I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what draws people back to church. A lot of time and energy has been spent on how to get them there the first time – which is still a vital question we need to continually engage and embrace. But what are the contributing factors an individual needs to experience the first time, to increase their chances of coming back another time?
Outside the work of the Holy Spirit, which I believe draws all people to Himself – despite our best or worst efforts, I believe it comes down to two things: Curiosity and Connection.Curiosity and Connection are two contributing factors an individual needs to experience the first time, to increase their chances of coming back another time. #churchgrowth Click To Tweet
That’s it. Sounds simple right? But simple doesn’t always prove to be easy or else our churches would be filled each Sunday.
Here’s what I’m seeing and learning: what get’s them there, isn’t what keeps them there. Meaning, all the energy and effort we put into all the external elements like lighting, and sound, environmental design, etc. – all of which is important and has its place, please don’t hear what I’m not saying – isn’t the root cause in the decision making process people go through to determine if they’ll return.
It goes far deeper than that.
Which is great news, because it reveals that humanity isn’t simply drawn to shiny objects like a fish to a lure. But that there is something much deeper at work.
So why curiosity and connection? What is it about these two factors that grip our attention and stir our desire to come back another time?
Here are my thoughts to consider.
Curiosity is the natural urge that drives us to know more about something. And this internal urge, as the dictionary describes it, is triggered by one of three things; the implications of these three triggers are as vast as people themselves, but here are a few examples to get us started.
1. I saw something I wasn’t expecting:
- I saw happy, inclusive, and authentic people.
- I saw different generations gathered and rallied around a sense of unified purpose.
- I saw diverse people caring for and serving in submission, one to another.
2. I heard something I wasn’t expecting:
- I heard a message of hope that connected Jesus to my everyday life.
- I heard music that inspired me and the loud voices of passionate people truly believing the words they sang.
- I heard encouraging, genuine, and life-giving conversations between others.
3. I felt something I wasn’t expecting:
- I felt welcomed by an authentic community of real people.
- I felt encouraged by genuine interactions.
- I felt inspired by people’s passionate pursuit of Jesus.
Connection, on the other hand, is the internal longing we all feel to belong; to know and be authentically known. And in a world filled with the illusion of connections based on our digital footprint, these feelings are only triggered through the analogue experiences we feel when:
1. I am seen:
- I wasn’t simply a number to be counted, but someone looked me in the eyes, crossed the awkward barrier, and said hello.
- Someone took the time to engage in a short interaction (with me and/or my children), asking simple and safe questions, while genuinely caring about my response.
2. I am known:
- I was with a friend or invited me, and never left alone to figure things out.
- I ran into or connected with someone I know from a different environment.
- I was introduced to people with similar interests, age, or stage of my life.
3. I am accepted:
- I wasn’t made to feel inferior or excluded based on my inexperience of church culture, appearance, or past mistakes. But was invited in freely to know and experience the real Jesus.
- I wasn’t pushed beyond my comfort zone or embarrassed but knew where to go if I wanted to take another step into connection.
As we remember we are all sinners saved by grace, we commit to curating an environment that only accepts people as they are, but allows them to experience, know, and grow in the same grace we have (and continue to); made only available through the hope we have in Jesus. If someone could experience just one of these triggers when they take the courageous first step to visit our church, it would increase the odds of them returning and maybe even taking another step toward Jesus.
I fully understand this is a shallow dive into a much deeper conversation. However, the more I sit with church leaders and evaluate the growing ‘back door’ crises we are facing, the more I’m convinced these two factors must be addressed within the environments we create and the conversations we engage in our humble attempts to close them.
Imagine what could happen if people experienced both a sense of curiosity and connection each Sunday. What could look like? How would that impact your mission as a local church? Would anything need to change in how you prepare for the weekend?
What if these two factors were areas we spent more time crafting, curating, and training our teams to consider when planning for our next gathering? After all, Jesus’ message should pique our curiosity; there’s not casual about it. It should cause us to lean in, ask questions, and investigate for ourselves. And His ministry was for and is for all people to belong to a family much bigger than we can imagine.
Curiosity and connection.
What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts.