First, two things that attendance does not measure:
- Importance - there are too many variables and too many unknowns. Comparing numbers does not establish relative importance or value
- Success - gathering a growing crowd does not necessarily define success
Three things that attendance does measure:
- Influence - attendance can be a helpful measure of influence; it is a quantitative measure of influence. A church averaging 500 in worship has more influence, at least on the surface, than a church averaging 200 in worship. The extent, quality, and nature of the influence will have to be measured in other ways.
- Trends - discovering trends by measuring worship attendance trends can help you be a more effective leader. Good leaders know the trends; wise leaders understand the underlying cause of the trends. Effective leaders are always making changes in order to strengthen a positive trend or to reverse a negative trend.
- Outward focus - the addition of new people always creates growing attendance figures. The more outward focused the church, the more new people will materialize. The outward focus church prioritizes all its activities and ministries that reach out to new people, touching them where they live, work, and play - in order to reach them.
Deep and Wide - there is more than one way to measure attendance. The simplest and most used that of breadth - how many people were at your church on a given Sunday? The more people in attendance, the broader the influence of the church. If you drill down a little into this, there are two other ways to consider attendance that offer more insight into a church's breadth of influence.
- Market share - What is your church's attendance in relation to the total population in the geographic area served? A large church serving a large area and a small church serving a small town have greatly different attendance figures, but their market share might be similar. You can't compare the total numbers, but in either case the goal would be to increase their market share.
- Reflection of the community - the second way to look at your worship attendance in terms of breadth is this: How well do your attendance figures reflect the cultural, ethnic, and economic make-up of your community? Analyzing the demographic makeup of your attendance in relation to the community helps you measure the influence you have in your neighborhood.
Attendance figures can also help you measure in some ways the depth of commitment and maturity of your congregation. A partial measure is simply the percentage of Sundays a person is in worship. Just showing up on Sunday is not a positive factor alone, though. There also has to be some measurement of participation in the life and ministry of the church.
Counting noses is not so simple as it seems, is it? Attendance can be an effective measurement tool, but only when taken in context. Additional posts over the next few days will help establish that context in terms of other measurements.