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“Pastors who make time for sharing their faith with non-Christians and who teach church members to do the same can have a big impact”, LifeWay Research study says.
A new research, sponsored by the Billy Graham Center and the Caskey Center for Church Excellence, identifies at least 13 effective ways small churches can attract and retain more new converts, including many practices churches have used for years.
The research, additionally sponsored by 11 denominations, and undertaken by LifeWay Research, tested 29 factors that could potentially affect the number of people who decide to follow Christ and stay committed to small churches.
“DOING A LOT OF SMALL THINGS REALLY ADDS UP”
Thirteen of those factors predicted which churches retained more converts.
“There’s no single approach or strategy that leads to more converts in small churches. Instead, it appears that doing a lot of small things really adds up”, said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research.
The researchers phoned 1,500 pastors of small churches (evangelical and Black Protestant congregations of 250 or fewer), asking them how many converts each church had in the last 12 months and whether those converts stayed with the church after they came to faith.
They then compared the 20% of churches with the most retained converts (11.7 or more per 100 attendees) to the 50% with the fewest retained converts (5.56 or fewer per 100 attendees).
FINDING WAYS TO RETAIN CONVERTS
LifeWay Research found out that pastors of churches with the most retained converts, are more likely to:
- Engage in ministry outside the church at least every six months to share the gospel with the unchurched.
- Offer classes for new attenders at least every six months.
- Ask people weekly to commit to Christ following a personal presentation of the gospel.
- Lock out time on their calendar at least once a week for the purpose of sharing their faith with non-Christians outside the church office.
- Attend training on personal evangelism at least every six months.
- Have a higher percentage of the church’s budget (30% or more) given to evangelism and missions.
“Small churches may be able to reach more people simply by doing what they are already doing, with a little more consistency”, McConnell pointed out.
The number one predictive factor, according to researchers, is that churches with more converts tended to attract and keep more unchurched people, because “these churches are places of invitation, welcome, and involvement” for them.
Pastors of churches with the most retained converts were more likely (35%) to say half of their congregation used to be unchurched. That dropped to 18% for churches with the fewest retained converts.
Jeff Farmer, associate professor of church ministry and evangelism at New Orleans Seminary, and lead researcher on the project, said that inviting more unchurched people to attend services is key.
“FOCUSING ON LOST PEOPLE”
“We need to be focusing on lost people—those who have no previous church background—and there are plenty of them”, he said.
According to Farmer. “No one in the church is going to share the gospel more than the pastor. Pastors who make time for sharing their faith with non-Christians and who teach church members to do the same can have a big impact.”
Rick Richardson of the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College was encouraged by the study, which “showed that most small churches are active in evangelism.”
“They’re doing the right things. They just need to become more consistent in evangelism and outreach. A few small things can make a big difference”, he concluded.
You can see the full research here