I’ve been hearing a number of pastors in the Indiana Conference say that their churches are actually reaching more people but their worship attendance is down because attenders aren’t coming as frequently.
Here is an account from Rev. Ted Jansen, lead pastor of Auburn First UMC, whose church actually studied this phenomena. What’s your church’s experience? — Ed Fenstermacher
Two times over the past 6+ years First UMC of Auburn has done a study of the worship habits of its people. The first was after I had been the pastor of First Church for several years. We were attracting newer people and they were involved in the life of the church. But our worship numbers were not rising as much as I thought they should be. I was somewhat puzzled. So, I had a study done of the total numbers of people attending worship and our worship average. I discovered something that has continued. When we compare the number of worshippers to past numbers, we do have more people that are attending worship. But what we have discovered is that the people who are attending worship are doing so with less frequency than those in the past. We updated this study and broke it down into several age categories and discovered two things. Younger people tend to worship less. (The lifestyle choices for themselves and their children at times steer them away from Sunday worship.) We also discovered that some retirees travel more (to grandkids, to warmer weather, and other trips.)
So, our worship attendance has remained on a similar track, in part, because although we are attracting more people to our worship, the people we attract are worshipping with a lesser frequency.
This has implications on how we minister–from sermon series, to publicity, to stewardship and music ministries. This is one of the discoveries that we have had to adapt and understand as we do ministry in this new day. — Rev. Ted Jansen