Attendance vs Engagement — The New Metric!

Attendance vs Engagement — The New Metric!

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Is ramping up your church attendance still your top priority? Take a second to look at what Jesus says about the importance of a believer’s engagement with the Word, and you might adopt a different perspective on which metrics your church prioritizes.

Remember the parable of the sower? Jesus once spoke about a farmer who sowed seeds in various locations around his farm. Only the seeds that “fell on good soil…produced a crop – a hundred, sixty, or thirty times what was sown.”

Only those seeds the farmer nurtured by planting them in the good soil thrived. More importantly, they bore fruit, reproducing themselves many times over (Matthew 13:3-9, 18-23).

It’s all about helping Christians to understand and apply the Word, Jesus points out. In other words, member engagement.

The more you engage your church members, the more likely they’ll bring more seekers into your fellowship. Engagement, therefore, should be the new metric of success for your church. The statistics – as they always do – confirm Jesus’ wisdom on this issue.

Attendance Alone Cannot Sustain Your Church

Back in the middle of the last century, evangelical churches prioritized attendance above all else. Bus ministries, massive revivals, and Sunday School attendance campaigns characterized their emphasis on attendance.

However, therein lies the rub.

But as in the parable, when the cares of the world, the trials, the tribulations – and the rise of secularism came onto the scene at the beginning of the 21st century, people began to leave in droves, as Carey Nieuwhof points out.

A 2021 Pew study revealed that from 2007 to 2021, those who identified as “Christian” dropped from 78% to 63% – a significant number. And, despite people’s need for spiritual comfort during the COVID-19 pandemic, only one out of three people regularly attended church services.

Despite the easing of the pandemic, regular church attendance continued to drop to a dismal 28% of the US population by 2021, according to a study by the Institute for Family Studies. That number continues to decline, with every-week attendance at a paltry 20% in 2022.

But instead of heeding Jesus’ warning, some pastors went into panic mode, feeling pressure to keep their numbers up. As in first-century Christianity, though, attendance only shows a fraction of your church’s impact on your community and your members themselves.

Using Church Engagement as Your Top Metric Gives You the Whole Picture

As in the parable of the sower, member engagement brings a wealth of value to your community, your church, and your members. And, if the Biblical analogy holds true, we would contend this value will eventually spread to people all over the world.

Engagement Builds Member Loyalty

Think of your church members as customers – and you’ll soon see how critical it is to provide them with a stellar experience. Too often, we pastors and church leaders forget the servant-leader aspect of our roles. When we see ourselves as servants, we’re more likely to do what brings value to those we serve.

Forty-nine percent of customers who left a brand to which they have been loyal over the past 12 months say that they left because they had a poor experience, as an Emplifi survey showed. The same study revealed that 63% of the respondents would likely leave a brand if they had such an experience.

Even a single bad experience is enough to spur someone to leave your brand – in this case, your church. As a Zendesk survey showed, 52 percent of customers will switch to another provider after one negative experience.

But there’s a positive side to building loyalty.

Eighty-one percent of consumers are seeking to build a relationship with brands they consider doing business with, according to Finances Online. Feeling like your organization sees their need and values them as a person goes a long way toward building that relationship.

The same report revealed that another 81% would make purchasing decisions based on their trust in any given brand. Building trust through positive experiences is certain to drive engagement, especially in your newer members.

Engagement Communicates Your Impact on the Community and Its People

If you want to communicate the value your church can provide to prospective members, you need to show the impact you make on both your members and the surrounding community. As Nieuwhof points out, “Even among people who say they love the church and who say they love your church, if declining attendance is an issue, chances are it’s because they don’t see a direct benefit.”

So, it pays to nurture your members and encourage them to participate in community-wide outreach. Their enthusiasm will no doubt carry over to the community, attracting new members and inspiring your longtime loyalists.

When you focus on engagement, you can better gauge the impact your church ministries make on your members and the community. And, you’ll be more likely to build the kind of rapport with your members that assures continued loyalty.

Measuring Engagement Gives You a Hand on the Pulse of Your Church

Being able to measure where and when your members are engaging with your ministry is a fantastic way to tell where your congregation’s hearts lie. When you compare engagement to a basic attendance number that can only tell you that they appeared in the church building, it’s like comparing a seed you spill to one planted in fertile ground.

When you measure various engagement metrics, such as volunteering to participate in a ministry, committing to tithe, or taking part in short- or long-term missions, you can know which ministries need more attention to attract participants.

For example, if your church’s soup kitchen is bursting with donations and participants, but your Next Steps class is struggling to attract attendees, you can invest more time in finding what is hindering people from signing up.

On a more personal level, measuring each member’s engagement metrics allows you to identify people who might need an extra boost to help them avoid roadblocks on their discipleship journey. Armed with that information, you can send highly personalized messages that provide them with that boost.

Combine Measurement with Messaging to Drive Engagement

Having leading-edge data management capabilities gives you all the information you need to assess the health of your ministries and the spiritual condition of your members. But if you’re a large church, you likely don’t have the personnel to visit each member personally or attend all the meetings of your various ministries.

So, how can you drive engagement among your members? With a church messaging platform that can use your member data to direct hyper-relevant messages to each member, you can provide your congregation with a personalized touch, no matter how large you grow.

The StudioC can help you meet your members where they are along their discipleship journeys, allowing you to get to know them on a deeper level, even without in-person visits. And, with our Next Steps program, you can give your members a little nudge to encourage them to take the next step on their discipleship journey.

Helping your members see the value at every touchpoint where they engage with your congregation will give them those kinds of experiences that will have them not only participating but, more importantly, telling others how much they love your church. Start growing your church organically with The StudioC. Connect with our team today!

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