Among Smaller Churches, Those with More Intentional Effort More Likely to Retain New Believers, Study Shows
A little effort may go a long way when it comes to helping new believers continue attending a relatively smaller-sized church, according to a new study released on Monday.
The LifeWay Research study was conducted by phone on 1,500 pastors of churches that have 250 members or less. Pastors were asked various questions about recent believers and their continued attendance to their churches after they made the decision to believe in Jesus.
According to the research, the 20 percent of churches with the highest rate of new believers who continued to regularly attend church were more likely to have engaged in several evangelistic efforts.
One of those efforts included engaging "in ministry outside the church at least every six months to share the gospel with the unreached." Ninety-three percent of pastors from those churches with "the most retained converts," as LifeWay described it, said they engaged in such ministry. A high rate of members from those churches (92 percent) also said they "hear reports of church members engaging in evangelistic conversations and sharing their faith with non-Christians."
Many of those churches are intentional about carving out time to reach out to non-believers, the study showed.
For instance, 68 percent of those churches with the most retained converts have classes for new church attendees at least once every six months. Pastors of those churches carve out personal time for outreach as well, as more than half (57 percent) say they "block out time on their calendar at least once a week for the purpose of sharing their faith" with non-believers outside of their office. About half (51 percent) say they attend a training session on personal evangelism at least once every six months.
Jeff Farmer, the associate professor of church, ministry, and evangelism at New Orleans Seminary and lead researcher of the project, emphasized the need to invite more non-believers to church, rather than inviting believers from other churches.
"We need to be focusing on lost people -- those who have no previous church background -- and there are plenty of them," said Farmer, who added that pastors should be the example in the endeavor.
"No one in the church is going to share the gospel more than the pastor," he said. "Pastors who make time for sharing their faith with non-Christians and who teach church members to do the same can have a big impact."