The cultural moment of our day is one of seemingly constant change and confusion. Amidst this change, there is a trend that has been constant over the years—people are leaving the church at a high rate. In a time when people need purpose and community more than ever, they are abandoning the very thing that God has designed for us to thrive and flourish in a challenging world: the church.  

Christian school leaders have a unique opportunity to teach their communities God’s vision for the church and its integral role in spiritual formation. Yes, spiritual formation is a work of the Holy Spirit, but it is also a community endeavor. As you lead, work to cultivate Christians who engage in the life and the mission of the church. 

Seeing the Problem 

To cultivate disciples who are engaged in the church, we must first see the real problem.  

Yes, the decreasing rate of church attendance is alarming, but perhaps attendance is not the issue. The deeper problem is not that people stopped attending church, but that those former attendees were likely never truly engaged in the church. 

In his book, I Am a Church Member, Thom S. Rainer explains that many churchgoers have adopted an unbiblical view of church membership, seeing church more like a country club. He writes, “For them, membership is about receiving instead of giving, being served instead of serving, rights instead of responsibilities, and entitlements instead of sacrifices.” 

Naturally, this view of church produces a mindset of attendance rather than engagement. It produces spectators and consumers rather than participants. This is not God’s vision for the church. His church is a thriving community, where each member loves and serves one another with the gifts they have been given, thus living out their role within the body of Christ. 

Clarifying the Goal 

If we desire to cultivate Christians who engage in church, then our goal must change. We must renew our minds and align our practices with the truth of God’s Word. 

For the New Testament, mere attendance was never the goal. Jesus never said, “Attend me.” He said, “Follow me.” The first century Christians did not attend church. They were the church. 

In salvation, we are redeemed by the blood and the work of Jesus on the cross, adopted into the family of God, and called to a life of service within biblical community. Jesus did not die for attendance at the Sunday gathering; He died so that we would thrive and flourish as members of His body! 

To ask, “How do we get our staff, students, and families to attend the local church?” misses the primary goal of the church. 

The better question is: “How do we get them engaged in the local church?” 

Embracing God’s Design 

God’s Word clearly reminds us that we are created for engagement in biblical community. 

In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul uses the metaphor of the human body to describe the church’s function. Each part (the eyes, ears, and feet) has its own functioning role in the body. Likewise, each member of the body of Christ has their own functioning role within the church.  

True, biblical membership in the church necessitates functioning or engaged membership. As Rainer states, “The concept of an inactive church member is an oxymoron. Biblically, no such church member really exists.” 

The same expectation of engagement is evident in Hebrews 10:24–25: 

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” 

The “meeting together” phrase is defined by the surrounding verbs. Stir up or provoke means to excite one another to action—the action of love and good works in the context of the local church. The word encourage is shared with an eye on Christ’s return. Christians are called to serve and to support one another to persevere until the Lord returns. 

Clearly, God’s expectation is more than attending the Sunday gathering; it is to be connected to one another as members of the body, sincerely involved in biblical community, and actively engaged in the mission of the church.  

Charting a Path Forward 

As Christian school leaders, you are indeed called to help cultivate the spiritual formation of the staff, students, and families of your school; however, the process of spiritual formation cannot happen apart from the church. Biblical discipleship is a community endeavor. 

So, what ways can you and your school cultivate Christians who are engaged in the church? 

Note: Your context will clarify and drive your strategy. Lean into the Spirit for His guidance and insight.  

  • Clearly communicate God’s vision for church.

You have a responsibility and an opportunity to communicate biblical truth to your staff, students, and families. Share with them the beauty of God’s design. Teach them that God saves us into membership in the body of Christ, connected to one another in a rich, life-giving community. Help them see that being the church is far more rewarding than attending a church. 

  • Cultivate a mindset of service within your school.

When developing servant leaders, help them discover their gifts and encourage them to practice these talents in the local church community. 

While working at a Christian school, my goal was to help move our students from being spectators to participants. We intentionally created opportunities for students to serve within the community and partner with the local church. I learned that action sometimes precedes affection. Give students ways to serve and pray that the Spirit will use those experiences to cultivate hearts of service. 

Talk to students who are engaged in your school about how they are using their gifts in the local church. For those who are not involved in a church, you have an open door to communicate the beauty of God’s design. Connect them with a staff member or other students who are engaged in the church. 

It is in the church where they will develop a lifestyle of serving others that extends beyond their time in the Christian school.  

  • Celebrate and model church engagement. 

Find strategic opportunities to celebrate those who are contributing to and experiencing the blessings of biblical community.  

If a student is being baptized, support them with your presence or encourage them in their step of faith. If a student is going on a mission trip, support them financially, prayerfully, or through a letter of encouragement as they prepare to leave. Also, encourage your staff to talk about the ways they serve within their local church and to invite their students to get involved. 

Look for every opportunity to show others that church matters. 

  • Seek opportunities to connect with local churches.

If you are a church-sponsored school, promote events and encourage students to engage on Wednesday nights and Sunday mornings. Bring in local pastors to speak in chapels or lead staff devotions. Look for hospitable ways to care for the pastors in your community. Encourage students and staff to invite their pastors to lunch at the school. Build relational bridges and points of connection between the church and school. The Spirit can use what is small to make a significant impact. 

God has designed us for the purpose of biblical community and active engagement in the church. Let us proclaim the beauty of the gospel and the importance of the body of Christ so that those we lead will experience the joy and blessing of active participation in the life and mission of church. 


About the Author 

Douglas Campbell serves as Ministry Team Senior Coordinator at ACSI. He has a background in Christian Studies and a Masters in Educational Leadership. He also has two years of experience serving as a missionary in Madagascar with the International Mission Board. He most recently worked at Eagles Landing Christian Academy for the past 10 years, serving as Spiritual Life Director for the last three years of his time there. Douglas lives in McDonough, GA with his wife Abigail and their three boys, Hudson (5), Emmett (4), and Grayson (2); with another boy coming in July. 


Bob Stouffer

Douglas: Your commentary is spot-on. As an administrator in 3 Christian schools over the course of 23 years, one of my biggest frustrations was seeing that families were not prominently plugged-into local fellowships. It was as though our Christian schools were their “churches.” Obviously, we do not function that way, but all of your wise counsel could help Christian school educators point students first to Jesus and then to active involvement in a local body. If you haven’t already read The Great Dechurching (2023), it’s a must-read. I just finished the book last week, and it has good counsel for all of us as Christians reaching out to all who are not attending churches — those in Christian schooling, those in public schooling, and those in home schooling — with reasonable, winsome relationship-building. Keep up your great leadership and Kingdom work at ACSI, sir!


This blog post provides a thought-provoking analysis of the challenges facing the church today and offers insightful guidance for Christian school leaders like yourself. The emphasis on moving beyond mere attendance to cultivating genuine engagement in the church is particularly compelling. By highlighting the biblical mandate for active participation in the body of Christ, the post effectively communicates the importance of community and service in spiritual formation. The practical suggestions for fostering a culture of church engagement within schools are not only inspiring but also actionable. Overall, this piece serves as a valuable resource for anyone seeking to nurture a deeper understanding of God’s vision for the church and empower others to live it out in their daily lives.


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