Why do people choose which church to attend or unite with? That is a question many people take for granted. If you have been in the same church for decades you've probably never considered that question. You might think people pick a church because of the location, the advertising, the "bells & whistles" music ministry, the buildings, the programs listed in the "welcome" brochure, or because you think they instinctively know all the wonderful things you love about your church. Thom Rainer (president, LifeWay) offers some interesting insight from research presented in his book, Surprising Insights from the Unchurched.
From his own surveying Rainer lists the "Top 13 reasons unchurched people choose a church":
1. 90%- Pastor/ Preaching
2. 88%- Doctrines
3. 49%- Friendliness of members
4. 42%- Other issues
5. 41%- Someone from the church witnessed to me
6. 38%- Family member belongs to the church
7. 37%- Sensed God's presence/ Atmosphere at the church
8. 25%- Relationship other than a family member
9. 25%- Sunday School class
10. 25%- Children's/ Youth ministry
11. 12%- Other groups/ Ministries
12. 11%- Worship style/ Music
13. 7%- Location
These are very interesting and even helpful statistics as we consider and pray about how to build relational bridges into the community. They are also informative in thinking about how we should spend our time and resources. There are three things we must remember though. One, we aren't governed by statistics. They tell a story but don't necessarily dictate our future. Two, regardless of people's interests or what hooks them for people to genuinely and enduringly love the church they must love Christ (it is His church) and this comes by the grace of God (1 Corinthians 2:14). Three, there is no getting around our responsibility to personal evangelism. No hook, no enticement, no strategy will ever replace the need and command for the gospel to be verbally proclaimed (Romans 10:17).