Thom Rainer

Seven Key Reasons Your Church Attendance May Be Declining

My five-year old grandson asked me how old I was. When I told him I would turn 60 in a few weeks, he responded: “I didn’t realize people got that old.”

Indeed, in 60 years, like any of us who have lived a few years, I have seen change, lots of change. And I am seeing change in local congregations faster than any time in my lifetime. One of the most disheartening changes I am seeing is the declining attendance in a majority of churches. I am asked repeatedly to diagnose and help with these challenges.

Though addressing the issue of declining attendance cannot be covered in a brief blog post, I hope it will be helpful to share some high-level perspectives. See if any of these seven reasons apply to your church.

  1. “Cultural Christians” no longer see the need to attend church. “Cultural Christian” is really an oxymoron. I refer here to those men and women who once attended church for social, political, or business reasons. Most of them no longer feel it is necessary to be in church to be a regarded citizen in the community.
  2. Church members are attending less frequently. I have noted in other articles how I see this development as potentially the greatest contributor to attendance decline. Three decades ago, a very active church member attended three times a week. Today we call those who attend three times a month an active church member.
  3. Expectations are lower for church members. One of the reasons church members attend less frequently is that very little is expected of them in many churches. If we expect little of our members, that is exactly what we will get.

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