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What About The Families Who Didn't Return to Church After Covid?

As I interact with churches across the country, I normally ask them this question.

"Have you had any families that walked away from church during covid and have not come back?"

The answer is always "yes." And I'm sure your answer would be "yes" as well.

Only a small percentage of churches have returned to pre-covid attendance. Pastors are concerned about the long-term impact it may have on their congregations.

Barna research says that one in three practicing Christians dropped out of church during the beginning of Covid. Church membership has dropped below 50% and the percentage of people who attend church reflects this. Church attendance is down by 7%.

I'm not trying to be negative. But we must face reality. Very few churches are growing at this point and most are experiencing a decline. The average church is only 85% of their pre-covid attendance.

Before the pandemic, 25% of Americans reported that they never attended in-person worship services. Today, 33% do not attend church services in person.

So the big question is "How can we get these families back in church?"

Let's take a look at some positive things you can do and some things you should not do to as you interact with families who have been affected by


Pray for them. Have a list of families who have not returned and pray for them on a daily basis.

Reach out to them. Call them. Send them a personal note. Text them. Don't send a form letter. Make it very personal.

Lean into relationships. A big reason families attend a church is relationships. They are connected to a smaller gathering like a small group, Bible study or class. Ask the teachers, Bible study leaders, Sunday school teachers, etc. to contact them and invite them back to their class, small group or fellowship gathering.

Shepherd them. Don't abandon them. Continue to minister to them and help them return. Remember the parable of the shepherd? He went after the one lost sheep, rescued him and brought him home.

Engage Millennials. The Millennials are the parents of today's kids. Their parenting styles include positive, gentle parenting more than any previous generation. Part of this is because of the internet which gives them access to parenting tip and strategies.

Less than half of Millennials (45%) say they attend church weekly. If families return to church, it will largely be because Millennial parents say "yes."

Remind them of the benefits of faithfully attending church.

Don't forsake the assembling of yourselves together. Hebrews 10:22

God wants us to be together on a regular basis. When we attend church, it gives us the opportunity to be obedient, grow in our faith, be part of a church family and worship God with other believers.

Here is the bottom line when it comes to church attendance. Attending church in person gives us an experience that you simply can't get at home in front of a screen.

Get the kids excited about returning. You want kids dragging their parents to church. Not parents dragging their kids to church.

I remember one Sunday I was talking to a father and his daughter. Here's what he told me.

"I wanted to stay home this morning and watch the service online. But my daughter insisted that she wanted to go to church in person. She wanted to see her teacher and friends. So here we are."

Go all out to make your children's ministry appealing to children. A child really does lead them. You get kids excited about coming back and the parents will follow them.

Use cliffhangers with kids. I am currently going through a series with the kids. It's called "Road Trip" and it shares with kids that Jesus really is the only way to eternal life. At the close of the service, we put in a cliffhanger for the kids. They have to come back and see what happens.

Last week, I heard a boy telling his parents that he had to come back the next week to see what happens in the story. (you can see more about this teaching series at this link.)

Invite them to special events. For many families, the first step back might be to an event, special teaching series, VBS, summer camp, etc.

Your turn.

  • Did you have families leave during the pandemic that have not returned since then?

  • What have you done to encourage them to return?

  • What are some other ideas for getting families to return?

Share your insights in the comment section below.


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