For many congregations who readily welcome people, they rapidly move to incorporate visitors into existing programs and activities that can bear little relation to what motivated the visit. The “ways” and the “whys” of congregational affiliation are changing, and this means prepackaged approaches to programing don’t always work.
This is compounded with the change in what constitutes “church attendance.” People may consider Pub Theology night or online worship their key connection to the congregation. Rather than embracing these as potentially significant spiritual connections, some congregations treat them as mere stepping-stones to “real” participation in the life of the church.
What is required is a move from the old metrics of buildings, bodies, and budgets to more creative means and measures of forming spiritual community. It may very well be that declining attendance is not because less people are seeking spiritual community. It may be because too many congregations are tethered to preserving dated institutions.