Why people choose their church

I am reading this book. It is based on interviews of 353 "formerly unchurched" people. The first suprising piece of data is that the number one reason that people join a church is not the music/worship style, nor the location. Those two were actually at the bottom of the list of reasons!

The top reason why people join is the pastor and their preaching! Only 3% said that the pastor did not affect their decision to join.

Here is a list of what people liked about the pastor of the church they joined:
  • Preaching that teaches (deep things from the Bible)
  • Preaching that applies to my life (practical)
  • Authenticity of the pastor (open and real person)
  • Pastor's conviction (believes what they are saying and speaks with authority)
  • Pastor is a good communicator (articulate, understandable, interesting, vision-caster)
  • Pastor is a leader (clear direction, knows what the church is for, relates well)
  • Pastor's class (personal interaction)
The author noted that 90% of American pastors only spend 2 hours per week in sermon preparation, while the pastors in his study that are reaching the unchurched spend an average of 20 hours a week on sermon preparation. More on that later.

After pastor/preaching, closely followed by doctrine, people said that friendliness was the reason they joined. Even more interesting is that the author's data bore out that churched people who change churches rate friendliness even higher as to why they chose their new church.

More on friendliness, doctrine, and first impressions later.