In this blog series, I’ve identified 9 tips to help keep people from leaving your church (i.e., shutting the back door). Here is the last tip:
TIP 9. Make Church Easy to Attend.
How easy is it for people to attend your church?
If you have a growing church (and you will if you shut the back door and keep people from leaving), odds are it’s getting more and more difficult to attend. Sometimes we don’t notice this as an issue, because when I arrive at church two hours before our first service begins, the parking lot is pretty open! But ask any of our 11:00 a.m. service attenders and they will paint a better picture. Maybe a disturbing picture.
At Watermarke, when we had a few hundred people, parking, checking-in children, finding seats, and all our other church activities was relatively easy. Actually, it was way too easy (more on that later). But as we began to grow, things became more complicated. The more we grew, the more complicated attending our church became.
Complicated is not good when it comes to attending church. Companies spend millions of dollars a year looking to remove complications. Amazon.com spends countless hours seeking ways to decrease transaction times by milliseconds. Like the marketplace, the church should take ease of steps, ease of attendance, and ease of engagement seriously, too. Easy matters. Easy helps keep people from leaving our church.
We can all make our churches easier to attend by paying attention to the details. The phrase, “The devil is in the details” fits perfectly in this context, because that’s exactly who wants to keep your church complicated. Here are a few ideas:
The sermon begins in the parking lot. Therefore, we must do everything we can to make traffic flow and parking as easy as possible. That means a lot of parking volunteers and signs. Even if you don’t believe volunteers are necessary in the parking lot, I would put them out there. Vests, smiles, and all. If nothing else, it creates a more inviting experience (which leads to people returning) and tells people you take the church experience seriously.
At Watermarke, we now are leasing three satellite parking lots and shuttling people onto our campus every Sunday. I’m sure you can imagine the complications! But, managing all the logistics is worth it, because making the parking experience great matters.
2. Signage and people flow.
Disney spends an amazing amount of time looking at people flow. When you visit Disney, you can tell. Our buildings are designed with flow in mind, too. More importantly, our churches are designed with people in mind (imagine that!). More specifically, we design with guests in mind. Your insiders know the drill, even if it’s complicated. It’s the guest coming in the front door that will just as quickly walk out the back door if church is too complicated or difficult to attend.
3. Children’s safety.
One thing that makes church difficult for an adult is feeling uneasy about their children’s safety. Make safety a priority if you want to shut the back door in your church. Also, literally shutting the back door makes it safer, too.
4. Choke points.
As your church grows, inevitably the growth will not be distributed evenly. It’s important to project growth and identify the next choke point in our systems. The better we identify potential problems, the easier our church will be to attend.
5. Limit what you offer.
One thing that complicates churches is a buffet of ministry offerings. Buffet approaches to church cause many, many problems – complicated attendance being one. Limiting ministry programming limits confusion, and that is a good thing if we are trying to make church easy to attend.
One final thought: Make it easy, but balance the ease. If it’s too easy, we will miss some energy and enthusiasm. There’s something exciting about full rooms and packed parking lots, but we must always balance the enthusiasm of full rooms with the ease of attendance.
That’s it. Nine tips to help keep people from leaving our churches (shutting our back door). There might be more. There might be less. But I know these nine have all played a part in Watermarke’s growth and ongoing success.