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


  • 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?

* * *

Try Proclaim for Free

Proclaim Church Presentation Software allows you to collaborate with your team from wherever they work best. No more emailing large files or fumbling with flash drives. Best of all, it connects with many of the tools you already use, like Planning Center Online, CCLI SongSelect, and Graceway Media. Try it for free at ProclaimOnline.com/DownloadAnd now, you get 30 days of Pro Media for free too!

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.

View all articles
Written by Ray Deck III