DEAR HARRIETTE: My church has been losing membership like crazy the past few years. I think it's because the message is kind of dry. Plus, the rules are really strict, and there's absolutely no outreach to young people. Most of our members are very old, and many of their children have moved away or moved to other churches. How can we make ourselves more attractive? -- Need a Crystal Ball, Arlington, Virginia
DEAR NEED A CRYSTAL BALL: Your leadership needs to get together and brainstorm honestly about where you are and where you want to go. Evaluate what works about your church and its policies and what people have said doesn't work. Be brutally honest about everything so that you can see your situation for what it is. Some churches invite guest ministers to come preach once a month to help mix up the energy and tone of the message. Some do direct outreach to young people via social media, posters and word-of-mouth, letting them know about new programming that may be targeted to their demographic. For instance, if you develop a course on how to be a "good" Christian and date at the same time, you might pique younger people's attention. Essentially, if you address hot-button moral issues in a non-judgmental format and advertise that to young people, they may come. They will need to believe that you will not judge them once they get there, though. Your minister and leadership will need to consider how to talk to young people about the issues of the day, stay grounded in your church's philosophy and values and guide them without slamming them.
Be clear that I am not suggesting that you veer from your core beliefs. What I am suggesting is that you have to attract the people you want to come through those doors by figuring out what their spiritual questions are and cultivating a legitimate way to address them.