Recently I read a great post by Ronnie Christian about “Closing the Back Door” of your church is not your goal. For you non-professional church types, back door is the metaphoric place where people depart your local congregation. The “front door” is where people come “in” to the body. In corporate vernacular, the front door is sales and the back door is customer retention.
Ronnie’s best point is that “closing the back door” is not the goal of any local church. Making disciples is, and that is a crucial issue of focus. At the same time, people often leave because the church has not helped them spiritually. Since “making disciples” of Jesus requires helping people grow spiritually, the problem isn’t directional; we all want the same things. The challenge is focus and systems to accomplish the goal
Here are a couple of areas that need attention:
Who are we bringing in? One of the best ways to keep people from leaving for poor reasons is to be sure they join for the right reasons. Be clear with your vision. Everyone should know where your local body is headed and your values as you go. How can they become partners in your mission if the direction is unclear?
What is expected? People need to know what the church expects from them. It is essential for leaders to define this. If not, the not so subtle expectation is that you expect “more.” The greater clarity you have up front on this, the fewer the people who run out the back saying demands were unrealistic.
How do we know when they are in need? It’s just a fact that it is easier to shepherd 150 people than 1500. In larger churches, many people will not ask for help because 1) they don’t know the person 2) they are not sure who to approach, or 3) they think people will not care. In some ways, it’s easier to move on than ask for help. The bigger the church the easier it needs to be to ask for care.
How do we know when someone is missing? In large groups a person can miss months without being noticed. Break the congregation down into smaller care groups and to empower those group leaders to care for people, solve problems, and bring in others if they need help. Create ways for pastors to know who is “missing” even if they can’t do it by scanning the crowd on Sunday. A systematic response to children’s check-in or attendance cards can bring a potential problem to the surface before it is critical. The larger your church the more attention you need here.
How can people access leaders? Availability of leaders is critical. Too often simple misunderstandings lead to departures. Most pastors and church leaders would alter their schedule to solve a problem, but if people perceive you to be too busy, they often don’t ask for time. Availability is primarily about perception.
It isn’t about being totally accessible to anyone for any reason, yet people need to know they can talk to someone when they have questions or problems.
How would you “close the back door” so people stay at your church?
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