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An unseen reason for decline

By Sam S. Rainer III

It’s one of the most neglected metrics of church health — a hidden reason why churches decline. And it’s a major problem in the North American church: attendance frequency.

Most churches track how many people attend, but few churches know how often people are coming. People do not simply quit church one week; they phase out. They begin by attending less frequently. This issue is one of the biggest reasons why churches decline. Understandably, a plethora of spiritual reasons exist why people attend less frequently, but many churches do not even realize that people are gradually leaving the church by attending less often.

Let me share with you a basic exercise:

Church A has 400 people that come 4 out of 4 weeks (yes, I know that’s a pipe dream, but hang with me for the sake of argument). This attendance frequency means that the church averages 400 in attendance.

Church B has 400 people that come 3 out of 4 weeks (not too bad). But this attendance frequency means that the church averages 300 in attendance.

Church C has 400 people that come on average 2 out of 4 weeks (probably more realistic). They average 200 in attendance.

I’m sure that you get the point by now. Each church has 400 people that are part of the flock, but the average attendance at Church C is much less than Church A. As attendance frequency drops, the churches have drastically smaller averages, without “losing” anyone.

I am not advocating legalism — a haughty attitude that every time the church doors are open everyone must be there. But the family that once attended almost every week and now attends ten times a year is gradually leaving the church.

Attendance frequency: It’s not the most important church health metric, but it’s one that is neglected. And it’s one of the biggest reasons that churches are declining.

Sam S. Rainer III is the president of Rainer Research and senior pastor of First Baptist Church Murray, Murray, KY. [www.rainerresearch.com] [www.fbcmurray.org]

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