Every church struggles with keeping members. Jesus never said anything about filling chairs in a church building but He did say a few things about making more disciples. Every church, from time to time, struggles to find its place in the community. Needs have to be met. Souls have to be sought. A ministry niche’ has to be cultivated. What is your corps’ niche’? I don’t mean some sort of lure or hook to pull people in. What I do mean is this: who is your corps targeting to minister to? What do your services look like? Are they geared for a multi-generational audience? If we follow the instructions of Paul and become “all things to all people” (1 Cor 9:22) what does that look like in our corps today? What happens when our corps must make crucial decisions to change and adapt for the sake of becoming all things to all people (for the purpose of sharing Christ) because presently they are not? Can this change take place? How do we adapt? What sort of steps are required? How can we prevent new people from leaving and keep them coming back and getting involved in our ministries?
Here is a list of 5 reasons new people leave the corps. This isn’t the end all and be all of lists, it is just a primer to an often more complicated topic. I am sure as you read this list there will be more that come to your mind. The intent of this article is to help us figure out why some are leaving our corps and how we can stave off this decrease in fellowship. I do not want to make this point and emphasize only numeric success by any means, but it is the purpose of this article to help us see why some are leaving our corps after only a few visits. Perhaps we can change our corps’ perspective on things and how we engage with one another as well as with new people.
5 Reasons New People Leave The Corps
1. Felt Unwelcome
It seems so obvious and yet visitors to our corps for the first time need to be shown friendliness. They would like for people to remember their names after telling it to a few people. Generally they do not want to stand up and be recognized as a “new visitor”, but they would like a few people to talk to them and to show an interest in who they are. The feeling of being unwelcome in a corps should be the last feeling one should get in our buildings. After all, we are here to minister to the whosoever…right?
2. Lack of Fellowship
Personally I love it when, after the service, people just seem to linger and talk. It is a sign that people generally care for one another. It is also a sign that there is real fellowship going on among the corps’ soldiery. When the corps is unbalanced and there is division instead of unity visitors can sense it. I’m not talking about some sort of “sixth sense” here, it is just obvious in certain types of body language that something is off about the fellowship…or lack thereof. New people want to feel a sense of belonging to something. A place for them to fit in. They would like the chance, at times, to go out for coffee or lunch together following a service. But if real fellowship is not taking place in the corps and instead division is causing quick exits after services, you can be sure new people will attempt to find the exit very quickly too.
3. No Ministry Geared for Their Generation
We serve many generations in our corps. There has to be a balance and in so keeping with the idea of the Apostle Paul we must attempt to “be all things to all people” in how we proactively minister. If you have thirty young adults in your congregation there ought to be something specific to reach them at a deeper level somewhere during the week. If you have a primarily senior corps and only a hand full of teens make sure you have something for both the majority of seniors as well as the teens. When a new comer visits our corps is there something for them to become engaged in? What keeps them coming back? I don’t mean to say that we bribe them, but do we have relevant applicable ministries that they can not only serve in but be spiritually fed by?
4. Army Lingo Not Explained
Sunday announcement: “next week the DC will be here to install the YPSM, oh and don’t forget about DYB coming up shortly in preparation for Youth Councils.” No offense but I knew what that announcement was about, you probably did too but that new person sitting in the back pew who is barely catching on to how we Army folk worship has no clue what we’re talking about. This doesn’t mean that we have to stop the announcements and/or explain everything but perhaps we could be a little helpful to new people and clue them in once in a while. Hearing foreign terminology in a new place can be intimidating and a new comer can begin to feel like an outsider who doesn’t really belong and is not wanted. It is very easy to get into army lingo in services and bible studies and forget that some new people won’t have a clue to what we are saying without taking the time the properly explain or have someone there to help as these terms are being shared.
5. Members feared new visitors
It sounds dumb, but it’s true. Some corps members do not like change, and change can come in many different forms even in the form of new people. Some corps members will complain that we need “new blood” in our corps and yet when that “new blood” walks through that door they treat them with as much disdain as a new worship song being sung for the first time. Change is hard, and yet how can we keep new people coming back if members are afraid of change – even for the good? Education needs to take place. Some corps members may not even know they are acting this way towards new people. It intimidates some corps members. Perhaps some even feel that they might lose power because a new person seems more energetic, charismatic and even more educated. These intimidated corps members begin to show outward, yet subtle aggression towards these new comers, and the new person won’t have a clue why they suddenly feel a sense of hostility. Change, even with new members, can suddenly cause fear and unfriendliness to occur.
Be sensitive to the needs of new people. We don’t have to cater solely to them, but we ought to make our worship spaces available and friendly so that all are welcomed – the new and the not so new. Beware of possibly hurdles new people might have to jump in order to “fit in”. Find a new place to worship isn’t easy, especially if this new person as NEVER worshiped in a church in their lives and this is their first attempt. We are the body of Christ and as we extend His love to new people may we display to them and each other genuine love, compassion and grace. May our fellowship be so sweet that we linger in each other’s company. May we seek to minister to all people. Finally, may we be open to change and, with the grace of God, usher in new soldiers for this mighty work!
Something more for our army to ponder today!