By Aaron Buer
I don’t remember much about the first church I attended.
It was the early 80s and I was just a kid. I couldn’t tell you much about the people or the sermons that were preached. Actually, the main thing I remember is an old wooden sign hanging up that showed attendance and giving numbers.
I know it’s weird, but I was always fascinated by the attendance statistics on this board. Fast forward 30ish years (I’m not telling you how many years exactly!), and I’m still fascinated by attendance data, although the ministry I lead doesn’t put them on a wooden board.
Here’s why I’m still captivated by attendance data.
I use attendance data as I plan ministry events, programs and calendars. The numbers are incredibly helpful because they don’t lie.
Last year, we were in a season of evaluation. We were evaluating the effectiveness of a long-standing program in our ministry. There was passionate debate among my staff on both sides of the decision.
Without accurate attendance numbers, which showed a decline in attendance over the last few years, I would have been forced to make a decision based on opinions. I find accurate attendance statistics to be incredibly helpful as I plan.
One thing I’ve learned over the last year is that accurate attendance data helps project.
Over the last few years, our church has moved from exploring the idea of a new campus to purchasing property and moving forward on a new campus.
One of the key pieces of data for this decision has been giving projections. Based on accurate attendance and giving data, we’ve been able to project how large of a financial burden our church can withstand because we’ve been able to accurately project.
Even if your ministry role isn’t in finances, projections based on accurate attendance data are still helpful. How many classrooms or small group leaders will you need next year?
It is possible to accurately project, based on attendance patterns, rather than guessing.
Liability has become more and more of a concern for ministry leaders, particularly for those of us who serve children or teenagers. Keeping accurate attendance data and storing that data can help protect our kids, volunteers and our ministries.
For example, recording and then storing data on who was in a room with what kids, on what dates, and at what times can help protect your children, volunteers and church.
Additionally, generating name tags for children when they check in with a corresponding tag for parents boosts security by helping to ensure that only authorized people can pick up a child.
This kind of attendance data and check in functionality can limit liability.
In our ministry, we’ve gone as far as to record and keep data on when small group leaders meet students one-on-one. Accurate data can help protect your ministry.
In our ministry, we’ve developed three lists based on attendance that help us prevent students from slipping out of our ministry. We call these lists the 4-week list, the 9-week list and the 13-week list…not terribly creative, I know.
Here’s how we use them:
4 Week List
If a student has not attended for 4 weeks in a row, we notify the small group leader and ask the leader where the student has been. We also require the leader to contact the student and invite them back.
Taking action based on this list helps us prevent kids from falling through the cracks, and it helps remind our leaders how important pursuing students really is.
9 Week List
If a student has not attended for 9 weeks in a row, we contact the parents of the student to see if there is a reason the student has not been attending and if there is anything we can do.
Taking action based on this list often helps us identify problems that we need to address. For example, maybe the leader did not do a good job of pursuing the student or, perhaps the parents switched churches for a reason our leadership should know about.
13 Week List
If a student has not attended for 13 weeks in a row, we consider them inactive and make a change in a database.
Taking action based on this list helps us keep our active roster accurate.
The nice thing about these lists is that they are created automatically by our database. Our team receives automatically generated reminder emails and the action steps are simple.
Functionality like this can be generated from certain church management software applications. Or users can manually run a report to access this information.
Let’s wrap this up. The numbers are fascinating! There are so many ways in which accurate data can help us make better decisions.
These four examples are the tip of the iceberg. How have you found accurate data to be helpful to your leadership decisions?
Aaron Buer is the student pastor at Ada Bible Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He is also a blog writer for Breeze, web-based church management software for small and mid-sized churches, www.breezechms.com.