I always hesitate to write this kind of post, lest others fear too strong a focus on church growth numbers. If you know me, you know I do believe numbers matter – but I strongly want to avoid becoming idolatrous of numbers. So, I trust you read this post in the spirit in which it’s intended.
Here are some stats that can help a church evaluate its health:
- Additions – How many new members have joined the church in the last year? Of that number, how many were new believers? How many were members who simply joined from another church? I am particularly interested in knowing if the church is reaching non-believers.
- Departures – How many members left the church in the last year? Of that number, how many moved from the church’s ministry area? How many live in the area but simply stopped attending? How many died during the year? Of these numbers, I am most interested in the folks who remain in the area but no longer attend the church.
- Additions vs. Attendance – If a church reports 25 additions for the year, but the attendance increase is only +5, I need to do more research. Does the church have a wide-open back door? Did the church send out dozens of people to start a church plant? Why does the attendance increase/decrease not correspond with additions?
- Overall giving and per capita giving – Did the church meet budget last year? If not, was the budget poorly prepared? Did the church folks not give well? On a per capita basis (the # of dollars given weekly per attender), did members average more or less than last year? Sometimes, a growing church may report increased overall giving, but the actual per capita giving decreases.
- Budget percentages – Percentages devoted to facility and personnel vary according to each church’s situation; thus, suggestions like “personnel costs should not exceed 45-50%” are only rules of thumb. What I most want to know is what percentage of dollars is available for ministry opportunities.
- Visitors – How many visitors has the church seen in the last year? How many returned for a second visit? How many actually joined the church? What is the trend regarding visitors? When the number of visitors is on a downward trend, that direction says something about the church. Often, it indicates that members have for some reason stopped inviting their friends.
- New workers and new small groups – How many new workers have been enlisted and trained within the last year? How many new small groups were started? If the answer to either of these questions is “none,” it may indicate stagnation.
- Growth group attendance – Whatever your church calls its groups (e.g., Sunday school, home groups, life groups), what percentage of attenders is active in small groups? Are most of the attenders not involved in groups designed for discipleship?
- “Next generation” families – How many families with teens and children are in the church? This painful fact is hard to ignore: churches with no young families will die if nothing changes.
- Short-term and long-term missionaries and pastors – Great Commission-focused, outward-oriented congregations strive to send out members to spread the gospel. That happens only when the church is intentional, however. How many folks did the church send out last year?
This list is not intended to be exhaustive. What other stats would you add to the list?