LifeWay Research: Small Churches That Are Faithful in Evangelism Are More Likely to Keep New Converts

Small churches can make a difference by sticking to the basics.

New research with the Billy Graham Center and the Caskey Center for Church Excellenceidentifies at least 13 effective ways small churches can attract and retain more new converts, including many practices churches have used for years.

The research, additionally sponsored by 11 denominations, and undertaken by LifeWay Research, shows that among the 13 are: holding classes for new attenders, committing a healthy portion of the church budget to evangelism and missions, serving outside the church to share the gospel with unchurched people, and having the pastor set up specific hours to share the gospel.

LifeWay Research tested 29 factors that could potentially affect the number of people who decide to follow Christ and stay committed to small churches. Thirteen of those factors predicted which churches retained more converts.

Doing all 13 well can create an environment that helps newcomers connect with the church, said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research. “There’s no single approach or strategy that leads to more converts in small churches,” he said. “Instead, it appears that doing a lot of small things really adds up.”

A little more intentionality matters

The phone survey of 1,500 pastors of small churches—evangelical and Black Protestant congregations of 250 or fewer—asked how many converts each church had in the last 12 months and whether those converts stayed with the church after they came to faith.

Researchers then compared the 20 percent of churches with the most retained converts (11.7 or more per 100 attendees) to the 50 percent with the fewest retained converts (5.56 or fewer per 100 attendees).

Here are some of their findings. Among pastors of churches with the most retained converts:

  • 93 percent say their church engages in ministry outside the church at least every six months to share the gospel with the unchurched.
  • 92 percent consistently hear reports of church members engaging in evangelistic conversations and sharing their faith with non-Christians.
  • 68 percent offer classes for new attenders at least every six months.
  • 66 percent ask people weekly to commit to Christ following a personal presentation of the gospel.
  • 57 percent block out time on their calendar at least once a week for the purpose of sharing their faith with non-Christians outside the church office.
  • 51 percent attend training on personal evangelism at least every six months.
  • 26 percent have a higher percentage of the church’s budget (30 percent or more) given to evangelism and missions.

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SOURCE: Bob Smietana
LifeWay Research