Most pastors realize their church’s Easter attendance is a better indicator of true church size than its weekly attendance. Albeit there are a significant number of visitors on Easter Sunday, the reality is many of these visitors are not visiting. This is their church. They don’t attend another church. They claim yours.
In his book, Connect: How to Grow Your Church in 28 Days—Guaranteed, Don Corder writes, “On any given Sunday, 80 percent are regular attendees and 20 percent are non-regular attendees” (p. 30). He goes on to explain that the 80 percent attend about 33 times per year, while the 20 percent of non-regular attendees are there only 2.4 times per year, based on researching The Provisum Group’s database of church clients. What does this mean?
Church Size – 100 Is Really More Like 559.
A true church size of 100 people is really made up of 559 people. By Corder’s calculation, 126 people attend 33 times per year on average, while another 433 make up the other 20 percent of weekly worship attendance. So, how many people actually attend your church?
If your church averages 1,000 people on the weekend, then your actual attendee number is somewhere around 5,590. By the same calculation used above, 1,260 of your people attend about 33 times per year, while another 4,333 attend about 2.4 times per year. If you have any doubts, look at the total number of records in your church’s database. It’s not so far fetched, is it?
What Does This Mean for Discipleship?
Often the measuring stick for church size is comparing group membership to the weekend attendance. If you’re in a church of 500 and have 250 people in groups, then you could claim that 50 percent of your people are connected into groups. But, that’s not realistic in light of this new calculation.
A worship attendance of 500 really represents 2,167 people who attend your church over the course of the year. If you have 250 people in groups, you actually have about 12 percent of your people in groups. Well, you weren’t supposed to be proud of numbers anyway, right?
The church’s mission is to “go and make disciples…” (Matthew 28:18-20). Sermons don’t make disciples. How do you engage the 77.46 percent of your congregation who only attends an average of 2.4 times per year?
Get Them While They’re There.
What are your church’s peak worship services of the year? Christmas and Easter, right? The first pastor I served would often say in Easter services, “Well, if I don’t see you for a while, I want to wish you a Merry Christmas,” and the reverse at Christmas. Rather than ridicule your infrequent attendees, why not invite them to something?
A pastor’s immediate reaction is, “But, it’s impossible to get any airtime on Easter Sunday (or Christmas)…” That’s true. And, it’s OK. If you could get airtime in the worship service, that would be great. But, what’s more important than airtime is a plan.
Make a Plan to Connect Your Infrequent Attendees.
Your infrequent attendees took a step to attend a service. You just need to give them another step. What are their needs? Where do they need help? What issues in their lives do they need answers to? If they checked their children into your children’s ministry on Easter, then a parenting group which is appropriate to their stage of parenting might be of interest. Are they married or single? How far do they live from the church? Is there a small group in their neighborhood? What groups could you promote to these folks? As long as you have their contact information, you can promote a group that meets their needs. Or, better yet, a group leader could call and invite a few to their group. Better still, a person who knows an infrequent attendee could call and invite them to a group (or start a group).
It doesn’t matter if an announcement wasn’t made in the service or didn’t appear in the bulletin on Easter Sunday. For most parents, their children have overdone the sugar and just want to get home. They’re not thinking of signing up for a group on Easter or Christmas anyway. But, since they’ve just attended a recent service, the church is on their mind. Then, when they receive an invitation by email or a phone call from a warm, friendly group leader, they might be open to join a group.
While You Have Their Email Addresses…
Remember, infrequent attendees are only coming to your church for the most part. They may not attend very often, but they aren’t going anywhere else. If you invite them to a group launch or connection event, they just might join a group.
Many pastors look at that overly bloated part of the church database and wonder why they keep all of those records anyway. Many folks don’t appear to attend much or give anything, so why not purge the database? Don’t purge the database. These folks are familiar with your church. They are more likely to attend a service or join a group than people who have never attended. Invite them to your next connection event. Use the Summer for groups to host open houses and invite infrequent attendees who live in their neighborhoods.
How Many People Actually Attend YOUR Church?
If you want to make the calculation for yourself, then you’ll need to check out Don Corder’s book, Connect: How to Grow Your Church in 28 Days—Guaranteed. In the meantime, don’t write off your infrequent attendees. They need to join groups and be discipled too.
Don’t rest on your laurels. Your connection percentage just got blown out of the water. Start thinking about turning every group member into a group leader (or every church member into a group leader). The harvest is plentiful. The workers are few.
This article on church size originally appeared here.