As a pastor, you have a lot on your plate. With so many tasks and people vying for your attention, a lot can get overlooked. You have to accept that you can’t keep track of everything. But occasionally, the details you miss have a huge impact on your ministry.
Here are five things you might not know about your church, but probably should:
1. Your church and community demographics
Comparing your city’s demographics with those of your church can be incredibly helpful. The government census site has all your local income, race, and population information.
Start by considering how similar your church demographics are to those in your community. Ask yourself how your church compares to your city in areas like…
- Racial diversity
It’s not necessarily better to match your community demographics, but recognizing differences can lead you to answer important questions. For instance, are there differences because you’re intentionally reaching out to a specific group? If not, is it time to recalibrate your message and brand to focus on widening the net?
If you’re unsure about your church demographics, consider putting together an anonymous church survey.
2. Your church’s satisfaction with spiritual growth
Imagine if a non-Christian decides to attend your church. What discipleship process is in place to get them from where they are to a place of maturity? If you can’t clearly define your church’s discipleship methodology, it’s time to readdress it. Making disciples is the key to the Great Commission (Matt. 28:16–20).
If you do have a process in place, is it working? To really answer that question, you might need to go beyond the staff. What do church members think? Can they articulate the church’s process for making disciples? Are those who have committed themselves to the method happy with their own progress?
It’s helpful to see your systems through the eyes of someone other than a facilitator. Sometimes the people using the system have a much better idea of how well it’s working.
3. Your ability to assimilate new attendees
People are naturally cliquish, and churches are no different. Some churches are incredibly proficient at making new people feel at home, while others struggle. The difference between the ones who are good at assimilation and those that aren’t is typically related to their strategy.
First, you need to get a handle on how you’re doing. When visitors show up, do they feel welcomed? Do people spend time talking to them? What about after they’ve attended for awhile? Sometimes churches are really good with first-time visitors, but struggle to know what to do with people who’ve attended for a couple of months.
What is your plan to assimilate visitors, and how is it going? Is it on them to find a place to belong, or do you have a plan in place? If you have a plan, how is it going?
Pull some of your newest attendees together and have a roundtable discussion about their experiences. This will give you actionable feedback and communicate to them how serious you are about plugging new people in.
4. Your ability to get and retain visitors
How many visitors does it take to land one regular attendee? Let’s make a conservative estimate and say that for every ten visitors, one person will become a member. That means that if you wanted to grow by 100 people in one year, you need to have 1,000 visitors.
If you’re not paying attention to numbers like these, any growth will probably be an accident. You need to do your best to keep track of attendance, growth, and the number of first-time visitors. Over time, these figures will give you a lot of insight.
Once you have those numbers, consider the following figures:
- How far back do you have information on your average attendance per month?
- Compare those figures to your average monthly attendance last year.
- Based on those numbers, what is your rate of annual growth?
- How many first-time guests did you have last year?
- By dividing your growth by your number of first-time guests, you can get a sense of your visitor retention rate.
If you’re retention rate is lower than 10 percent, you need to look at how you’re welcoming and assimilating new people. Obviously, the other area you need to look at is how you’re bringing in new visitors.
In Gary McIntosh and Charles Arn’s book, What Every Pastor Should Know: 101 Indispensable Rules of Thumb for Leading Your Church, we’re told that a growing church will need more visitors each year than they have in total average attendance. So a church of 500 is going to need more than 500 new visitors a year in order to keep growing.
Keeping track of growth and attendance metrics is important for developing a workable growth strategy.
5. Your church’s giving patterns
If the most you know about your church’s finances is where you are in relation to the budget, you’re not paying close enough attention. Your church’s giving habits provide a picture of your church’s overall health. Here are some things you need to pay attention to:
- Giving concentration: How much of your church income comes from a small number of donors? It’s natural for this to be a little lopsided, but it’s worrisome if most of the giving is coming from an extremely small group. When that’s the case, your church could be a death, divorce, or lost job away from financial crisis.
- Age demographics: When you look at giving by age group, what patterns develop? Is your church being supported by a particular generation? Is it time to focus on educating other groups about the importance of sacrificial giving?
- Pastoral influence: You should be able to see a correlation between sermons or classes you’ve given and the rate of giving. What messages or teachings have had a positive impact? How can future ministry be influenced by your church’s response in the past?
Majoring on the Majors
As I said earlier, pastors already have a lot on their plate. This post isn’t intended to heap more work on you. These are some areas that are important to pay attention to, but it’s information that can be delegated. Find someone on your staff who thinks in numbers and systems, and put them in charge of monitoring some of these things. Then your leadership team can interpret the information and come up with exciting new strategies for personal and corporate growth.