OK let’s get to the specifics on how to predict your church’s future attendance and gain a glimpse into the key processes that make a church healthy. As indicated, it all comes down to your leading growth indicators.
1. Your Visitor Volume Rate – VVR
Every church is keenly aware and has good data on this key predictive metric. At the least, they can pull stacks of visitor cards out of a drawer, sort them by week, eliminate the out of town guests and come up with an average monthly Visitor Volume Rate of prospects. Because the data is easy to get it often finds its way into staff discussions that center on the health of the church. What is the solution for a low Visitor Volume Rate?
Most proactive churches tend to think about increasing their marketing efforts. This can take various forms like expensive direct mail campaigns. A less expensive approach to church marketing may involve community events. A well-designed community event doesn’t just increase the visibility of the church in the community.
If done right it increases the reputation of the church and can create an interest for participants to attend. We learned many years ago that we could get thousands of people to attend our harvest festivals and Easter egg hunts without incenting them to actually visit the church. We learned to capture the contact information of attendees through drawings for gifts donated by local companies. This gave us our own private “fishing pond” where we could invite individuals to events where they could hear more about the gospel.
2. Your Visitor Retention Rate – VRR
Very few churches have access to this critical predictive metric of church health. Why? It’s far more difficult to get than visitor attendance numbers. Serious data monitoring and calculations are required. Yet here lies a tragic truth. Visitor retention is exactly where most churches are broken. The national average VRR is 8-10%. Why?
They have poorly designed systems, which hinders their ability to effectively and consistently connect newcomers to their congregation. Here is another BIG fact. Mathematically speaking, visitor retention has between 10 and 20 times more of an impact on a church’s future growth than visitor volume. Yet most churches invest most if not all of their local outreach dollars on increasing visitor volumes. Our research and experience of working with thousands of churches over the past 25 years indicates that most church had adequate visitor volumes to grow if only they became healthy in their visitor retention processes.
3. Your Back Door Rate – BDR
Even fewer churches have accurate measurements of their back door rate. Like visitor retention data, getting accurate back door rates requires some highly intentional data management. Churches know when key long-tem congregants leave because they leave behind key ministry vacancies and friendships. But churches tend to have no idea how many shorter-term, uninvolved congregants are leaving. This is a case where you can be profoundly hurt by what you do not know.
Many churches are hemorrhaging lost growth opportunities without any awareness of the data that would help them to get healthy and grow. This is an area where technology can greatly assist the church in its mission to grow and reach a lost world.
In part 4 we will show the shocking impacts that these Leading Growth Indicators have on the long-term health and growth of a church.