Q&A: How Can We Stop Losing People?
We strive to do two things well: Sunday experience and in-home small groups. However, regular attendees who have gone through our connection processes sometimes just disappear. Do you have any advice?
[Tyler Tran, Operations Director, Grand Rapids Baptist Church]
Falling through the cracks is a phenomenon that is not limited to a particular size of church. Smaller rural churches and metro megachurches are going to see people disappear. That’s just a fact. And when people just stop showing up to churches, we call that Holy Ghosting.
Editor’s note: absolutely no one calls it that. Knock it off right now before someone makes that a thing.
Sticky systems like membership classes and newcomers events are a start, but they’re not a permanent fix. The ultimate question is this:
Who is responsible for knowing this person’s whereabouts?
Here are four things to consider as you try to patch the cracks:
1. Have a multiplicity of leadership.
Again, this is an issue that’s no respecter of church size. A pastor of a 50-person congregation may be the primary shepherd, but he shouldn’t be the only shepherd. Whether it’s paid or volunteer, there needs to be a team of people responsible for the care of the congregation. One person can’t – and shouldn’t – do it all.
2. Know who you’re caring for.
We can debate the benefits of formal church membership at another time, but for this discussion, it’s important to have a list. You should know who you are actively caring for, whether that’s a brand-new guest who is navigating the waters of your church, or a lifelong attendee who is unable to attend due to health reasons.
In our context, our campus elders regularly pray through their membership lists. It’s an excellent way for them to touch base and toss in commentary on what’s happening in a particular family, or to raise an alarm if an individual has suddenly stopped coming around.
3. Consider “jurisdictional shepherding.”
Let’s go back to the ultimate question, and add a simple qualifier: who is the one person responsible for knowing this person’s whereabouts? As the old adage goes, everyone’s job is no one’s job. If everyone should keep up with everyone, soon enough no one will keep up with anyone.
Jurisdictional shepherding simply means that leaders know the areas and the people they are responsible for. Small group leaders should shepherd their small group members. Ministry team leaders should shepherd their volunteers. In some churches, deacons or elders should have a specific list of individuals and families who fall under their care.
This is not intended to pass the buck and get a free pass to dismiss someone that’s not on your list or in your circle, but rather to make sure everyone is being shepherded by someone.
4. Don’t mishandle handoffs.
Let’s pose a scenario: if a long-time volunteer tells their leader that they are going to step away from serving, the first thing that leader should do is make sure there is a destination point, not just a departure point. In other words, there should be another small circle they’re heading to, so that the care can continue. That handoff is crucial to keep someone from falling through the cracks. Again, this takes a multiplicity of leadership and clear communication that person A is now in leader B’s span of care.
How does your church keep people from falling through the cracks?