Improving Your Church’s Retention Strategy
By Niyi Dunmade, Certified Church Consultant
Numbers matter and the church is no exception to this. The reason for this is simple: we are to make disciples by being fruitful, and a fruitful church increases in size and capacity both in quality and quantity. A church’s congregation size should not be stagnant or plateaued, neither should it be in decline.
Low retention rate is a major problem that many churches struggle with. We have found out that many churches have faulty or no retention strategy in place with church and denominational declines. It is important to note that if your church has a problem with member and/or guest retention, then church growth will also be a problem for your church as these two things are inextricably linked.
We have put together a few tips which will help you increase member retention if incorporated in your church’s retention strategy.
Track Attendance and Members Participation
You should have a way of monitoring attendance, commitments and frequency of attendance. Track all types of attendance, be it those for worship services, children’s ministry, special events, small group meetings, volunteer meetings and so on. The benefits of keeping track of attendance is that it gives you a church growth understanding of what is going on with membership flow, who is on and who is off. If done properly, attendance will help you identify the areas in which the losses are occurring and why they are occurring. By identifying the areas and reasons for these losses, you will be able to come up with solutions to prevent further loss. Knowing fully well that you cannot retain by addition and multiplication when you have not conquered the gravity of subtraction.
Monitoring and Training Volunteers
The saying that the first impression lasts the longest holds true for many people, and therefore very important to make it the right one, not just first only. This is why the roles of volunteers are important as they are the first link between prospective members and the church. Volunteers include ushers, greeters, parking lot attendants, securities, protocols, ministry leaders and many more. The role of volunteers is important because it goes a long way in determining if guests become members. If you are faced with a situation where guests rarely become members, then it might be because volunteers are making them feel unwelcomed and when the host is not friendly, it repels guests from being part of the local church.
An Engaging Online Presence
In this information technology and digital age, information technology should be embraced by churches and used as essential tool to spread the gospel. Really, anything that helps to spread the gospel should be welcomed. This is relevant to this generation due to the pandemic disruptions. Technology creates opportunities for people across locations to worship, study the bible, connect, give, read various resources and have access to valuable information. Most forward-thinking churches are already capitalising on this. Paying attention to and monitoring your church’s online presence will enable you have an idea of your church’s retention rate and its impact to your onsite activities.
From the analysis of your church’s website, you will easily identify what people in your church prefer viewing and thus plan your online presence accordingly. Even more, in today’s digital generation, you can track how involved members are by monitoring how many people update their profiles and how many members log in to the member portal regularly. Many people prefer to first visit a church’s website or social media page before deciding whether to visit the church in person. Truth be told, the front door of a local church has gone more online now. Thus, a good online presence and friendly website will encourage potential guests to visit the church in person, and if you have a good retention strategy in place, such visits will pay off in no time.
Also, when you monitor your church online activities and have a good and friendly online presence, you gain information and project information to people out there that will help you with your retention efforts.
The Outcome of Events
Many churches plan events without considering what the outcomes could be and the roles that the outcomes can play in their retention rates. It’s not a good idea to simply plan events, wrap up, measure attendance and then move on to the next event. Each event should be planned with the vision of the church in mind and the intended outcome of the event in mind especially for evangelistic and outreach purposes. By having an intended outcome before the event takes place, you can make plans to ensure that people move from a point of simply attending the event to a place of having a deeper engagement with the church.
In planning events, some factors to bear in mind are the number of people that you expect to be in attendance, the expected results of the event, and the type of audience you are expecting. You should also make efforts to track the participation of each individual. You can do this by encouraging prior registration, confirming their attendance on the day of the event, and following up with them after the event.
Proper data analysis of participation at such events, and feedback from participants, if possible, will encourage further participation in other events that you undertake to ensure retention.
Effective Assimilation Process
Most churches have a class for first-time guests where they are welcomed and afterwards, given contact information to reach out to designated members of the church if need be. In the alternative, the contact information of first-time guests is received so that members of the church can reach out to the guests. The problem with this is that the guests might simply refuse to reach out to members of the church, or persistent calls from members of the church might prove to be too invasive for the prospective members.
To avoid this, and to increase retention, create a process that consists of different stages whereby first-time members move through different phases of assimilation and eventually, retention. You should also track this process to learn how effective the assimilation process is and if any improvements are necessary. Tracking the percentage of people that move through the process can help reveal the effectiveness of the church’s assimilation process, drop out rates and will help you identify those who are really interested in becoming members of the church.
Without an awareness of assimilation, you will struggle to accurately determine the retention rate of your church.
Keeping Track of the Rate of Attrition
You can find out the attrition rate of your church by determining the number of people being retained. Most back door issues are created from the front door. However periodically as a church, lets find out the reasons why people do leave the church, as well as tracking the rate at which people leave the church, will help the church make the necessary changes, in order to create better retention rates in the future. The rate of attrition should not be ignored, and you should not make assumptions as to the reasons why people leave. As leaders, we need to love and value people. Make every effort to get feedback from those who have left the church and analyse the data you collect. Doing this will help you gain a clear understanding of what might be wrong, and the things that need to be improved or removed.
What are some other ways you have found to improve church retention? Please leave a comment on your views on having a good retention strategy, and any question you might have as regards guests’ retention.