Embracing the Tide: How Pastors Can Capitalize on Natural Attendance Bumps for Outreach

By Levi Skipper

As a pastor, you are not just a spiritual leader but also a navigator, guiding your church through the seasons of the year and the rhythms of life that affect your congregation. Just as the ocean’s tide ebbs and flows, so too does church attendance throughout the year. There are predictable high points — the first Sunday after New Year’s, Easter, and the first few Sundays after school starts. These are not just numbers on a chart; they are golden opportunities for outreach and growth. Let’s explore how you can make the most of these natural attendance bumps.

The New Year: A Time for New Beginnings

The first Sunday after New Year’s is a time when many are filled with hope and resolutions for change. It’s a moment ripe for outreach, as people are more open to new beginnings, including spiritual ones. This is an excellent time to launch a sermon series that addresses common aspirations such as improving relationships, finding purpose, or developing a healthier lifestyle.

Encourage your members to invite friends who may be seeking a fresh start. This is also a perfect opportunity to introduce programs that start in the new year, making it easy for newcomers to join.

Easter: Celebrating Transformation

The Resurrection is the cornerstone of our Christian faith, so Easter naturally draws more attendees. This season of transformation and renewal can be a powerful catalyst for outreach. Prepare your congregation for this influx with hospitality training, ensuring that visitors are welcomed warmly and effectively. Consider a special service or event that is both celebratory and contemplative, providing a space for people to connect with the profound message of Easter. Follow-up is crucial; a personal touch, such as a handwritten note or a welcome gift, can make all the difference in turning a visitor into a regular attendee.

Back to School: A Rhythm of Return

The weeks after school starts are a time of return to routine. Families are back from vacation, and there’s a sense of ‘getting back to business,’ including church attendance. This is an excellent time for a church to kick off new initiatives, children’s programs, or small groups. It’s also a season to emphasize family and community, perhaps with a back-to-school blessing ceremony or a community service project that involves both parents and children. Use this time to reinforce the role of the church as a cornerstone of community life and support.

Maximizing These Opportunities

To maximize these natural attendance bumps, consider the following strategies:

– Promote in Advance: Use social media, community bulletin boards, and word-of-mouth to let your community know about special services or programs.

– Engage and Equip Your Congregation: Encourage your regular attendees to be ambassadors for these events. Provide them with the tools and confidence to invite others.

– Follow Up: After these high-attendance Sundays, have a plan in place to connect with visitors. Whether it’s a coffee hour, a newcomers’ lunch, or a follow-up call, make sure visitors know they are valued and welcomed.

– Evaluate and Adapt: After each event, take the time to evaluate what worked and what didn’t. This will help you refine your approach for the next opportunity.

Natural attendance bumps are not just spikes in a graph; they are moments when hearts are more open, and lives can be transformed. As pastors, by anticipating and preparing for these times, you can lead your church to not only expect increased numbers but to embrace these opportunities for meaningful outreach and enduring growth. Remember, it’s not about filling seats; it’s about expanding the family.

To take a deep dive and virtually guarantee maximum attendance during “the big three,” check out our the Georgia Baptist Mission Board Church Strengthening’s free online training, Ride The Waves.

Published November 16, 2023