It almost goes without saying: 2020 threw churches for a loop. I’ve seen churches that had thousands of people attending each week drop down to a few hundred each week in 2022. What’s more is some churches saw increases while others decreased, but one way or the other, your church experienced “The Great Reshuffle” of congregants.

If you look around carefully, there’s some new faces from the last two years and there’s inevitably people missing that were regulars before 2020. This makes ministry a challenge because you don’t know if people listed in your Church Management System (ChMS) or other database have dropped out or have moved on to another church. 🤷 To effectively pastor, we need to clean up and update our data!

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So what’s the best way to sort this all out? To put it simply, it’s time to start asking people if they are still part of your church! I know… shocking! 😉

I’m being tongue in cheek, but most churches really do have a hesitancy to ask people if they are still attending, it’s looked at as offensive because we should inherently know if someone is showing up or not, but that isn’t helpful or realistic for pastors or congregants in a modern setting. We need to know who has fallen through the cracks and who have found other pastors to care for them. 🐏

Let’s deal with this via the low-hanging fruit first: the ChMS, because it’s the most scalable communication method.

1. You need to create a list of people that A.) are members, who B.) haven’t volunteered or registered for anything this year and C.) haven’t attended any small groups this year. Your ChMS should let you filter based on these criteria. Small group or other group attendance taking is massively helpful here.

2. You need to create a form in your ChMS for people to update their info. Include an option for “I have changed church” or “I am no longer attending <<YOURCHURCH>>” as well as “I’ve been following along online.” Change the wording to fit your church style and online ministry (or lack thereof).

3. You need to send out the link for people on your list to update their info in an email. Write something along these lines:

Hi <<FIRSTNAME>>,

Running a church is tough sometimes, but we want to provide the best pastoral care and ministry we can, so could you help us update our info? I’d really appreciate it: <<LINK>>

Sincerely,

<<YOURNAME>>

P.S. If you’ve moved to another church or are no longer attending church with us, feel free to reply and let me know or indicate that when updating info.

Note, that if you have electoral roll or congregational voting bylaws, you can slip in that this is to help determine eligibility for that.. because you probably do need to figure out who is still eligible. 😲

4. Announce it in the service and have kiosks and mobile friendly links for the people who are in-person to update info.

5. If they respond and update their data, you want to filter them out from your list. Make sure you are filtering those out and thanking people who update their info.

6. Re-send the link the following week with a similar but not the same message.

Now we move onto those who aren’t responding to the emails with a less scalable but more reliable data collection method: the phone.

7. Unleash your board members, deacons, elders, volunteers, etc. to phone the rest. The main thing here is just to check if people are A.) still attending your church, B.) not attending any church, or C.) moved to another church, and then update your records accordingly. Doesn’t hurt to have them ask how people are doing and what ways the church can better serve them and/or reach out to the community even if someone realizes that a name on the list is attending. Think about it, wouldn’t it be cool if you were a church member and an elder called you up just to check how you are doing and ask if there’s anything the church could be doing better?

From there, you can start focusing on engaging or reengaging people who still consider themselves connected to your church but haven’t really been involved. 😎