Church Attendance

5 Myth-Shattering Reasons We Have To Change Our Thinking About Church Size

Effective churches exist in all shapes and sizes. Including churches that haven’t grown numerically in a while. But for too many of us, church size is the primary (or only) factor in determining the health and value of a local congregation. This thinking is not just mistaken, it’s dangerous. History has regularly shown us that any …

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Why We Stopped Taking Attendance At Our Church For A While

For many years, I kept track of church attendance numbers very carefully. As the church grew, I calculated growth patterns, percentages, demographics, you name it. I found that counting wasn’t just important and helpful, it was fun. When we were growing.

Then we stopped growing.

Soon we started shrinking.

So we stopped counting and did what we could to douse the fire before we lost everything.

And we didn’t start counting again for a long time after we corrected the slide and got things stabilized. By then, I was just grateful to be balanced and healthy. The numbers didn’t matter any more.

Church Attendance Patterns Are Changing And We Have To Adapt

Church attendance is changing.

As recently as 20 years ago, if ten people became church members (either formally or informally) the average attendance grew by eight or nine people.

Not any more.

Today, if ten people become church members, average attendance grows by five or six.

Here’s why.

According to Thom Rainer, “About 20 years ago, a church member was considered active in the church if he or she attended three times a week. Today, a church member is considered active in the church if he or she attends three times a month.” In many places, it’s even lower than that.

This is not fringe people who are attending that infrequently. And these are not people who have quit going to church. This is the pattern for active church members.

There are many reasons for this phenomenon, of course, as Thom Rainer goes on to explain in this post. Carey Nieuwhof has a different, but also helpful take on why this is happening in a series that starts with this article.

Since they’ve covered the “why?” so well, I’m not going to try to add to it. Instead, I want to make a couple observations about what it means for the average church.

The Mission Deserves Margin: Minister To The Church You Have, While Preparing For More

A church of 50 people needs to be pastored like a church of 50 people.

You can’t act like a church of 500. Or even 100. The systems, methods and relationship dynamics simply won’t fit.

So how can a church grow, either in its size or effectiveness, if we’re only pastoring the people we have?

While pastoring the people we have, we need to create in-house systems and outward ministry suitable for a church of double our current size.

The Mission Deserves Margin: Minister To The Church You Have, While Preparing For More

A church of 50 people needs to be pastored like a church of 50 people.

You can’t act like a church of 500. Or even 100. The systems, methods and relationship dynamics simply won’t fit.

So how can a church grow, either in its size or effectiveness, if we’re only pastoring the people we have?

While pastoring the people we have, we need to create in-house systems and outward ministry suitable for a church of double our current size.

5 More Reasons To Go To Church In Person: Sight, Sound, Touch, Smell, Taste

If we want to get everything we can from our church experience, we need to show up in person.

That may seem obvious to most churchgoers, but there is a large and growing number of people who think that watching church online is all the church they need.

And no, this is not always because of laziness or lack of spiritual passion.

In a growing number of cases, it’s because they’ve been hurt deeply, sometimes repeatedly by church people. Or they’ve grown tired of a church experience that doesn’t seem to grow deeper with them.

But they still have a passion to follow Jesus. So they stay at home and watch online or listen to podcasts.

If what I’ve described sounds like your experience in any way, let me encourage you that, despite the downsides you’ve experienced, there are so many good reasons to go through the time and hassle of leaving your house and attending a church in person every week.