Someone from my church recently complained to me that our congregation was diminishing.
I can't stop thinking about it, particularly in light of the Andy Stanley debacle.
This is a nuanced topic. You need to consider why people leave, and why people stay.
I've been on the board of trustees for almost a year, and having sat through each monthly council meeting, I recognize that numbers fluctuate, and attendance is cyclical. Weather, holidays, work schedules, sick kids, sick parents... gosh, the complainer herself seems to be there about twice a month!
We have approximately 400 members and a rough Sunday attendance figure of 100. This being Easter weekend, there will be dozens of faces I have never seen before and might never see again.
Concern for the state of your congregation is good. But how about making sure that your own butt is in church every Sunday?
And if it is possible, how about attending Bible study, mid-week services (when offered - we only have them in the summer, during Advent, and during Lent), work days, coffee hours, and fellowship events/parties held at the church? Is it good to be with the saints on Sunday? Yes. Is it also necessary and beneficial to interact with them outside of that setting? Yes! Is it a sacrifice of other events, of alone time (which I hold dear!), of travel time? Yes.
Can we help if people genuinely don't like or want the Word & Sacraments we are receiving at this church? No, but then, in that case, the numbers are not what you should be worrying about.
Our congregation is mostly elderly. If you notice they're not there, consider volunteering to pick them up? Many of them can't drive at night or in bad weather.
A number of those same elderly folks have either passed away or moved away in the last year. Some younger families are also moving, and while I'm sorry to see them go, you have to recognize that their new church will be happy to have them, right?
Has the congregation really diminished, or are you feeling the empty space left by the lack of people my age, and the kids we should be having? Are you wishing you had more than one or two children of your own? For this, you can blame any number of factors: the locale! The economy! O tempora o mores!
It isn't the church's responsibility to get all the singles hooked up. But that absolutely falls under the purview of the congregants cough invite me over and introduce me to your devout grandsons cough. You could and possibly should be encouraging the singles to marry, and encouraging the couples who do have children by volunteering for Sunday School, and not glaring at the kids who squawk during service. You think there's a gap now? It's probably going to get worse before it gets better.
Consider artificial inflation. I'd prefer to attend a church with a lower number of people who actually believe what we're being taught and want to be there, rather than having a number of butts in pews who are just checking a socio-religious box on their agenda and don't participate in the life of the church. Please reassure me you too care more about souls than seats?
Of course, I wish there were more people my age at this church. I can't make them materialize, I can't force anyone to come. But I can make sure I'm there, and I can show up for everything, and make sure that I am at the very least not part of the problem. It's easier to complain than it is to show up. It's easier to complain than it is to invite people over, to host the coffee hour, to clean up after events. But this is our church, right? Let's dig in. Let's act like we are happy to be in the house of the Lord. Let's rejoice that there is anyone here at all with us.