Have you noticed that your church seems emptier lately? Attendance at most Protestant churches has been dropping steadily in the United States over the last few years. Experts have posited numerous reasons for the decline and many people are making a fairly good living coming up with solutions to the problem. One problem, though, is that these solutions do not seem to be working. But, in America, that does not appear to be too big a handicap. All one has to do is look at the multitude of diet books on the best seller lists. If they worked or if people took them seriously, America would be trying hard to gain weight by now.
One aspect of this decline in attendance that people seldom consider is the fact that the average Christian simply does not go to church as often as he or she did in the past. That is, not very many years ago, the average Christian attended church at least twice a month. Now the average Christian attends church only once a month. That means that you have lost the average of one whole section of people one weekend a month. Most pastors are well aware of the fact that you actually have several congregations. You almost never see the same one in the building two Sundays in a row. If everyone ever showed up on a Sunday, you would be overflowing or you would have to call it Easter.
In view of this change in attendance patterns, you should have some pity on the poor pastor. Think about it. A person only shows up once a month at best in a congregation of two hundred or so people. Then they decide to miss that Sunday in favor of a race weekend or football weekend or visit to Costa Rica or whatever. So now they are gone a couple of months. They do this a couple of times a year and you get in the habit of missing them occasionally. But then—they get sick. They miss one Sunday because they got sick. They do not tell you—their pastor—or call the office. You are somehow supposed to notice that they are missing on that golden Sunday and intuit that they had the flu and jump to go visit them. If you don’t, then heaven help you. You are the worst pastor since Satan jumped ship for the regions down below.
I hate to be critical but perhaps we should be more faithful in our attendance. It is hard to know what benefits we might derive from church if we never go. Church is like most things; you get out of it what you put into it. It is especially hard to grow a church if your regular attendees only come once a month. Somehow, when Jesus said, “take up your cross and follow me,” I think he meant more than once a month.