In our research for the book The Other 80 Percent we highlighted some staggering figures - figures that are well-known but seldom discussed and almost never addressed by congregational leaders. The average church has attendance that is 30-40% of its membership, and half of these attenders are marginal participants at best. That means that most churches operate with at most 20 percent of their congregation being engaged actively in the church community, its missions or activities. It is no wonder so many churches struggle to fill committee slots or resort to begging to reach yearly budgets.
Lent and Easter (as well as Advent and Christmas) generate the greatest "nominal member" traffic... folks that almost never attend throughout the year, follow their sense of obligation to reconnect with the church community during these holy seasons. This isn't the occasion to berate them for their lack of weekly engagement; rather it is a perfect opportunity to remind errant members about the great activities, opportunities for ministry, and small groups at the church.
Church leaders acknowledge, celebrate, and at time bemoan the countless quasi-visitors during Lent and especially at Easter but tend not to consider this season as the perfect time to woo them back into more active involvement. The holy weeks around Easter are the perfect opportunity, not just to commemorate Jesus' sacrificial act and celebrate his resurrection, but also to spread the message that membership entitles them to congregational participation 52 weeks a year not just during these high holy days.
A church that wants to generate greater participation should intentionally use the draw of the season to acknowledge and celebrate the gifts that core volunteers give to Christ's mission throughout the year. A congregation can also subtly use this occasion to remind marginal members what the active life of the congregation has to offer. Now is the time, not just to collect for Habitat or Bread for the World, but also to display and acknowledge the many service and ministry groups and opportunities available throughout the life of the church. Additionally, passion plays and skits by the children and youth draw in their extended family members, so what better time to let them know of the educational and spiritual enrichment opportunities for all ages throughout the year.
Other possible ways to promote the rich life of the church and perhaps entice disconnected members to consider reengaging include: