The “1 + 4 Strategy” to Increase Attendance in Your Church

Thom S. Rainer | Church Answers

Twenty years ago, we could count on a steady stream of people visiting our church each week. In other words, we opened the doors, and people came. Of course, the level at which people visited churches varied among different congregations.

But attendance growth today must be highly intentional. While obedience to the Great Commission has never been an option, we must be more diligent than ever. We no longer can count on people just showing up at our churches.

So, how does an effective Great Commission strategy actually take place in churches today? What are growing churches doing to reach their communities? Though growth should never be viewed as formulaic, we have identified a pattern in many of these growing churches, a pattern that we call “The 1 + 4 Strategy.”

The “1” of the Strategy

Growing churches are likely to be intentional about creating an ongoing community awareness of their congregation and its ministries, usually through one consistent approach (thus “The 1”). I have been particularly impressed with the ministry of Upward Sports to create community awareness and connection. Its ministries are a great way to connect with community residents who would not otherwise know about a church.

Another way to create an awareness of the church is through a new resident mailer ministry (see our New Mover Program). Every month, new residents in the community of the church receive a postcard from the church welcoming them to the community.

All churches need one consistent strategy to create community awareness. The combination of a sports ministry with a new resident mailer could be an incredibly powerful and consistent strategy.

The “4” of the Strategy

While the “1” focuses on an ongoing awareness, “4” refers to specific short-term events. In growing churches, we typically see that the congregations have at least one event each quarter to get church members looking outside the walls of the church.

Here is a real-life example of a church that we at Church Answers helped to develop a series of four events a year. While there is nothing particularly sacrosanct about the number four, this number of outwardly focused events keeps the church on a quarterly rhythm of Great Commission obedience.

1. The Jumpstart Event

We worked with the church to adopt The Hope Initiative. It is a 30-day commitment that asks a church member to make at least one small effort each day to reach beyond the walls of the church. The beauty of this approach is that it can be done with only a few church members. The results thus far of this jumpstart approach have been remarkable.

2. The Inviting Culture

We also led this church to promote one day where every church member invites at least one person to church. We use a tool called Invite Your One. We’ve seen churches increase their attendance by over 50 percent on that focused day. And while that growth rate is not sustained, the attendance rarely falls back to previous levels.

3. Learning & Brainstorming About the Community

The third emphasis we led the church to undertake was to get a robust report on the community (We use Know Your Community) and brainstorm about new ways to reach those in the community around the church. Most church leaders are amazed when they see the demographics and psychographics of the community, and they often discover new and exciting ways to reach and minister to the residents who live near the church.

4. The neighborhood gift bag

The fourth emphasis was a simple approach to take gifts directly to the homes in the community. Some churches knock on doors. Others are more cautious and leave the gift bag at the door. For the church we helped, we used a specific resource to get gift bags in the neighborhood (see our Good News Neighbor Toolkit).

The Key: Obedience and Consistency

Of course, obedience to the Great Commission cannot be distilled into a single strategy and a few resources. The key is to first create an awareness about the church in the community (that is “The 1”). Then, create a series of single events throughout the year that keeps the church looking outwardly (“The 4”).

While this approach is but one of many churches can use, we see churches increase their attendance consistently with the “1 + 4 Strategy.”

Try it in your church. Don’t be surprised if God blesses your obedience in profound ways.

Thom S. Rainer is the founder and CEO of Church Answers and the author of 41 books, including Pray & Go.

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