There are several elements that come into play when it comes to whether or not someone will stick and stay at your church once they’ve found you. Almost regardless of how they found you – randomly, through advertising, through a friend, etc. – if people take the time, they’ll wrestle through the 4 ‘P’s’ of church.
PROGRAM - Clearly marked signage: check. Friendly faces to greet people: check. Creative, warm, and yet utilitarian environment: check. Quality worship music: check. Video element: check. Obligatory shake-someone’s-hand-who-you’ve-never-met time: check. Dynamic, biblically sound teaching: check. Heartfelt closing with announcements: check. Visitor info booth: check. Service opportunity sign-up sheets: check. Prayer partners: check. Check. Check. Check. Check. Check.
As the largest front door to your church, Weekend Church Service Programs probably occupy a great deal (if not most) of your time. This is where people tend to make their FIRST decision about whether or not they like your church, will fit in, or want to stay. Rightly so, this is an important component of church. Program. As a staff person, you’ve got most ability to control or influence Program. But just because it’s the biggest point of entry and you can control it the most out of the 4, don’t get stuck focusing ONLY on this “P.” The following ‘P’s’ may have more to do with why people stay LONG TERM.
PEOPLE - Friendly. Welcoming. Diverse. Kind. Warm. Knowledgeable. Genuine. Sincere. Safe. Compassionate. Able to listen. Loving. Respectful. Gentle. Energetic. If these words described everyone in your church, you’d be the most magnetic place in town. And I’m not just thinking about your “greeters” or “staff.” I’m thinking about your congregation. As the Lord does His work in your people, you hope that it produces the qualities above and more! People. But what can you do to develop the second “P” of church, especially when there is a less-than-friendly vibe to your crowd?
This is a hard one, because as a staff person you can create several things to allow people to connect, get them integrated into relationships, feel welcomed initially, etc. But… there’s a difference between “having a church full of winsome, loving, genuine people who go out of their way to greet others” and creating a “greeting team.” The first is better, but WAY harder to create! Focus hard on this one. You can’t train, teach, emphasize, and value real, Christ-like community enough. People WILL tolerate a subpar Program if the People are amazing. But, over the long haul, People will NOT tolerate subpar relationships even if the Program rocks.
PLACEMENT - Different gifts. Different talents. Different personalities. Different perspectives. Different audiences. Different needs. Different ideas. Different approaches. Different dreams. Different ministries. The variety of needs in your church are only matched by the variety of individuals in your church. As God orchestrated the Church, He obviously did so as a Body functioning with all its respective parts. Those parts are not just reserved for paid staff. The fourth “P” is a crucial one for long term health and connectedness. Placement.
Many people come into a new church wondering, “Do they want me here?” But once they’re sold on the Program and the People they start to ask, “Do they need me here?” If they can’t find a place to serve, you’ll lose them sooner than later. Lots of churches have phenomenal Programs and great People, but nowhere for those great people to use their gifts and talents. The church that does all 3 of the “P’s” consistently well will not only tend to be healthy, but will also look a lot more like what the real Church should look like. Create opportunities for people to minister. Lots and lots of them. But that’s not the last variable in church stickiness.
PROMISE - It’s a concept that doesn’t fly much for most of us anymore. It’s a commitment most of us are unwilling or unable to make. And this fourth and final “P” is killing us. Promise. Promise to stay planted where we are. And I’m as guilty as anyone.
If developing the relational IQ of your People is difficult and hard to control, then developing the Promise-Commitment level of your people is like trying to climb Everest with no gear, no clothes, and no experience, IN THE WINTER. My always brilliant wife offered this “P” as a paramount example of what is lacking in most church environments. Staff and congregants alike are shuffling from one place to the next, unwilling or unable to commit to the church as their FAMILY. There are MILLIONS of reasons why this is the case – some absolutely legitimate and others not. But the Promise problem is there nonetheless.
This list is not exhaustive, obviously. The interplay of these 4 “P’s” from a staff or congregational level is deep and wide. The work of the Spirit over all 4 of these can trump any deficiences and bolster strong suits for your particular church. That’s probably a good reminder that there’s a 5th “P” that keeps us grounded in God’s power in regards to church: PRAYER.
Praying with you for more sticky churches through the delicate, dynamic, and often difficult balancing of these 4 important “P’s.”