Know Your Numbers

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Estimated reading time: 5 min

“You can argue with the numbers, but they don’t lie.”

There are two ways to measure the health of an organization. One is by quality; the other, by quantity. Quality measures tend to be subjective. They rely on taste, perception, anecdote and intuition. Quantity measures tend to be more objective. They rely on numbers. Numbers need to be interpreted, but they tell a story, and that story is usually very accurate. Healthy churches measure both ways.

When you go to a doctor, he measures things in numbers: your weight, blood pressure, heart rate, cholesterol, triglycerides, etc. These numbers tell him a lot about you. You can argue with the numbers, but they don’t lie. If your blood pressure is too high, that’s a sign of bad health. Likewise, we now know enough about what a healthy church looks like to be able to tell a lot about a church from its numbers. Here are eighteen indicators you may want to pay attention to.

1. Your Number of First Time Guests.

To maintain your current size, you’ll need three first-time guests each week for every hundred regular attenders. To grow, you’ll need to average five first-time guests per week. What’s your number?

2. Your Percentage of Return Guests.

The average church sees 6 to 10% of their first-time guests return for a second visit, 25% of their second-time guests return for a third visit, and 35% of their third-time guests become regular attenders. What are your numbers?

3. Percentage of Guests who Stick.

Average churches see 6-10% of their first timers become regular attenders. Outstanding churches see as many as 30% become regulars. What’s your number?

Note: these three numbers are indicators of the health of your Integration System.

4. Number of First Time Decisions for Christ.

Only the Holy Spirit knows for sure whether a person who indicates a first time decision for Christ represents fruit that will remain. But charting this statistic is your most important measure of fruitfulness.

Jesus said to go and make disciples, and a disciple starts with a decision to follow. How many adults, teens and children made that decision in your church last year? How many did your church help led to Christ outside your church (on missions trips and evangelistic ventures) last year? Compare this year’s number to prior year’s numbers and you’ll be able to see if you are becoming a more fruitful church.

5. Number of Baptisms.

Baptism is a step of obedience as well as a public declaration of faith. A healthy ratio for your church is to baptize about one for every three who make a public profession.

6. Number of Churches Planted.

Healthy things reproduce, and they reproduce after their own kind. Dogs reproduce dogs, people reproduce people, and churches reproduce churches.

Healthy churches intentionally participate in church planting. Sometimes they send out a group to plant. Other times they assist and partner with another church that’s sending out a group to plant. Healthy families usually give birth every two or three years. So do healthy churches. Aggressively healthy churches try to plant or support the planting of a new church every year.

How many churches have you planted or partnered in planting in the last ten years?

7. Total Giving.

This is a measure of the maturity and generosity of your church, and the key indicator of how much ministry you will be able to do.

8. Total Number of Givers.

It’s useful to compare this number to your total attendance. Tracking your ratio of givers to attenders year by year will objectify your church’s financial maturity.

Your city and county websites will tell you the average per household income for your area. Or, you can use the baseline poverty level income if you like. The important thing is to make a baseline guess at what a tithe looks like for a member of your church. Is it $6,000 per year? $4,000 per year? $2,500 per year?

Once you set that number (and it can be somewhat arbitrary), then you can measure your number of and percentage of tithing units and monitor them year by year.

If the number or percentage is increasing, your church is maturing in generosity. If you percentage of tithers is decreasing, your either attracting a growing number of newcomers, or diminishing in generosity.

10. Weekly Per-capita Giving.

Your weekly per-capita giving will vary season-to season. You may see an increase at Christmas, when most people receive their year-end bonuses or during tax season, as our believers tithe on their tax returns. Also as converts become committed to the fellowship and begin to grow, your per-capita giving rises.

11. Budget Breakdown.

Generally, healthy churches spent a little over 50% of their budget on staffing, 10% on missions and church planting, 10% on local outreach, and 30% on operations and facilities. This varies, of course, with the age of the church and whether it’s got a mortgage or not. Your church’s budget will reflect its values, but it’s helpful to compare your budget breakdown to other healthy churches.

12. Percentage of New Believers Being Discipled.

I believe the most important twenty minutes in a person’s life are the first twenty minutes after they express faith in Christ. Just as the health of every newborn depends on attention from nurses and parents, the health of every baby believer depends on the attention of spiritual parents and disciplers.

An important number to monitor is, “How many of our new believers are being followed up?”

13. Number of People Taking Spiritual Steps.

Habits such as a daily quiet time and weekly worship attendance help people grow in Christ. Relationships such as a mentor or disciple, and belonging to a Small Group are critical for growth. We believe that theevery member should belong to a small group. Keep track of the attendance to small groups and compare that to your total membership.

14. Number of Volunteers.

Part of God’s will is that every believer serve according to their spiritual gifts (1 Peter 4:10). There’s a rule of thumb in church growth circles that says churches with 57% or more of their attenders actively volunteering in the church usually means that the church will growing as let people leave since they feel rooted.

15. Number of Leaders.

In 1906, an Italian economist named Vilfredo Pareto observed the 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the people. He went on to discover that this 80/20 principle was almost universal. It’s a good principle to know. 80% of just about everything in your church is done by 20% of the people. So one key to growing your church is to increase these “20%ers.” A church of 100 will have about 20 leaders. A church of 1,000 will have about 200 leaders. In order to grow, you’re going to need to increase the number of these 20%ers.

16. Weekly Worship Attendance.

Evaluating your weekly worship services is mostly a subjective (qualitative) evaluation. I’ll give you some suggestions for that in my next post. But, monitoring your weekly attendance tells you a lot about how often your members are coming, how many guests are joining, and how many regulars are exiting.

Because attendance varies by season, it’s prudent to compare this week’s attendance to this week last year’s attendance. Try to graph it on a year-by-year basis to compare peaks and valleys. What does your graph look like?

17. Number of Small Groups.

A rule of thumb is that you need one small group in your church for every ten weekend attenders. What is your ratio of groups to attendees?

18. Percentage of Adults in Small Groups.

Healthy churches have at least 40-50% of their adult attendance in some form of Small Group. Great churches have upwards of 80% of their adults in Small Groups. The highest percentage I’ve heard of is Saddleback Church, which has 130% of their adult attendance in small groups.

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