Continued Church Attendance

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Our last blog looked at what factors initially attract members of the Adventist Church to their respective congregations. With many local churches experiencing member drop-out (known as the “leaky bucket syndrome”) and much lower weekly attendance numbers than book membership, one might question what factors keep members coming back to their congregations week after week.

As we mentioned before, in 2013 the General Conference Office of Archives, Statistics, and Research supervised a survey of church members around the world. The study was designed to assess church members’ experiences and attitudes regarding different aspects of their spiritual lives and their participation in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Survey respondents were also asked to share information about what keeps them returning to the same congregation week after week.

Results from seven Divisions (three African Divisions, South Asia-Pacific, South Pacific, South American, and Inter-American Divisions) show that the church doctrines were the top factor that influenced members’ decision as to where to attend, these doctrines are the top factor (54%) that influenced regular attendance.

Worship style (34%) and evangelism (25%), as well as a robust children/youth program (19%) and a strong music program (19%) followed by friends and church reputation (17% each), were also commonly noted as highly influential factors in members’ continued attendance.

          

Data reveals that trends in these divisions are similar for attract and remain factors.

          

Interestingly, in the South Pacific Division, church members were asked the survey question a bit differently; they were asked to pick the top influencing factor impacting their continued church attendance. Over a quarter (29%) of members in that division ranked family as the top factor impacting their choice of a local church and 23% of them marked it as a factor influencing their continued attendance.

In the North American Division, the three top factors that attracted members to attend their congregations were the presentation of church doctrines (41%), friends (40%), and worship style (35%). While the same factors were also very important in the Trans-European Division (42%; 42%; and 37% respectively), the foremost reason why members surveyed remained a part of their congregations was geographical proximity to where they lived (45%). Remarkably, in all these divisions, pastors play an important role in members’ decisions to attend a local church. Thus, in the North American Division 24% marked the pastor as a factor in the decision to attend a local church, while in the Trans-European Division 21% of respondents said the pastor is a reason why they remain a part of their congregations.

Once again, it is important to note that the main reason that respondents come to (and keep coming back) to Adventist churches is because of strong doctrines; the things that make us distinctly “Adventist,” make us different than other churches – and in this case, that’s a good thing! Our fundamental beliefs are all ultimately different ways of helping people to see Jesus Christ. They need to be integrated into sermons and Sabbath school lessons, but more is needed. Church members should be taught how to apply these beliefs to their lifestyle and personal relationship with Jesus.

Consider your own congregation. What is it about that group of people that motivates you to continue attending your church? Are you personally engaged in a way that makes other people want to return? Are you living out your Adventist faith to its full potential? Asking yourself these questions may not only strengthen your own personal walk with Jesus, but it could also be influential in encouraging members of your church to stay.

To access the full reports, click here.