15 years ago, he said, regular worship at COR meant someone attended 3 weeks out of 4. More recently, they found that the average was 1.75 times a month. In other words, regular worshippers attended less that twice in a month. They realized that if they wanted to see a difference, they needed to pay attention to this aspect of congregational life. The first year he took everyone with perfect attendance to lunch. There were only thirteen. Thirteen, in a congregation with 20,000 members! They also acknowledge the folks with 90% attendance. The next year they gave out insulated mugs to all 90% or above. It cost them $6000 - clearly paying attention changed the behavior.
After that, I asked him this: Take me deeper. Why does corporate worship matter?
Without hesitating, he answered (this is not verbatim but rather my summary of a conversation from a few hours ago.
Worship matters because it's important to be able to teach and expound upon the word of God.
Worship matters because it allows you to reinforce the vision of the congregation.
Worship matters because it keeps people connected to each other. Lower attendance correlates to lower and lower engagement and more people leaving the congregation "through the back door."
Worship itself taps into the power and meaning of what it means to be community together
Worship teaches us what to pray for - to be reminded or shown what else is going on in the world and that we all need to lifting those things in prayer.
Worship matters to God. Yes, we are to be worshipful everyday, in all we do, but God calls us to honor the Sabbath and make it holy - for God's people to come together in praise and thanksgiving.
Finally, he shared that higher levels of worship attendance correlate with other positive behaviors. People who are in worship regularly are more likely to be engaged in mission, are more generous, are more likely to be involved in other spiritual formation opportunities and so forth.
So, my thought:
What is your congregation doing to help people grow in the practice of worship? What might you do to positively reinforce the practice of worship? And since inspiring and meaningful worship is critical to the spiritual growth of people early in their faith journey (think visitors here!), what are you doing to make sure each worship experience is just that - inspiring and meaningful? Long-time members will tolerate mediocre music, messages and ministry. New visitors will not - they look elsewhere - or worse, stop looking altogether.
So yes, worship matters!