Numbers are just one factor to consider when building a healthy church. How much stock you should put into those numbers remains a matter of debate. As a leader, though, attendance may be one of the most obvious factors you use to judge your success in ministry.
Church attendance fluctuates from week to week. When your attendance is down, it can negatively affect how you feel about your ministry effectiveness, how you view your vision and mission, or even how you evaluate your staff and volunteers.
Getting an accurate picture of those numbers requires insight and perspective. Here are five things to consider when your attendance starts to dip:
1. Check the Calendar
What’s going on in the life of your church people? Is it baseball season again? Is it spring break? Was there a major event that kept many of your people away from church?
In the past, weekends were sacred. Today, there are multiple outside activities that compete for Sunday morning. In a perfect world, every person who calls your church home would be there every weekend. But you minister in an imperfect world. What might your people be choosing over church this week?
2. Check the Weather
From snow predictions to thunderstorm warnings, even a threat of bad weather can keep people away from church. Rather than venturing out, some may decide it’s best to stay home and watch online. Take a look at recent forecasts to see whether they might have affected turnout.
In a perfect world, every person who calls your church home would be there every weekend.
3. Check Your History
Each church is unique, and that includes attendance patterns. While the church across town sees increased numbers, your congregation may experience a downturn. Why is that happening?
The best way to tell is by tracking your attendance over the course of several years. If you chart those numbers on a graph, chances are you’ll see patterns emerge.
Sometimes, attendance rises on certain weekends and falls on others for no discernable reason. Even that observation can help you understand that a down Sunday is a part of the normal rhythm of your congregation.
4. Check Your Wins and Losses
This may be the most sobering area of consideration. Take a deep look at what makes your church tick. Each week, gather your staff and key volunteers and ask them for their wins and losses.
What went right? What could have gone better? If you see the same mistakes happening week after week, that could be a reason for an attendance downturn.
5. Check in With Your People
Pick up the phone, and call a few people who missed church. Is anyone sick? Are they stressed out? Was there a major life change you didn’t know about?
Sure, they may deflect the question, especially when it comes from the pastor. But people like to know someone missed seeing them. Show genuine concern, and pray with them. You might be surprised at how transformative a personal approach can be.
There are some reasons for an attendance drop that you can change. But other things are out of your control. Wise pastors know the difference. And that takes prayerful consideration of more than just numbers.