Many of our churches will experience an increase in attendance this Christmas.
Last week, I consulted with an outreach team of a church that moves from three services to five services to accomodate all the people, family and friends for the Christmas Eve service.
There are many who will come Christmas Eve that haven’t been to church in months, or perhaps even more than year.
Christmas outreaches are a great time to start the reconnection with
- inactive church members,
- church members who have dropped out of church for a while,
- or members who have simply drifted away.
That brings me to church hospitality question submitted via Ask The EvangelismCoach.
Question about absent members who return?
Help Don out:
Can you give us tips on what not to say to members who have been absent for a while?
Help Don out. Share your thoughts in the comment field below.
I think not saying, “What happened to you?” is on my list. I try to say, “we’ve had exciting changes around here. I’d love to catch-up with you. May I reach you by phone, or is email better.” Hint: as soon as possible write down thier name as there will be several of these follow-up contacts to make!
Why not just act normal and greet the person with a big smile and a “Merry Christmas! Great to see you!” In other words, don’t make any reference, subtle or otherwise, to their absenteeism, rather simply affirm your delight in their presence now. I’m sure many won’t agree with me, but I think when we start employing “techniques” that we think are subtle, the reality is they aren’t so subtle to the returning one, and can in fact be a real turn off to one who simply wants to come back, blend in, and perhaps take baby steps toward returning to the fold, without being made to feel the object of unwanted attention by any reference, however indirect, to the length of time they’ve been away. Also if I were gone for a while, just speaking personally, I definitely wouldn’t want to be “love-bombed” with all kinds of follow up contact calls, notes, or visits, either. Rather, I would just appreciate so much a warm sincere welcome everytime with joyful open arms and no agenda-filled conversations after the service. If I were treated in this respectful way, where church members treated me like a human being and not like the catch of the day, I feel sure I would want to return again and again. 🙂
Can’t say it any better than Cynthia.
Cynthia makes a great point!
When technique becomes more important, one is missing the point. This is ministry, not manipulation.
Things I would say are: “It’s so good to see you”/ (all)/ (both) and thank you for coming! Folks or use name, “you folks look great! what is your secret?, or so good to see you and thank you for coming”! or. “Seeing you folks just made my day, great to see you!” The important thing is to look the person in the eye, have a genuine smile and greet with energy and enthusiasm!.
Things I would not say is anything that could pull up a guilt complex on the person you are greeting such as, “Missed you folks, where have you been?” or “So good to see you again, it has been too long a time”
Any type of greeting that brings up guilt or puts the person on the spot directly or indirectly as to why they have been away or any reminiceing during the greeting phase is not a good idea at this stage.
But at the same time, I was a weekly worshiper a church where I was gone for a month because I was deathly sick. No one contacted me throughout that time period and certainly nothing was said when I came back in. Not noticing I was gone didn’t really sit well with me. If a greeter had said something to the effect of “Hey, we’ve missed you. I hope everything has been going ok.” It would have gone a long ways in my deteriorating attitude and I might have stayed there.
I dropped out of a church several years ago. No one noticed, called, emailed, asked. Nearly 18 months later, I ran into someone at the local mall who suddenly noticed they hadn’t seen me in months. . .
I write about it here:
and briefly about it here:
To help Don,
Here are some things you Do Not want to ever say to an absentee
Good to see you making your annual visit.
So, you decided to visit with us for
We welcome our C & E members!
(Christmas & Easter)
Yes, it’s Christmas and you’re just in
time for C & E Club!
Thanks for your contribution! I’m all on board about avoiding those comments.
Does anyone have ideas/suggestions of “non-critical/judgmental things that you can say to church members who haven’t been attending regularly?
If the pastor (or board members) have not contacted the “absentee” member to inquire as to why they have not been in regular attendance, then the first thing I would suggest the pastor (board member) do is to extend an apology to the absentee member for not contacting them to see why their attendance has been down.
That’s a great idea. I wonder if that would be dependent on size. I know some churches that have 3000+ on a weekend, and so absentee may simply not be noticed. However, churches of that size usually have small groups and small groups keep each other accountable to getting to church and knowing who is missing and why. Doesn’t cover everybody that way, but a can cover a good number.