Church Growth Blog

Predicting Your Church's Future

Church Growth October 6, 2014

Can you imagine the captain of a ship trying to responsibly fulfill his duties without any accurate navigation data? He would surely crash! Yet this is an all too common reality for many churches.

Mathematically speaking, there are three factors and only three factors that determine whether or not your church is going to numerically grow or remain on a long attendance plateau. These three simple realities will accurately predict your attendance every year for the next five years, ad infinitum. Of course, that’s assuming that nothing changes from the present reality of how you do ministry. This is part of the heart of the matter. We have to change what we are doing if we are to ever experience the possibility of achieving consistently different results. There’s more. It’s impossible to know how much better we could be doing without reliable objective metrics on the health of our church’s key processes.

At we call these three important metrics, or measurements, your "Leading Growth Indicators." I for one am glad that there are only three things that have this level of importance. Life and ministry is so busy that I find it impossible to meaningfully concentrate on more than a few things at once. Keeping a limited focus is helpful and useful to me. This all sounds good, but there is a big problem. Most churches have no clue what two of the three leading growth indicators are for their church. This means that they lack critical accurate data to pilot their ship.

Mathematically speaking, there are three factors and only three factors that determine whether or not your church is going to numerically grow or remain on a long attendance plateau.

The hard-core reality of “information deprived churches” hit home in two very fresh ways over the past week. A pastor of a church of over 3,000 in weekend attendance called and was dismayed to tell me that they have no accurate data on their visitor retention rate. At the time I was exhibiting at a large conference in Branson, Missouri where I became involved in a conversation with a group of staff pastors from a very large church. They had just come back from their annual church staff retreat where they had spent much of their time wrestling with their church’s lack of numerical growth. It felt like déjà vu all over again for the thousandth time.

They had done their best to calculate their visitor retention rate and estimated it to be at 2.5%. That’s not good considering the national average is 8-10%. They were astounded when I shared with them that we had worked with many churches that had increased their visitor retention rates to 25% and more. Everything depends on the intentional focus of leadership. So let’s get back to identifying the three “Leading Growth Indicators” that predict the future growth rate of a church.


  1. Your Visitor Volume Rate – VVR How many are coming in the front door
  2. Your Visitor Retention Rate – VRR How many are sticking around at least for the first year.
  3. Your Back Door Rate – BDR How many are remaining as regular attendees of the church.

In part two we will talk about how to acquire this critical data and its implications for the future of the church. Let me leave you with one sobering observation. It’s impossible to responsibly administrate the church without these invaluable objective metrics.

Allen Ratta