When Someone’s Missing from Church

With the summer months comes lots of activities, travel, vacations and more.  As the pastor of a congregation where many families love to camp, travel, and just enjoy the outdoors, I have learned to not get stressed out over the idea that people will often be gone during the summer months.  There are many benefits for family, and relationships in general, when people have the opportunity to get away and spend quality time together.  And often, those opportunities include time for conversations about spiritual things that just don’t happen when we’re at home and so busy with work, school, and everything else that has a tendency to consume our time.  
However, it does mean that church attendance will be down, and often, giving to the church is down as well.   And that’s the part I try not to get stressed out about.  
Still, I often struggle with the idea of what to do when people have been missing from church for a while.  And I have to admit, I am just not that good at keeping track or in keeping in touch when someone has not been “in church” for a few weeks.  I think that’s something about myself that needs to change.  And perhaps we could all be a little better when it comes to noticing and caring for those who have been missing from our midst for a time.  It is with the goal of providing better care for those who have been missing from our services that I now give you seven things that we all can do to benefit the culture of our church community:
1. Commit to faithful worship attendance yourself.  Your presence is important to your spiritual growth and the vitality of our church as a whole.  And when people who see a vibrant community with a critical mass of people, they will be more likely to participate themselves.
2. Follow up with people who are absent.  People like to know they are missed.  Check in on friends, fellow life groupers, or others who miss
worship to make sure all is well.  Even a quick Facebook post or text will let people know that their church friends care and that their presence matters.  This is the area where I personally need to improve.  
3. Never judge people who drift away from the church.  They may be attending elsewhere, they may find it difficult to return after the death of a loved one, or they may have to work on Sundays. Whatever the reason, guilt trips are not helpful. Continue to love them and offer pressure-free invitations. Just letting someone know they’re missed means a lot.
4. Stay informed about upcoming activities at church.  When communicating with someone who has been absent for a while, be ready to share with them about upcoming activities. Make note of special events or sermon topics and pass along the information with a personal invitation to come. This is where our new Church App might come in handy as you are likely to have your phone available during a conversation (to get our app on your phone, just search for “CrossRoads Scottville” in the iPhone App Store or the Google Play Store).
5. Get out of your comfort zone and put others first.  Welcoming people into the church can often mean getting outside our comfort zones. This one especially hits home for me, as I am a committed introvert.  But being open to new people and having conversations with others I don’t know very well is always rewarding. And, at the end of the worship service, try to connect with someone new before you speak to family or friends. Studies show that new people leave within three minutes after the service ends, so save your conversations and greetings for family and friends until a bit later.
6. “Adopt” a newer person or family to the congregation.  Beyond just greeting newer people, invite them to sit with you. Help them to understand anything that might be confusing in the worship service. Introduce them to others as you would a friend. Maybe, after a couple of weeks, invite them to join you for lunch after church.  
7. Pray for our church family, and for those without a church home.  People you know only casually from church may be struggling with very serious trials or hardships. Pray for those who might be starting to drift away. And ask God to open your eyes to people in need of a loving Christian community and to open doors for you to invite them. God can use you to change someone’s life.
If anyone would like to help in a more formal way in this effort, please let me know. We are looking for people who could write notes or make contact in other ways to those who have been absent for 2-3 weeks or those who could simply use an encouraging note. We will be implementing a “Monday Morning Pit Crew” that will gather information (absentees, etc.) and then forward that on to those who are interested in participating in this way. Please send me an email at richchasse@sbcglobal.net, make a note on your Connection Card, or speak to me in person to let me know if you would be interested in helping in this way!
Thanks for your time — now back to some more summer fun!
Rich Chasse
Pastor, The CrossRoads