Why did you choose to come to this church?
I know you ask the question hundreds of times each year, especially to people who joined a church within the past year.
Now we have new research that gives us specific reasons why people decide on a particular church. We are grateful to Pew Research for their massive study on the behavioral patterns of members and guests.
In their most recent study, the respondents noted seven key reasons for choosing a church. They were allowed to offer more than one reason. Here are the top seven responses:
1. I love the sermons
The number one factor in choosing a church, even for Gen Z and millennials, is the sermon. People want to understand the Bible.
People want to listen to a compelling communicator who is authentic and real, and who teaches the Scriptures in a way that is relevant to life. If there is one area to focus on in your church, this would be it.
Are the sermons compelling?
Do they help people connect the Scriptures to their lives?
2. I feel welcome here
A major factor in people choosing a particular church is whether or not they feel welcome.
Here’s the challenge: Guests often make their decision about warmth and how welcoming your church is within the first five minutes.
The parking lot…front doors…auditorium experience is often the indicator.
Here are a few comments we have found about churches that didn’t feel welcoming:
- The greeters/ushers didn’t look me in the eye or smile at guests
- The welcome station people stayed behind the kiosk
- It was so hard to find a seat and the ushers weren’t really helping
- No one smiled at me in the auditorium.
Warmth and a welcoming environment should be intentional. Pastors and staff to take the lead in welcoming guests. No, they are not supposed to do all the welcoming, but their role has a huge impact.
Something we have found helpful is the 5-15 rule, which states that within 15 feet you make eye contact and smile and within 5 feet you say hello.
3. I Resonate with the Worship
I would love to be able to unpack this response a bit more. One thing, however, is clear. People are still choosing churches by the styles of worship of the congregations. The numbers are overwhelming. Three out of four church seekers say worship style is a factor for the church they choose.
4. My Kids Love the Kids Ministry
This number is incredibly high, especially since many families do not have kids at home. Obviously, those who do have children at home consider this issue vitally important. “Education” likely refers to more than the teaching ministry to children; it probably encompasses the total scope of children’s ministry. I have said on more than one occasion the first staff member I would bring to the church after the pastor would be a children’s minister.
5. Having friends/family in the congregation.
Relational connections are very important. We see this issue to be so important that we created a ministry (Invite Your One) to engender an attitude of inviting. Those same connections play a crucial role in the assimilation process in the church as well.
I want to be careful not to say things these numbers don’t mean to say. But I would surmise that location is more important today than it was ten years ago. This reality would at least partly explain the dramatic increase of multi-site churches. Churches are going to the communities where the people are. It also prompts us to follow the trends of large regional churches. Will people more and more preferably a church in their own community rather than driving to the regional church?
7. Availability of volunteering opportunities.
This factor was very encouraging to me. People no longer want just to sit and soak; they want to get involved. If guests know there are opportunities to get involved quickly in the church, they are more likely to choose that church. I have no doubt the Millennials are instrumental in this number being as high as it is.
People choose or don’t choose your church for a variety of reasons, but I believe these seven are some of the most common reasons. I’m hopeful that this list served as a helpful reminder and perhaps sparks an important conversation in your church.
Also, we’d love to hear your thoughts, questions, or even the reasons you believe people choose churches. Thanks for reading.