In an earlier post, I wrote about the importance of numbers and how that knowing even one church metric will help church leaders identify and respond to what is happening within their church. Does doing this mean that you can project church growth or development? You can certainly see trends, which can answer the question “if we continue in this direction, where will we end up?” But really, church growth is a combination of a number of factors outside of one person’s control. That’s why I focus on church health, instead of church growth.
I do believe healthy churches grow, and knowing our key numbers helps us understand a lot more than if we don’t. Numbers are incredibly helpful for church leaders to accurately see what is happening on the ground. We all have our own lenses with bias, preconceptions and blind spots – numbers help us cut through all these if we pay attention to them!
So what numbers should we track? What follows is some key metrics and interpretation that may prove helpful to us to understand more about what is happening in and around the life of our church, with the aim of leading us into church growth and positive development. There are five areas to consider, each with their own sections.
Metric Area 1: Growth Shows Potential Church Development
The first category of numbers worth tracking is connected with actual growth. They show us if the current course we are on will result in a congregational increase.
The base number, weekly attendance at main services does indeed indicate one kind of growth, which we can see by comparing year on year growth. My findings suggest that the average church yearly attendance change is between 0% and 5% increase.
A growing number of attendees is one thing, but identifying and connecting with visitors shows how many new people attending your services are taking the next step of investigating integrating with the church. This probably requires some kind of system or process to connect with and follow-up on them. My findings suggest that the average church visitor per service is between 1.07% and 1.33%.
Baptisms show commitment and follow-through into discipleship, with the hope being that visitors become converts. Do we measure converts through those who put their hand up in a service, or through the tangible and visible sign of baptism? This number helps us see if we are reaching the unchurched, or simply seeing believers transfer to our church from another. My findings suggest that the average church annual percentage of baptisms is between 5% and 6%.
Metric Area 2: Reach Shows Future Church Growth and Development
The second category of numbers worth tracking is connected with who we have reached. They show us information on our present, but also on our future too. Large numbers today don’t necessarily mean a healthy tomorrow!
The degree to which you are reaching young families is shown by the number of children you have amongst you. Young families (those with children aged 10 or under) generate a sense of legacy and continuity as they tend to be around for a while whilst they get established. The average church percentage of children seems to be between 18% and 22%.
Teenagers (those aged between 11 to 18) are the upcoming generation who show us what our community and society are going to look like in the years to come. The average church percentage of teenagers is between 8% and 11%.
Twenties (those aged between 19 to 29) are not just leaders for tomorrow; they are leaders of today. Including students at college or university, generally, they have the most disposable time, energy and money in this season of life and can bring unique perspectives to the church to ensure it’s relevance. The average church percentage of twenties is between 9% and 11%.
Metric Area 3: Integration Shows True Church Growth and Development
Sunday morning attendance doesn’t measure true integration. Maturity and spiritual formation happen more deeply through other contexts. We can see the measure of who is committed to the church by tracking a couple of other numbers.
Volunteer levels in church ministries demonstrate commitment and ownership. The average church percentage of people volunteering to serve in some capacity is between 41% and 49%.
Metric Area 4: Finance Shows Impact Of Church Growth and Development
Church finances are incredibly variable with multiple factors, including geographical location and congregation demographic, amongst others. But wise financial stewarding manages money and a couple of finance numbers can guide us to see how the future could look on our current trajectory.
The average weekly giving figure provides information that an income statement doesn’t. This figure shows how much ownership of the vision the people have, their understanding of stewardship and their financial commitment to the church. It is a guide and should be considered alongside the cost of living, average wage level and other economic factors in your area. The average amount given per adult per week is between US$39 and US$46.
Savings provide financial contingency in the event of any incidents impacting church income. This shows if the church is living week to week or not. This figure shows the current amount of weeks the current level of financial savings would cover, which for the average church is between 6 and 8 weeks.
Debt can offer short-term solutions but has potentially long-term implications if it isn’t manageable compared with a church’s income. The average church level of debt being between 101% and 149% of the church’s annual budget.
Typically in churches, staff costs are the largest expense. Overpaying for staff can suggest a staff-centric culture, whilst underpaying can suggest gaps in the church structure. The average church staff budget is between 44% and 54%.
Metric Area 5: Facilities Show Barriers To Church Growth and Development
Our facilities provide external limits on us that can be hard to workaround. Tracking two numbers will help us map out where our growth can become a pinch, and potentially bring frustration to our efforts.
When services are full and there isn’t enough space for more people, it can be time to launch a second service. Being aware of how close we are to this tipping point is strategically vital for continued growth. When the average service attendance consistently fills 80% of the facility capacity, it is time to consider alternatives if you do not want service attendance to drop down due to peoples frustration at space restriction. That could mean an additional service, opening up another campus, or even considering a church plant.
Parking capability is a useful indicator of accessibility for services. Whilst some people may walk or use public transport, many will drive. Lack of space for parking will work against growth. This metric shows the percentage of seats that your current parking access allows. Assuming each car brings an average of 2 people (which offsets vehicles with a single driver against vehicles driven by couples or families with three or more people), we can see what percentage of the auditorium seats would be covered by your current parking. If our current car parking capacity fails to provide enough space for our facility capacity, we risk being considered inaccessible by those we are wanting to attend.
These numbers don’t tell the whole story of our potential for church growth or development, but they certainly show part of the story. Capturing these numbers is one thing, but interpreting what they mean is another entirely. I routinely help churches like yours obtain and understand their own numbers in these and other areas, so they can identify and respond to trends in their own growth and development. You can find out how I do this by taking a look at my Church Health Assessment process. Get in touch today to see how I can help you.
This post is part of a series looking at Assessing Church Health. You can find the others here:
- Why Assessing Church Health Is Important
- Why Numbers Matter When Assessing Church Health
- Assessing Five Key Areas of Organisational Health
- Analysing Five Key Areas of Spiritual Health
- Assessing Five Key Areas of Leadership Health
- Analysing Five Key Growth Metrics & Trends
I have developed some FREE church health assessments for leaders. To find out more about them, click here.