It’s no secret that many new Christian converts often quickly lose their zeal and end up leaving the church. So how can Christians better prevent that from happening in the future?
A new study reveals some clues on how small churches — those with congregations comprised of 250 people or fewer — can more effectively keep converts in the pews.
LifeWay Research, the Billy Graham Center and the Caskey Center for Church Excellence found that the key to longstanding growth is to focus in on “unchurched people,” with experts encouraging houses of worship to “make a difference by sticking to the basics.”
On the surface, this isn’t rocket science, considering that the Bible commands Christians to bring the gospel to the world, though the data yielded some finer-tune information that can potentially help small churches thrive.
“We need to be focusing on lost people — those who have no previous church background — and there are plenty of them,” Jeff Farmer, a professor at New Orleans Seminary who helped lead research on the project, told LifeWay.
And Farmer noted that it’s the pastors who can lead the way, adding: “No one in the church is going to share the gospel more than the pastor. Pastors who make time for sharing their faith with non-Christians and who teach church members to do the same can have a big impact.”
So, what did researchers specifically find to back this up? As it turns out, LifeWay looked at 29 factors that could have a potential impact on the total number of people in a church who not only decide to follow Jesus, but who also remain committed to their newfound faith. In the end, 13 of those factors appeared to make a real impact.
First, researchers interviewed 1,500 Protestant pastors from small churches and asked them how many converts each saw within their house of worship over the past year. Then, those with the highest and lowest proportions of converts were analyzed.
In the end, LifeWay found that the churches with a higher success rate were more likely to retain converts if they intentionally did ministry to the unchurched outside of their church walls at least once every six months (93 percent of pastors from churches that retained the most people reported doing so).
Here are the other factors that pastors from the churches that retained the most converts said their congregations partake in:
- 92 percent consistently hear reports of church members engaging in evangelistic conversations and sharing their faith with non-Christians.
- 68 percent offer classes for new attenders at least every six months.
- 66 percent ask people weekly to commit to Christ following a personal presentation of the gospel.
- 57 percent block out time on their calendar at least once a week for the purpose of sharing their faith with non-Christians outside the church office.
- 51 percent attend training on personal evangelism at least every six months.
- 26 percent have a higher percentage of the church’s budget (30 percent or more) given to evangelism and missions.
Read more about the research here. It’s clear that there are some specific steps that smaller congregations can take to have a deeper impact, not only on their growth, but also on the spiritual maturity of those attending.