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 ten 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.
2. 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, etc.) to ensure that people have the 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.
3. 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 relieve 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.