The Ultimate Guide To Measuring Church Growth (Calculate Your Church’s Score…)

13 Minute Read

If church growth is your goal – you’re in the right place.

This guide will help you do two things:

  • Determine the best way to measure church growth
  • Calculate your precise church growth score

Consider this:

You and I are living through the biggest communication shift in 500 years.

Now, more than ever, we need accurate ways to evaluate our churches.

Otherwise, we’re putting our churches in vulnerable spots.

These are the new rules for church growth.

Let’s dive in.

Free Bonus: Click here to download The Church Growth Calculator Spreadsheet – a ready-to-go spreadsheet calculator for accurately tracking & measuring church growth

The 3 objectives of every church

The first rule for measuring church growth begins with a question:

What is my church really trying to accomplish?

Before we can calculate your church growth score – we first need to answer this question.

So don’t skip this part.

Every Christ-following church exists to help people: love God, love others, and make disciples

Here’s the bottom line…

Every church’s reason for existence can be distilled down to three simple phrases:

  1. Love God
  2. Love people
  3. Make disciples

Where does this come from? Directly from Jesus.

Because it’s from The Great Commission1 and The Greatest Commandments2 that our churches find their purpose.

And sure, we may phrase it differently, but at its core, every Christ-following church exists to help people: love God, love others, and make disciples.

But that’s just part of the story…

9 church attendance statistics you need to know

For many churches, Sunday service attendance is the church growth metric we care most about.

But here’s the deal:

Church attendance – as a measurement tool – is problematic.

Think of it like your body weight when you step on a scale.

The number tends to fluctuate – seemingly, without any good reason. And on its own, the number itself won’t indicate if you’re in good health or even if you’re making progress.

To make a point, here are 9 church attendance statistics you need to know:

  1. In a 2005 study of annual church attendance that included 200,000 American churches (evangelical, Catholic, and mainline), it was revealed only 23-25% of Americans show up to church at least 3 out of every 8 Sundays3
  2. 46% of churchgoers attend a church of 100 or fewer4
  3. Just 8% of churchgoers attend a church of 1,000 or more5
  4. Only 2 in 10 Millennials believe church attendance is important6
  5. 59% of Millennials who grew up in the church have dropped out at some point7
  6. 50% of all churches in America average less than 100 in worship attendance8
  7. 40% of all churches in America average between 100 and 350 in attendance9
  8. 10% of all churches in America average more than 350 in attendance10
  9. If present trends continue, the percentage of the population that attends church in 2050 is estimated to be at almost half of 1990’s attendance — a drop from 20.4 percent to 11.7 percent11

What do these statistics mean for you and your church?

Here are my key takeaways:

  • Most churches are small: 90% of American churches average 350 people or fewer in weekly attendance
  • Most churchgoers prefer small churches: Despite the visibility of megachurches, churchgoers seem to prefer smaller-sized congregations – less than 1 in 10 churchgoers attend congregations with average attendance of 1,000 or more
  • Overall church attendance is declining: We’re living through the biggest communication shift in 500 years – every industry is being disrupted and our churches are not immune
  • Young people value church attendance at historically low rates: Millennials are currently the largest generation in the Canadian11 and American12 workforce – and Gen Z is right behind them

And we don’t stop there…

Every Christ-following church exists to help people: love God, love others, and make disciples. This is your north star.

Every Christ-following church exists to help people: love God, love others, and make disciples. This is your north star.

The 2 reasons church attendance is a terrible way to measure church growth

Remember:

Every Christ-following church exists to help people: love God, love others, and make disciples.

This is your north star. ☝️ This is your church’s purpose. ☝️

But here’s the problem…church attendance is a really, really bad way of evaluating this.

Here are 2 reasons why.

Reason #1: Church Attendance Only Tracks External Growth

Consider this:

There are two ways of growing your church…

  1. Internal Growth: Your existing congregation grows in their ability to love God, love others, and make disciples
  2. External Growth: New people join your congregation and grow in their ability to love God, love others, and make disciples

Church attendance only cares about external growth though. Church attendance will only tell you if MORE people are attending your Sunday service this year compared to last year.

In no way can church attendance offer any insight into internal growth at your church.

Are the people already attending your church becoming more like Jesus? Church attendance doesn’t care.

