I couldn’t imagine feeling so desperate.
There was still a hint of fear in his eyes as he retold the story of losing his son in a department store.
After about a minute I stopped listening and started imagining losing my son.
Frantic, afraid, guilty. A ton of emotions all happening at once.
Makes me wonder what God feels when one of his children walks out the Back Door. This is the same God that leaves the 99 sheep behind to search for the one that’s lost.
What’s The Backdoor?
Every year countless church members walk out the back door and no one even notices. I assumed you were familiar with the backdoor – it’s the door that doesn’t exist yet sucks members out of your church like a high-powered vacuum. This door plagues every single church.
The ‘backdoor’ is another word for Church Attrition, or church retention. It’s a churches ability to keep its members. So when a member leaves a church, especially if he leaves unnoticed we call it the back door.
On average every church loses 10% of its membership. Members stop attending for a number of reasons. Some pass away, others just decide to pass on church altogether. And if your church doesn’t add any new members then you’ll begin to experience decline. Over sometime you may have to close your doors.
Every year churches loose as many members as they add. That’s why you can add more members but overall giving does not go up. You can add more members but volunteerism is still in decline.
Yes, spiritual immaturity does play a major role in how much someone gives volunteers or evangelizes. But more members are not the answer to closing the backdoor. Retaining members is the answer.
What’s The Answer?
The answer to closing the back door is retaining your current members. You will never close the door 100% – simply because you are not fully responsible for closing the backdoor. Membership is a relationship that is upheld by Church leadership and the member. To quote an old hip hop song “It takes two to make a thing go right…”
So how do we fix it? Here are a couple of suggestions:
- Expect More: If you want to retain more members, you must expect more from them. According to Thom Rainer, author of ‘I am a Member’, many see the church as a place to go be served rather than to serve. So utilize the membership class to provide clear expectations. When I teach the membership class I share the mission of the church and make it clear – if you don’t think you can fulfill the mission of this church than think twice before joining the church. The fulfilling the mission of the church should become the mission of the church member.
- Prayer & The Word: Praying and Reading the bible is a value that must be reinforced at every opportunity. I know we assume that our staff is praying and reading, but it’s best to make sure. Remind the deacons, remind the other pastors, and especially remind the members of the importance of staying rooted in Christ. According to the Reveal research done by Greg Hawkins at Willow Creek reading the bible is the most important factor in spiritual growth and prayer is a close second. In addition they have found that spiritually mature believers are the most consistent in their giving, evangelizing and serving. Spiritually mature believers are the most committed. So if you want to retain member invest time in spiritual maturing.
- Small Groups: Research performed in 2014 by Lifeway reveals the important role Small Groups plays in the life of a believer. According to the research churchgoers who belong to a small group are more likely to go to church at least four times a month (79 percent), and to read the Bible daily (28 percent). Being in a group also impacts people’s daily lives. Group members feel closer to God (69 percent), understand the Bible better (74 percent), trust God more (66 percent), and become more loving in their relationships (48 percent). People usually join a church because of the preaching and stay because of the relationships they develop.
Although expecting more from members, emphasizing the value of Prayer & the Word, and developing a Small Group system is important there are more ways to close the back door. Ultimately what will close the back door is having a heart for the people God has entrusted us with.
I would love to hear how you are closing the back door; leave a comment in the comments area below.