Understanding Declining Church Attendance and Strategies for Growth
Lawton, Michael P.
Across America, church attendance is declining. Every Nation (EN), a growing North America based ministry of 84 churches, is interested in better understanding the decline so they can share practices for increasing church attendance with non-member churches. The leadership of EN believes their success is based on understanding the social composition of their communities and creating a congregation that reflects the community. Two conceptual frameworks, change theory and servant leadership theory guided my study of Christian church attendance and change. Change theory was used to address how church leadership adjusts to practices as community practices change. Servant leadership was used to address the role and expectations of the church community. I conducted semi-structured qualitative interviews of pastors or senior church leaders (herein referred to as pastors) of various Christian churches within the United States, which were followed up with a quantitative questionnaire electronically sent to church attendees after each interview. The intent of this study was to identify trends or root causes of decline at the local churches participating in this study, with the goal of informing potential solutions. Five specific findings emerged from the data collection and analysis as being relevant to the research questions: 1. Evangelism practices across participating churches leads to decline 2. Pastors suggest social media contributes to a decline of in-person attendance for younger generations 3. Data suggests that aging congregations correlate with decline 4. Pastors suggest that competing activities contribute to decline 5. Pastors suggest that entertainment as form of worship should be balanced with equipping