There is a difference between a church people choose to belong to and a church they attend.
When people think of a church to attend, they majorly consider the distance from their house or work. They consider nothing about the church management system. The only other things people consider are the appearance of the church and whether it conflicts with any of their preconceived beliefs.
People are going to attend a church before they choose to belong there, so all that can be important too. But what makes a person choose to belong to a church is way more. People can attend a church, enjoy the service, and still not want to belong in the church. There are 7 vital things that make people want to belong in a church. Here they are:
1. Children’s Church
Raising children is a primary responsibility for married couples. And it is something that goes beyond the two parents. Children learn from their environment and everyone they come in contact with. And every parent wants the best for their children even much more than themselves. They would rather have something less than the best so their children can have the best.
Some parents know that they are imperfect as parents and would appreciate any kind of help to make up for their imperfections. This is where the children’s church comes in. If a child goes to a children’s church for the first time and loves it, the child would pester the parents to go to the church (since the child can’t go alone). Sometimes, the parents might just go drop their child at a children’s church without attending the church themselves. But after a while of doing that, they will try to attend with the intention of belonging to the church.
A church serious about retaining the membership of couples has to take the children’s church seriously. A couple can tolerate a lot of things in the adult church as long as their children are having a good time in the children’s department.
Anyone who has at least one child will consider the children’s church before deciding to belong in any church.
2. Car Park
As simple and trivial as this sounds, it is very important to a lot of people. Of course, nobody will say that they stopped going to a church because they have no car park or space to park their cars. But it is a sign. If you don’t have parking space for my car, you don’t have space for me in your church.
Of course, nobody thinks like that consciously but it is an unconscious feeling that people rarely express. They would say things like, “I just don’t feel welcomed in that church”. Meanwhile, the welcome package is great and there are lots of friendly faces. But the impression has already been made long before at the car park. And there is very little that can be done to change it inside the auditorium.
A good church is as filled up as their car park capacity. If more parking space is created, it won’t be long before it is getting filled with people. People want to belong in a church where they feel there is a space for them.
Most churches have a mini welcome bash for their first-timers. And in most cases, they have people assigned to that task. But for the stranger attending the church for the first time, it is nothing more than a show of hospitality. It doesn’t give a strong impression that makes people want to belong in the church. But it can.
The way it can is by using familiarity. They can come in as strangers, but when the welcome group gets a bit of information about the first-timers, they should match them with someone they can connect with. Maybe someone who went to the same school around the same time. It could be someone who lives in the same area. It could be anything as long as it shows a common ground for conversation and it breeds familiarity.
Imagine attending a church for the first time and the person who came to attend to you was an old colleague from school. And you talked about a few events that happened then in your school. You would be more obliged to give the person your phone number instead of just writing it on a form. A personal connection like that makes people get that sense of belonging in the church from day one.
There are people who are very musically inclined and cannot stand bad music. They would rather have you do no music than do bad music. But they are few. Most people are not that conscious of music but they are not immune to how music makes people feel. Music is not about the song. And this is the mistake many churches make.
Music produces a feeling. That is why music is used in movies, sports, and so on. Music is a tool that can control the moods of people. Emotions are triggered by music. Whether you like it or not, your church music is triggering an emotion in people each time they listen to it (regardless of the lyrics of the song). This is why worship and praise is an essential part of a church service. It is either pushing people away or drawing people close.
How music makes people feel differs from place to place. The same music that triggers positive emotions in a place can trigger negative emotions in another place. The lesson here is to be observant and pay attention to the reaction of people during the music. The natural reaction of people to the music will tell you everything you need to know. But if the sound system is horrible, it is better not to have music from that sound system.
Church is not for feeling good, but people should feel good when they come to church.
5. Community (or Impact) Project
When churches share their community projects, it is not so that people can applaud it. In the first place, it is good because the members can see the impact and for accountability sake. But someone who is attending for the first time can be won over by the projects the church is doing for the community. Here is why.
If it is something the person has been involved in, they will feel connected to the church because of it. Maybe the person has never been involved in it but is passionate about it. Perhaps the person has been looking for a way to participate in a community project like that. If they see the church doing such a project, they instantly want to be a part of it. And that gets them to belong in the church.
The church shouldn’t hide its community or impact projects. They should make time to talk about it every Sunday (or at least, one Sunday in a month). Not talk about it so they can ask for money. Instead, they should talk about it to give an account of the impact of the project.
6. Standard or Legacy
People often choose to belong in a church because of what the church is known for. They even make that choice before they decide to attend the church for the first time. It is difficult to decide to belong to a church when it is not clear what they stand for.
There are many churches preaching the same thing your church preaches. But every church has a mission, focus, or something in particular that they stand for. Not that other churches don’t have it, but they are just known with it. People that want to be known with that standard or legacy would want to belong in the church.
Every church that desires more members must have a standard or legacy. And they must strive to keep it.
7. Identity of the Lead Pastor
Churches, where the lead pastor has reservations against becoming a public figure, will struggle to grow beyond an extent. That extent varies from one location to another. As much as a standard or legacy is important, the identity of the lead pastor must embody that standard or legacy.
It is easier for people to relate to a person than to a brand or legacy. In fact, it is often the case that people fall in love with the standard or legacy because of the identity of the lead pastor. People need to know who the lead pastor is and be attracted to the calling over the pastor (or clergy).
Many people join a church because they want to associate (or be associated) with the lead pastor. And that it is a good thing. It is the biggest form of evangelism ever. The public identity of the lead pastor of a church attracts the greatest attention to that church. And this doesn’t mean public preaching from the lead pastor. In fact, the more distanced the public information about the lead pastor is from “preaching”, the better. When people can feel like they know the lead pastor without meeting him, they would want to be part of his life mission (which is the church).
These are the 7 things people look at before choosing a church to belong to. Don’t be praying for more members while you ignore these.