Every year new churches are planted, and thousands also close their doors. Many people who grew up in a church are walking away, adopting a new religion, or giving up on any type of faith. There are many reasons why congregations are shrinking in size or disappearing altogether, and it has less to do with scandalous relationships and financial irresponsibility than you might think. The following are a few reasons why your friends might not feel welcome at your church, regardless of the denomination, or the name on the side of the building:
1. The service feels like an infomercial. If the announcements last longer than the worship or your pastor spends more time talking about what the church is “doing” than who Jesus “is,” chances are people are walking away confused about what being part of a church means. Friends searching for a deeper spiritual atmosphere and connection aren’t interested in being entertained by a long list of weekly activities, or listening to a self-help/feel-good message for 30 minutes each week; they want substance.
2. There is an obligation to give financially. Offering requests, lengthy conversations about budgets and buildings, or the expectation of blessing or healing with your “one easy payment” is not what Jesus did. So, why does the church? While tithing and giving are important parts of the Christian life, the offering is meant to be an act of worship— a celebration, not something brought out of obligation, or as a trade for something from God.
3. The music is extreme. It’s one of the first things people complain about. It might be incredibly loud, or on the other end of the spectrum, terribly outdated. Either way, this is a huge component of the weekend service and one that turns people away quickly. Worship is the church coming together in celebration of what God has done and is doing; often those at the front, as well as those filling the seats, look anything but excited.
4. The size is uncomfortable. Often friends are coming to church in hopes of finding community. They don’t want to just see a smiling greeter, but want a way to connect with people who share their beliefs. If they feel singled out during the “first time visitor,” or “turn around and greet your neighbor” moments, they may not return. Similarly, if getting into the parking lot and then into the worship service is much like attending a large sporting event, then those seeking a smaller community might be frightened away by the sheer size of the church.