Hello, this is Jon with Project Thrive with Belmont University. I want to talk with you today about attendance.

One of the questions that is often asked is, “Why is attendance down?” There are a number of reasons for that. The first reason has to do with the American workforce. It’s estimated that between 29-30% of the American workforce works on Sunday. That’s going to impact your attendance number.

The second reason has to do with competition. Churches now face greater competition for Sunday time and energy than any other time before. There are shopping opportunities; there are sports leagues; there are online worship opportunities – and all of that keeps people out of the building.

A third reason has to do with the pandemic itself. It’s estimated that about a third of those that came to church before the pandemic are not coming back. There are some reasons for that. Some are still worried about COVID. Many are still fearful of the threat of being infected while at church and are not ready to come back. Then some are sort of angry at the church. Some felt like the church was not proactive enough at social distancing and mask wearing and are angry about that. Some are on the other end of the spectrum and felt like their church was too cautious and wanted to be back to in-person worship sooner than they were.

And some have just gotten comfortable with online worship. It’s easy to say those people are lazy and should be back in church. But the truth is many have found an intimate, non-threatening worship experience while being in the comfort of their home. And so, for them, it fits into their life better than being in person.

So how do we frame a conversation around attendance – is there a different way of looking at that? One thing is to count online worshippers. Whether your church is using Facebook Live or some other medium, it’s important to consider how many people are actually watching. Some churches have discovered there are more people worshipping from home than in person, so we need to learn how to count the online worshippers.

Another thing to consider is how many are watching throughout the week. In terms of web visits, are you able to count the number of people who are logging on to watch your worship service who maybe aren’t watching on Sunday morning. That number could be significant.

A third thing to consider is counting attendance month-to-month rather than week-to-week. When I was growing up, a regular church attender was every single Sunday. Those days are gone! Now, someone who is faithful is worship is there two times a month. So think about counting attendance month-to-month. How many individuals – distinct individuals – are in your house of worship over the course of the month rather than the course of a week?

This is challenging, so let’s all get in this together!

God bless you in your work as you continue in your ministry!