Reason #2: Church Attendance Overvalues The 1-Hour Live Event

Remember when watching movies meant renting DVDs? Remember when taking photos required a camera?

It wasn’t that long ago.

You and I are living through the single biggest communication shift since the printing press – and it’s just getting started.

Think about it this way:

Your week has 168 hours. If Sunday service is just 1 hour – how is your church reaching people in the other 167?

Because here’s the good news…

Thanks to the internet, you have the unprecedented ability to reach your congregation AND community in the 167 hours beyond your Sunday service.

I like to say it this way: Seize The 167.

Church attendance is universally declining? No worries! I don’t need to demand people come to me. I can go to them.

(thank you, internet)

How would your church accomplish its mission if your in-person Sunday service didn’t exist?

Here’s a fascinating thought exercise:

How would your church accomplish its mission if your in-person Sunday service didn’t exist?

Consider these parallels (and cautionary tales):

  • Toys R’ Us: How would we sell toys if our physical retail spaces didn’t exist?
  • Sears: How would we sell appliances if our physical retail spaces didn’t exist?
  • Blockbuster: How would we rent movies if our physical retail spaces didn’t exist?

None of these retailers were able to answer that question. Now, they’re facing extinction (or are already extinct).

What does this mean for you?

In decades past, your church was forced to rely on in-person Sunday service attendance. Otherwise, how else could you reach your congregation and community?

That world is gone though.

Sure, in-person weekly services still matter, but church attendance – as a metric – drastically overvalues them.

Church attendance only cares about 1 hour each week. It ignores the other 167 hours entirely.

Free Bonus: Click here to download The Church Growth Calculator Spreadsheet – a ready-to-go spreadsheet calculator for accurately tracking & measuring church growth

The new rules for measuring church growth

By now, I hope it’s clear to you why church attendance is a problematic way of measuring church growth and health.

On the other hand:

I’m not suggesting you stop tracking church attendance. It should be included in how you measure church growth. But it can’t be everything.

Want to know the best part?

There IS a more holistic and more accurate way of measuring church growth.

Even better, there is a precise method for measuring church growth month after month.

You see, measuring church growth requires the following three variables:

  1. The What
  2. The How
  3. The Metric

Here’s what I mean…

The Old Way Of Measuring Church Growth

To make a point, the illustration below demonstrates how churches have traditionally measured growth:

  1. The What: Love God. Love people. Make disciples – The mission of every church can be contained within these three objectives. This is why we do what we do. This part never changes.
  2. The How: 1-Hour Sunday Service – Churches invest the majority of their time, money, and resources into a weekly live event. If you’re like most churches, the hope of accomplishing your mission hinges primarily on this service.
  3. The Metric: Church Attendance – The metric of church attendance is what we care about most. Why? Because the Sunday service is seen as our best chance for accomplishing the mission. Thus, the more people attending services the better!
The Old Way Of Measuring Church Growth

The Old Way Of Measuring Church Growth

As it turns out, using church attendance as the primary measuring stick for church growth actually makes sense in light of this illustration!

Why?

Simply stated, our fixation with church attendance exists thanks to our obsession with the Sunday service.

Here’s the bottom line:

Most churches believe the best way to accomplish their mission is through their Sunday service. And frankly, this made sense in decades past. But again, we’re living through the biggest communication shift in 500 years. Church attendance is declining across the board. To overly rely on a weekend service to accomplish your church’s mission means putting your church in a vulnerable position.

The New Rules For Measuring Church Growth

Remember…

Every church’s reason for existence can be distilled down to three simple phrases:

  1. Love God
  2. Love people
  3. Make disciples

Now:

I really want you to pay attention to each of those three objectives: love God, love people, and make disciples.

Do you see how each of these objectives begins? Each begins with a verb.

And to go back to fourth-grade English class, a verb is an action word. It requires you to actually do something.

This makes sense, right? You can’t love God passively. You can’t love people passively. And you definitely can’t make disciples passively – each of these objectives demands action.

And I don’t know about you, but I want a church full of active participants – not a church of passive spectators taking up space.

This is why everything you and I do in our churches boils down to just two words – our church’s mission, vision, events, promotions, everything we do – it all can be summed up in these two words: NEXT STEPS.

Everything you and I do in our churches boils down to two words: next steps

Truthfully, if you take away anything from this guide – if you remember anything at all – these are the two words to commit to memory: NEXT STEPS.

