Written by Bill Whitt
April 2, 2024

How To Engage “ChrEasters” and Reverse the Decline in Attendance

The frequency of church attendance continues to drop. Consider these ideas to make church more "sticky" and drive deeper engagement.

Pastors sometimes joke about “ChrEasters” or “CEOs” (Christmas/Easter Only attenders), but the reality is no laughing matter. The frequency of church attendance nationwide continues to drop at an alarming rate.

  • The Household Pulse Survey revealed that 49 percent of Americans say they rarely or never attend religious services.
  • Worse still, even among those who label themselves as “evangelicals,” 40 percent say they attend services once a year or less, according to the Cooperative Election Study. This is up 11 percentage points since 2008.

These studies predict that disengagement will continue to worsen over time unless we work to reverse the trend. Here are a few ideas about how to make church more “sticky” and drive deeper engagement.

Five Ways To Increase Engagement
Idea 1:  Relationships are glue
  • People can listen to eloquent preachers deliver amazing sermons on-demand, online, 24/7… and all while still in their pajamas! It will take more than a good sermon to bring people out to church.
  • What can they not get online? Deep, authentic relationships. The world is currently in the midst of a loneliness epidemic and is desperately looking for what the church offers here! How can you ensure each of your congregants is connected to at least three others in a meaningful way?
Idea 2: Serving Helps People Feel Needed
  • It’s easy to skip church gatherings when you know you won’t be missed. If you’re just a face in the crowd, why not sleep in?
  • However, if you serve on a ministry team, everything is different. You feel a sense of personal ownership in the mission of the church. You feel the joy of contributing toward it. And you feel connected to the people on your team — people who know your name and your story. What can we do to ensure everyone finds a place to serve?
Idea 3: Connect Faith and Life
  • Some people don’t attend church often because they can’t see how it applies to their everyday lives. They’re content to go once in a while because it checks a box, but in reality, what they’re doing is putting faith in a box and walling it off from the rest of their existence.
  • It’s easy to blame the attendees for doing this, but we should feel some responsibility as church leaders too. When we present abstract theology with no application, shame on us! When we speak in Christianese and live within our own subculture, shame on us! What can we do to help people see the many intersections of faith and life?
Idea 4: Cast a Bigger Vision for church members
  • You hardly ever get more than you ask for, and it feels like churches are asking less and less of their members these days. Perhaps they have felt the need to lower the bar to accommodate lessening engagement, but that’s only making things worse!
  • As we minister in an increasingly post-Christian society, we should expect that people will lack a basic understanding about what is expected of believers. What can we do to offer some foundational education? How can we lovingly and gracefully raise the bar?
Idea 5: Measure what matters
  • You can tell what matters by what is measured. Almost every church measures attendance and giving, and these are good metrics to track. The problem is they are lagging indicators. By the time they dip, it’s often very hard to reverse the underlying cause of decline.
  • If engagement really is as critically important as we say it is, we must track it properly. What percentage of people are joining small groups? How many people have found a place to serve? Measure what matters!

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