Last week I posted about the numbers we track at Impact! Church. In the article I mentioned that we track the total worship attendance numbers, but don’t really put them on our Celebration Boards because they are not relevant to the culture of Impact! Church. Needless to say I received a BUNCH of online correspondence asking to go into detail about why total worship attendance is not relevant to us. Here goes…
These days Impact! Church is predominately made up of the homeless, addicted or developmentally-challenged. Many have no transportation, money, homes or steady jobs. This presents obstacles for attending a worship service at Impact! Church. Obviously those that are addicted may be passed out or in jail when Sunday morning rolls around. Our city is pretty hard on the homeless and have crazy laws pertaining to sleeping outdoors. There have been Sundays where 15% of our regular attenders are in jail because they trespassed by sleeping on the sidewalk. Local day-labor jobs are available on Sundays. Many of our attenders have to take temp jobs when they can – which are many times during our worship services. Another church in the area may be feeding breakfast or lunch for free. When this happens many of our folks go there for the one Sunday just to get food. Welfare payments go out at the first of the month. Quite a few of our folks use some of the money to take a bus to see family for the weekend. Our Sunday attendance always dips the first two weeks of the month. When it rains those that walk have trouble getting to church. I wish we had a bus to pick them up in – but we don’t (anybody wanna donate a school bus?) – so there are Sundays when we don’t have enough cars to pick everyone up. Finally. healthcare in America is a joke – particularly if you are impoverished. When one person in “the hood” gets a cold or the flu – EVERYBODY in “the hood” gets it. We have actually seen a virus knock out 35% of our Sunday attendance at times.
On the other side of the coin it is easy to jack up the Sunday attendance in the Parker Street neighborhood. Food is the calling card. You make or give away food and you have people coming out of the woodwork. Impact! Church could literally triple our Sunday attendance by making up a mess of ribs (in the South it’s a mess of ribs…not a rack of ribs). It would be too easy to manipulate the numbers – people showing up without an authentic, meaningful relationship with Impact! Church.
It is for these reasons that attendance is not a measuring stick for us. It doesn’t mean that it isn’t – or shouldn’t be – a measuring stick for other churches. Our culture is different from most churches so we had to go back to the drawing board when it came to metrics and defining the wins. At Impact! Church we understand our culture well – that Sunday worship attendance will always be sporadic because of the people that attend our church and the outside influences that determine their ability to attend. For that reason we’ve come to understand that the ongoing relationship of discipleship and serving people is much more relevant to measure – and celebrate – at Impact! Church than worship attendance.
The moral of this story? Church leaders – know your unique church’s culture and define your measurements by it.