Whenever I do any type of consultation with a church, I ask to see attendance records. And though it is not a rule without exception, I typically see three to four spikes in attendance.
Most church leaders don’t realize the reasons behind these spikes. They, therefore, do not plan strategically and prayerfully.
I understand numbers are not everything in the health of the church. But we would be negligent if we did not see the gospel opportunities in reaching new people who might come during one of the spikes.
- Easter. Reason for spike: More inactive and less active church members attend, often to make their annual token appearance. The attendance growth is therefore the result of most of the church members showing up at the same time. Easter is typically not a day where a large number of the unchurched people show up.
- Christmas Eve. Reason for spike: More unchurched persons attend. From an evangelistic perspective, Christmas Eve services may be the most important services of the year. Many unchurched are attracted to the traditions of Christmas, particularly those demonstrated in Christmas Eve services.
- Mother’s Day. Reason for spike: Mom desires to have many family members attend church together. The spike thus is typically a mix of nominal Christians and non-Christians. The spike of Mother’s Day is usually not as large as that of Easter or Christmas Eve.
- Contextual/Planned Day. This spike may be the result of the church’s heritage. I remember in two rural churches I served where the annual homecoming was a big deal. I know an urban church that goes all out to honor first responders on a high attendance day. A number of churches plan a day to invite unchurched persons. We will soon be releasing a resource of that nature called “Invite Your One.”
We have two important reminders about the four high common attendance days. First, each day must be prayerfully and strategically planned with just as much effort going to follow up. Second, it is very difficult for congregations to put the energy into more than four high attendance days a year. They become counterproductive past that point.
I am aware of one church that builds its community outreach around these four major days. As a consequence, the church sees average attendance grow 2 to 3 percent for each event, or about 10 percent a year. It has been a very effective ministry and outreach approach.
Let me know what your church does to be strategic about these potentially four high attendance days a year. I always love hearing from you.
Posted on March 14, 2016
With nearly 40 years of ministry experience, Thom Rainer has spent a lifetime committed to the growth and health of local churches across North America.
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We often hear church growth experts tell us we can no longer do things the way they did them in the 1950’s. Why not? I wasn’t around in those days, but I know many people that were, and there’s a reason they view those days with nostalgia. In those days people understood the mechanics of Sunday School and its potential for outreach and evangelism. In the last year and a half, the church I serve has gone back to some of those principles (enrollment campaigns, reporting contacts, etc.), and our attendance has picked up. Studies still show that most people come to church because a friend invited them.
Please remember that I’m talking about principles, not methods. Modern technology allows us more ways to make contacts, such as email and social media, and certainly we should take advantage of those avenues. There’s nothing wrong with new and innovative approaches to ministry, but don’t forget the ones that are tried and true. They still work!
More folks are likely to attend a church’s annual Easter egg hunt than its Easter Sunday service. While more unchurched people are likely to attend a Christmas Eve service than an Easter Sunday service, many churches do not have a Christmas Eve service, particularly but not exclusively Baptist churches. Due to the closure of the university for the Christmas holidays my church does not even have a Sunday service the week before Christmas Day.
I believe that churches should have a service on Christmas Day as well as Christmas Eve. Fourteen or more years ago when I was a licensed minister in the Episcopal Church, I remember a family showing up on Christmas Day. There was no service. I happened to be at the church because it was my habit to read Morning Prayer at the church whenever I had a day off. It was an opportunity lost.
I couldn’t agree more Thom, but I think Easter is the most wasted large attendance day in a church because of the attitude of some pastors. I’ve witnessed more than one pastor take jibes and reprimand those who are infrequent attenders on Easter. One actually said from the pulpit, “I want to welcome all of our annual attenders; I’m thankful for Easter or else we would never see you.” He meant it as a joke but it was really sarcastic and prideful.
Do you have any info/research on having church vs. not having church on Sunday when Christmas falls on Sunday? In our area (Western New York) there was some churches that still had church on Sunday (Christmas) on top of Christmas Eve service, and others who used Christmas Eve service as their weekly service. Just wondering since it has already come up in conversation for planning ahead!
Super Bowl Sunday has consistently been high for no appear g reason the last several years. We think it has something to do with making that day “holy”, church then football.
That would certainly fit the fourth category, Christian.
Church staff, minister, deacons, ushers, greeters should all be equipped for these special Sundays. This is the only day nominals and unsaved attend church. Everyone serving in any capacity should be dressed and ready to reach out to visitors. A bulletin insert briefly explaining the Christian message as it pertains to the given holiday and the way to Christ will help. The message should be evangelical but not so heavy as to turn off or be over the heads of unchurched.
Good word. Thanks, Russ.