According to the latest Gallup poll, church Membership is below 50% for the first time ever in America.

For six decades, US church membership hovered around 70% of the population. In the past two decades, that number has dropped to 47% and trending downward.

Most researchers look at this trend through the increased lack of religious affiliation, especially from GenX and Millennials.

But the decline is across the board: all generations, conservatives, moderates, liberals, protestants, Catholics, whites, and blacks.

While the news might not be good, it can be a significant opportunity for churches that intentional about their outreach.

So what should your church do? 

According to another Gallup poll, sermon content is, by far, the most important factor that draws people to a local church.

Interestingly in over 30 years of doing church marketing, the same tenet still holds:

“If you speak to people’s concerns, they will come.”

Here are a few lessons I have learned over the last three decades of working with churches in their outreach:

1. Create relevant teaching series that connect with people you are trying to reach.

Even if your church’s teaching style is expository, you need to tie the takeaway from your message to a practical felt need. For example, if you are teaching the story of Joseph, you might title your message: “What should you do when you are the victim of injustice.”  

2. Create a safe environment for people to explore their faith without embarrassment or shame.

Give people who don’t agree with you the dignity to disagree. People who don’t share with your point of view or message might not feel like they can stay unless you acknowledge them: “I know some might not agree with me on this point, but stay with me and hear me out on this one.”

3. Don’t assume people know your church and its message no matter how long you’ve been around.

Most people who drive by your church building have no idea what goes on inside. A few will decide on your worship style based on the decade your church was built.

4. Take hold of your messaging and let people in your community know who you are, what you stand for and invite them to join you.

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