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How church leaders get rid of visitors

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[Editor’s note: This story originally was published by Real Clear Religion.]

By Deirdre Reilly
Real Clear Religion

Most churches do their best to be welcoming places for strangers and non-believers, but there are concrete reasons that church membership in the U.S. is declining, according to a March 2021 Gallup poll. Many families today do not see the inside of a church except for Easter and Christmas. Why aren’t they returning, after hearing what are no doubt uplifting messages on these two important holidays?

As a Christian whose church attendance in the past has been spotty, I offer some insights in my new book, “The Pretend Christian: Traveling Beyond Denomination to the True Jesus.” In it, I examine three possible causes for declining church membership and engagement.

Allowing Exclusionary Behavior to Fester in Church Communities
If we haven’t been attending church, we feel guilty. Let’s face it: most of us know that feeling of awkwardness as we slink back into God’s house, waving hesitantly at others who are pleased (and surprised!) to see us there. An engaged church family normally gels into a somewhat-cohesive unit, and since we haven’t been to church in a while, we feel how outside of the bubble we are. This is normal, and not the pastor’s fault – you have to participate to be included, after all.

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