Is your church attendance down? Here are three reasons church attending has changed.
I don’t know about you, but I walked away from our fall launch weekend asking, “What is going on?” I feel confused about how people are attending church.
For perspective, our in-person attendance is down about 30% from our fall launch weekend in 2019, but our overall attendance—including online church–is actually way up. What are people doing!?!
I wonder if you’re asking similar questions or perhaps you have some clarity to provide. Either way, I’m noticing and reading about some trends that I thought I would share. Also, I have a theory that I’d love to bounce off of you. So, here are three trends and a theory.
It’s no secret that people are attending church online more often than they used to. I’m not sure how you feel about that.
You might have an issue with the word “attending,” or you might consider online church a perfectly legitimate church experience. The question is, what do you do about all the people watching church online?
Personally, I believe the best experience of church is the physical gathering of believers. However, I understand that as my congregation watches online more often, one of the benefits is engagement.
Ten years ago, when someone was on vacation or a work trip they just missed church. Now, they can stay engaged from their cottage or hotel room. There are some benefits to online church.
Whether you are a fan of online church or not, people have developed new habits. Habits are hard to break and guilt usually isn’t a primary motivator for breaking an old habit and starting a new one.
If you want to motivate your people away from online church and toward physically gathering, you will need a compelling vision. So, what’s your vision?
According to research, people are physically attending church less often. Pre-COVID, my church’s surveys showed that people attended 3.8 times a month. Now, it feels like that number might be below two times a month.
Again, people are often watching online on the weekends when they aren’t in the building, but the change in physical attendance has an impact. For example, in the past our staffing models were based on physical attendance.
I’m not sure that same formula will work today. As you think about next year’s budget, will your staffing ratios be tied to physical attendance?
Recently, I read a great article by Barna on church attendance. Their research is showing that church attenders—millennials in particular–are doing a lot of church hopping. This makes sense to me because during the pandemic, many people watched other churches online and developed new habits and patterns.
Also, our culture is an on-demand culture that is more about convenience and options than loyalty. People have chosen different churches for different purposes in their lives—sometimes multiple churches at the same time. I prefer this church’s worship, but that church’s preaching, and also I attend a small group at this other church.
We’ve experienced a bit of this in my church. Some people have left our church’s weekend services but still attend a small group.
Like I said, I’m fairly confused about what is going on with church attendance. I think it’s going to take us a while to figure out what is happening and what to do about it.
Now, about my theory. Here’s what I’m thinking.
65% is the new 80%.
First off, I didn’t come up with this theory; one of our key leaders first floated this idea in a staff meeting.
Here’s the theory: What if 65% is the new 80%?
Before COVID, it was standard practice to consider an auditorium functionally full at 80% of seating capacity. By this I mean that if you walk into a church service and the auditorium is 80% full, it feels full and there aren’t any open seats.
Traditionally, church growth experts would tell you that when your auditorium hits 80% capacity, you need to expand by adding a service, video venue, or new campus. Why? Because when a room feels full, people are less likely to invite friends and are less likely to show up.
I think the game has changed. Because of what we all experienced through COVID, 80% full feels REALLY uncomfortable and 65% full feels…well, full. In other words, what used to feel full now feels crazy and what used to feel like half a room now feels full. As I said, this is a theory. I don’t know if it is true but it feels like reality to me.
Here’s why this is important. If your worship space is 65-70% full, it feels like there is energy and you are in good shape, but what if, in this new post-COVID reality, you are actually at your capacity ceiling? What if you need to add a service or a venue or something else?
This is one of the reasons we are exploring a growth strategy that includes mini-campuses, smaller environments within our campuses, micro sites and other smaller options. It feels like people’s gathering behavior has changed and we are trying to figure out what this means for the future of our church.
I’d love your input on this theory. If your worship service is at 80-90% capacity and you think I’m out to lunch, I’d love to hear from you. If your worship service is at 60-70% capacity and you’re thinking my theory makes sense, I’d love to hear from you too. Feel free to email me: firstname.lastname@example.org with your feedback.
In the meantime, here we are, mostly confused about church attendance. However, I know one thing–we still have the same mission: to lead people into a relationship with God and His church. At least that is constant and compelling.
Get updates on tips for church management, happenings at Breeze, free resources for your church and more.
Breeze has been incredible. Their customer service, commitment to innovation, and their product are top-notch. I love the features, the ease of use and the mobile applications.Try a demo of Breeze for yourself!
All of our database needs have been more than met, it's easier to use than the last database we had, and the price is amazing - what a value this has been to our church! All of our staff can use this software and they do regularly. We use it to track…literally anything a church could possibly need to track regarding it's attenders.Try a demo of Breeze for yourself!
Breeze has been a great asset to our church and congregation. Especially from an administrative standpoint, it has been the most adaptable and easiest church database I have ever used. The features from blast emails to giving on-line, and texting have been one of our greatest assets. Thank you!Try a demo of Breeze for yourself!
We switched from a major, web-based ChMS to Breeze and our decision is confirmed every day. We are a medium size church and we use Breeze for contributions, member management, event checkin and a few other applications custom to our church. I had trouble getting any staff to use our previous ChMS but almost all staff are using Breeze. The product is very well designed, extremely easy to learn and use and customer service is incredible.Try a demo of Breeze for yourself!
Breeze has opened the communication highway for our congregation and staff, with very little training. Because members can update their own records and search easily for other members - and map their locations, send emails and text right from Breeze, they love it and our data is more real-time accurate. Our ministries are stronger, because they can trust the data in Breeze, which is easily accessed anywhere, anytime.Try a demo of Breeze for yourself!
Breeze is the first ChMS my volunteers have actually embraced. That's because it's so easy to use. The software is very flexible and gives us the opportunity to make decisions based on actual data we've collected and not just hunches or stories we believe to be true.Try a demo of Breeze for yourself!
I cannot say enough about Breeze. Their customer service is so friendly, you feel like you have friends and family helping you get started, they're prompt to reply and will do whatever they can to help you get things sorted out. It's been so easy to learn, our staff is loving it and best of all even our staff who are not computer savvy find it a breeze (pun intended). We are just thrilled by our choice.Try a demo of Breeze for yourself!
From the start of our process looking for an online solution, Breeze has exceeded all our expectations. Fast data import, fast and friendly customer support, and we can’t say enough about how much we like the program itself. Very well designed and user friendly. On a scale of 1-10, Breeze gets a 15 from us!Try a demo of Breeze for yourself!