Why People Return to Church

The US Congregational Life Survey shed some light on why people visit a new church, and why they return after their initial visit. Four questions from the survey stood out:

How people find out about a church

  • 49%: Someone invited them
  • 23%: They passed by the church
  • 9%: They’re looking for a specific denomination
  • 6%: They saw advertising

Why people make a return visit

  • 55%: Friendliness of people
  • 34%: Sermon quality
  • 30%: Overall worship experience

How churches follow up after the first visit

  • 24%: No follow-up
  • 20%: Letter or postcard from the pastor
  • 18%: Call from a church member
  • 13%: Call from the pastor

How churches attract new people (growing vs. established churches)

  • 72% vs. 43%: Call visitors
  • 85% vs. 72%: Use email
  • 50% vs. 31%: Visit visitors
  • 70% vs. 71%: Church website

 Observations

  • Denominations aren’t the most significant factor. Only 9% of visitors heard about a church because of its denomination, compared to 49% who became aware because of a specific invitation.
  • Personal invitations are more important than flashy advertising. 49% knew of a church vs. 6% knowing based on advertising—that’s a huge margin.
  • Children’s programming didn’t rank high for return visits. General friendliness gets credit for 55% of return visits.
  • Nearly a quarter of visitors never receive any kind of follow-up.Visitors should feel welcomed and valued when attending a new church, and following up is an easy way to acknowledge that.
  • Phone calls are effective. 72% of growing churches call visitors, but only 43% of established churches do.

What surprises you here? How does this data suggest you should operate differently?

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Written by
Ray Deck III

Born in WV, Ray escaped to North Carolina at a young age. He came to Logos after an 8 year stint at a faith-based nonprofit in New York. When he is not assembling sequences of words, he’s probably running, surfing or shooting skeet, but you should probably go look for him. He has a terrible sense of direction and is probably lost.

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Written by Ray Deck III