What to do When You Anticipate a Low Attended Sunday

What to do When You Anticipate a Low Attended Sunday
Having a large crowd at church can be energizing and having a small crowd can be discouraging to those who have responsibility for preaching on Sunday. It is in no way unspiritual to desire that more people, rather than less, to be present to hear a message from God’s Word. In North America, the two lowest attended Sundays of the year are generally the one closest to July 4th and the Sunday following Christmas. The reasons are more practical than spiritual. More families are traveling on these weekends for family or leisure. I propose that you pour greater energy into Sunday’s like Easter when you can anticipate higher attendance. The reason is that you know guests are likely to be present on those special days and it actually takes less effort to get more results. I unpack this in detail in my book The Coffee Shop That Changed a Church.
However, you should not totally neglect those two Sundays of the year when attendance is anticipated to be lower. While pointing out that more guests are present on higher attended Sundays, that does not mean that no guests are present on the low attended weekends. Therefore, here are a couple of thoughts on preparing for what you know will be a low attended service.
1.     Acknowledge in advance that many of your members will be traveling. Wish them well and encourage them to visit another church if they are traveling. That way you are not only encouraging the faithfulness of your members, you are helping a pastor in another community.
2.     Promote the subject of your message in advance. Give people a reason to be present by proposing a compelling subject that people want to hear about. Give your members a reason to invite friends.
3.     Are you going to be traveling yourself? Some pastors utilize these two weekends to be out of the pulpit themselves.  Here is the key. Do not advertise your absence to your congregation unless you have a speaker who you know will draw people to your services. The same principle should be communicated to your Bible study leaders. Whenever a leader announces his absence in advance, the attendance suffers even more. I appreciate that the members should be mature enough that it does not matter but not all of them are.
4.     Challenge the members who will be present to invite friends and family. Apply the law of large numbers: Many invitations result in more guests and fewer invitations result in smaller numbers of guests. While you have no control over attendance, your members do have control over how many guests are invited.
5.     Execute the service in the same way as if the worship center is full. When those leading worship “go through the motions” and fail to give their best, you are feeding a culture in your church that says that the July 4th and Christmas weekend services are the ones to miss. These services are tough enough as it is without adding to it.
6.     Plan to preach the gospel! It is always  relevant to any sized audience and though attendance may be lower, it could be a life-changing day to that guest in your service.
Don’t be discouraged by what you expect to be a low attended Sunday. Members being out of town is not a reflection of failure but of the blessing that many can get away for a break or to visit family. But, give them a reason to regret missing the service because another Sunday is coming a week later!