George Bullard posted an interesting article last week on his blog which invites leaders to rethink how they measure participation in their congregation. Instead of simply tracking average worship attendance, Bullard suggests measuring the total number of households participating in the worship life of the congregation. Since attendance patterns and average household size have changed over the last twenty years, it is possible that you may have fewer people in worship on an average Sunday, but more total people participating in the worship life of the congregation.
Here’s an example of the type of change Bullard is seeing in his work. “First Church has decreased in weekly attendance by 35 percent in the past 20 years. The average size of the households connected with the congregation has decreased from 3.4 people to 2.6 people. Twenty years ago 147 households were present on a typical Sunday, and now 163 households are present on a typical Sunday.” Average attendance has dropped, but the reach of the congregation has actually grown over the same period of time.
Certainly there are cases when declining average worship attendance is an indication of a weak or dying congregation, but l think Bullard makes a compelling case that previously reliable statistical measures like average worship attendance and, I would suggest, membership totals, no longer provide a complete picture of the health and size of a congregation. In today’s world, total number of households present in worship or total number of active participants in the life of the congregation is probably a far more helpful statistic to track.
You can read Bullard’s complete article here: Is Attendance in Your Congregation Declining? Think Again