Because without next steps, your church cannot accomplish its mission. Without next steps, all you have is a congregation of passive spectators.

Wondering what this means for your church? Here’s the new paradigm for measuring church growth:

  1. The What: Love God. Love people. Make disciples – The mission of every church can be contained within these three objectives. This is why we do what we do. This part never changes.
  2. The How: Seize The 167 – Your week has 168 hours. If Sunday service is just 1 hour – how is your church reaching people in the other 167? We’re living through the biggest communication shift in 500 years and it’s just getting started.
  3. The Metric: Next Steps – I want a church full of active participants – not passive spectators. Next steps measures church activity and involvement all week long…not simply sitting in a pew on Sunday morning.
The New Rules For Measuring Church Growth

The New Rules For Measuring Church Growth

Look:

The old rules for measuring church growth are too narrow. They focus too much on one thing…the Sunday service.

The new rules for measuring church growth aim to be holistic. They’re inclusive of everything your church is doing. Not only that, but the new rules track both internal growth AND external growth.

Is church attendance a next step? Absolutely! But it’s just one type of next step a person in your church or outside your church can take.

Now, you might be wondering…

What actually is a “next step?”

The 17 ‘next steps’ your church needs to be tracking

Simply stated, a “next step” is any action a person takes towards loving God, loving people, and making disciples.

Because that’s what really matters, right?

In my experience, there are at least 17 different next steps almost every church should be tracking.

Here they are:

  1. Sign up to volunteer: Joining the volunteer team at your church for the first time
  2. Volunteer at service: Serving in any capacity (greeter, worship band, usher, etc.) at a weekend service
  3. Volunteer at non-service event: Serving in any capacity (cook, building maintenance, student ministry volunteer, etc.) beyond a weekend service
  4. Sign up for small group: Registering to join a small group
  5. Attend small group: Being present at a small group gathering
  6. Baptism: Partaking in the sacrament of baptism
  7. Join mailing list: Signing up to receive your church’s email-based communications
  8. Follow on social media: Signing up to receive your church’s social-based communications (Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, etc.)
  9. Go on mission/service trip: Embarking upon a mission trip either locally or internationally
  10. Sign up for event: Registering for an upcoming event
  11. Attend non-service event: Being present a church-hosted event that is not a worship service (men’s cookout, fall festival, finance class, etc.)
  12. Attend weekend service: Being present at a church service hosted on the weekend
  13. Attend mid-week service: Being present a church service hosted during the week
  14. Submit prayer request: Requesting prayer from the church through a digital/physical request
  15. Fill out & return visitor cardSharing personal information through a digital/physical card when a person is new at your church
  16. Fill out & return other card: Sharing personal information through a digital/physical card when a person is an existing member of your church
  17. Giving & Tithing: Making a monetary donation to your church

Keep in mind, these 17 types of next steps are just a baseline. Every church is unique. You should expand upon this list to include next steps that aren’t covered.

Of course, now that we’ve set the new rules for measuring church growth – we can get to the fun stuff.

Ready to calculate your unique church growth score?

Calculate your church growth score

Calculating your church growth score is a simple 3-step process. I recommend you do it every month. 

By measuring your church growth score every month, you’ll be able to accurately and consistently track your ups and downs throughout the year. This is especially helpful for evaluating what’s working and what’s not.

If your score spikes or drops in a given month, you can use that data to pinpoint the cause of it. This will allow you to double-down on what’s working while moving on from what isn’t.

Here’s how it works…

Step #1: Create your next steps master list

The first step to calculating your church growth score is to build a master list of possible next steps at your church.

Using the list above as a baseline, take inventory of every event, ministry, and operation that occurs within your church.

Step #1: Create a master list of every next step at your church

Step #1: Create a master list of every next step at your church

Step #2: Assign a point value (1-10) to each next step in your list

Look:

Not all next steps are made equal.

Following your church on Instagram is less meaningful than being baptized.

Knowing this, you’ll want to weigh each next step in your master list differently based on its significance to both your church and the individual.

Go through your master list of next steps and assign a value from 1 to 10 to each next step on your list.

In the graphic below, you’ll see an example of how a pastor from a church of 100 scored each next step – just to give you an idea of how this can be done.

