Three Diagnostic Questions for Inactive Care

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Ministry to inactive members is among the most neglected in churches. 

After reading those words, church leaders often feel an immediate twinge of guilt. We are called to love our enemies, how much more brothers and sisters in the same congregation? 

And yet….we know inactive ministry can be difficult. 

  • Leaders can invest a great deal of time and energy reaching inactive members, yet see precious few members return to the church. 
  • Inactive members are potentially frustrated, hurt or angry. We don’t like to jump into such emotionally charged situations in our vocations, let alone as volunteers. 
  • Leaders may already have an idea why members are inactive, yet feel powerless to address the issues that caused inactivity. Why, then, make the effort to minister to inactive? 

And yet, ”the love of Christ compels us” to reach out to our inactive brothers and sisters. (2 Corinthians 5:14). The following diagnostic questions will help leaders engage in this challenging ministry. 

Do members understand what is an “active” and “inactive” member?  

If your church does not have a concise definition of active and inactive members, there is a very real risk there are more inactive members than leaders estimate. Members need a clear, shared understanding of when a member is active or inactive. 

This is a challenge because of changes within the Christian culture. Two generations ago, Christians generally understood “active” as worshiping at least three times a month. We find members today who see worshipping once a month as sacrificial involvement in the church. 

Given this reality, it’s challenging to build consensus among members as “active” and “inactive” member. Yet, it’s vitally important to do just this.

How well is our process for reaching out to inactive members working? 

I want to make sure the implication is clear: Each church needs a process for reaching out to inactive members. Congregations need a system to identify members as they become inactive, then contact the members. A leader needs to be accountable for this process, even if a committee or team oversee the system. 

It helps to diagram process, visually showing each major step in the system. Then, look for weaknesses in the process. Does the church struggle to get members to fill out worship attendance cards? Is worship attendance entered haphazardly? Are the leaders responsible for contacting potential inactive members doing so?  

How well trained are the members who are in contact with inactive members? 

I can remember being anxious about contacting inactive members, only to find they missed church because of a new work schedule. I also remember being shocked to discover longtime members bitter and disillusioned with our church. 

We need to equip members for inactive ministry. At the very least, our leaders need good active listening skills. They also need the ability to serve as a non-anxious presence in the midst of a heated conversation. Our leaders also need skills is witnessing about Jesus’ life and teachings.

Providing training makes it more likely these leaders will fulfill their roles in inactive ministry. It also can make the leaders more effective in extending God’s love to inactive members. 

What lessons has your congregation learned about inactive ministry? Share your thoughts in the comments or shoot me an email. 

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