NOTE: Make sure to put some thought into this. Changing your value rankings frequently isn’t recommended because it can skew your church growth score on a month-to-month basis.

Step #2: Assign a number value of 1 through 10 to each of the next steps on your master list

Step #3: Track next steps on a weekly basis to calculate your total score

Finally, now that you’ve created your master list of next steps AND assigned a number value to each based on importance, the last step in the process is simply to track the number of actions being taken for each next step.

I recommend tracking next steps on a weekly basis (more on that in a moment).

Determining what actually counts as a next step is also important.

Here’s how we quantify each next step on our master list:

  1. Sign up to volunteer: The number of people that registered to be volunteers for the first time in a given week (track this using Nucleus)
  2. Volunteer at service: The number of people that volunteered at all services combined in a given week (track this using Planning Center)
  3. Volunteer at non-service event: The number of people that volunteered at all non-service events combined in a given week (track this using Planning Center)
  4. Sign up for small group: The number of people that registered to join a small group in a given week (track this using Nucleus)
  5. Attend small group: The number of people that attended all small groups combined in a given week (track this manually)
  6. Baptism: The number of people that were baptized in a given week (track this manually)
  7. Join mailing list: The number of people that joined your mailing list in a given week (track this using MailChimp)
  8. Follow on social media: The number of new followers your church receives in a given week across all social platforms (track this using the native analytics tools for each individual social platform)
  9. Go on mission/service trip: The number of people who went on a mission/service trip in a given week (track this manually)
  10. Sign up for event: The number of people who signed up for any church event combined in a given week (track this using Nucleus)
  11. Attend non-service event: The number of people who attended any non-service event combined in a given week (track this manually)
  12. Attend weekend service: The number of people who attended any weekend service combined in a given week (track this manually)
  13. Attend mid-week service: The number of people who attended any mid-week service combined in a given week (track this manually)
  14. Submit prayer request: The number of individual prayer requests submitted in a given week (track this using Nucleus/manually)
  15. Fill out & return visitor card: The number of individual cards submitted by new people in a given week (track this using Nucleus/manually)
  16. Fill out & return other card: The number of individual cards submitted by existing members of your congregation in a given week (track this using Nucleus/manually)
  17. Giving & Tithing: The number of individual gifts made to the church in a given week (track this using your giving platform)

Here’s the good news about tracking next steps:

In most instances, you can do it digitally and automatically using a ChMS tool like Planning Center or a church website builder that tracks next steps like Nucleus.

For a select number of next steps though – especially attendance – you’ll likely need to track them manually.

Plug all of your next steps numbers into a spreadsheet and here’s what it would look like:

The Church Growth Spreadsheet Calculator [SAMPLE]

The Church Growth Spreadsheet Calculator [SAMPLE]

Download The Church Growth Calculator Spreadsheet for free

In my experience, the best way to track your church growth score is using an automated spreadsheet.

It makes things considerably easier.

Want to know the best part?

I’ve actually created a spreadsheet for this exact purpose and it’s completely free to download. I call it – The Church Growth Calculator Spreadsheet.

It even comes with a video tutorial that shows you how to use it and customize it for your church’s needs.

Just click below to download it.

Free Bonus: Click here to download The Church Growth Calculator Spreadsheet – a ready-to-go spreadsheet calculator for accurately tracking & measuring church growth

Summary

You and I are living through the biggest communication shift in 500 years. 

Now, more than ever, we need accurate ways of evaluating our churches.

Otherwise, we’re putting our churches in vulnerable spots.

To accurately and holistically measure church growth, we need to look beyond church attendance and our weekend services. Church is so much more than just a Sunday morning. The way we measure church growth should reflect that truth.

The best way to measure church growth? Next steps.

I don’t know about you, but I want a church full of active participants, continually moving towards loving God, loving others, and making disciples. Without next steps, your church cannot accomplish this mission.

Use The Church Growth Calculator Spreadsheet to measure your church growth score. And then continually track your score month after month to see how your church is growing.

If your score spikes or drops in a given month, use that data to pinpoint the cause of it. This will allow you to double-down on what’s working while moving on from what isn’t.

Here’s to greater church growth!

Free Bonus: Click here to download The Church Growth Calculator Spreadsheet – a ready-to-go spreadsheet calculator for accurately tracking & measuring church growth