Our first winter in Utah a couple from Pleasant Acres Church came out to help Grayson and me with outreach. Brian and I were knocking doors, and talking about what I’d learned so far, when he asked if I set weekly goals for meeting people and getting them to come to church. I didn’t—I just worked hard and hoped for a big crowd. Drawing from his experience as a recruiter, Brian pointed out the importance of realistic numerical goals and how to go about setting them. With a little adaptation, I implemented this process immediately and have been using it for nearly a year. It’s simple and if your church (or Sunday schools class, youth group, etc.) doesn’t already have a process for setting numerical goals, I recommend you try it.
If you don’t keep attendance records, the first step is to start. You’ll need at least four previous weeks’ numbers to begin. Once you have them, average those four numbers together and add one. That’s your goal for this week. For example, if your numbers were 5, 4, 5, and 2, the average is 4. Adding 1, this Sunday you would pray to have 5. (I’m using single digits both for simplicity and accurate portrayal of the situation here.) Of course there will be times you’ll have to do some rounding. If the average is 4.25, the goal would still be 5; if it was 4.75, the goal would be 6.
On special days such as Christmas or Easter you will doubtlessly have a higher than average attendance. I don’t use that number in setting my goal. For example, at our first baby dedication service—a very special service—and we had 34 people in attendance. That’s high for us at this point. So in setting the next week’s goal, instead of averaging 34 (attendance at the baby dedication), 8, 6, and 8 (the other three previous weeks), I averaged 8, 6, 8, and 7 (the fourth previous week).
Lord willing, your average will grow over time. The plus 1 will become plus 2, plus 5, and so on. When our average here is regularly in the teens, I think I’ll begin to add 2.
Now one of the first things I do after church on Sunday is set next week’s attendance goal. I’m not one to set such goals for the sake of it. There are a number of benefits to entering a new week with a concrete number in mind. My goal this Sunday is 11. That number keeps my outreach a bit more individual-oriented. Yes, we do mass mailings and knock hundreds of doors, reaching out to thousands of people we don’t know. But I do know 11 people and I can find time this week to spend with at least of few of them personally. Along that same line, it allows me to pray more specifically. I continue to pray for the city as a whole, but I want to make sure I call out those individuals’ names that I’ve had recent contact with, who could make up 11. It also saves money. Early on I kept buying refreshments for two dozen people when our average was less than seven. Having that goal helps me not only anticipate the amount of food to buy but also the amount of non-reusable print materials to make up. Finally, it minimizes discouragement. I always try to go into church expectantly. God may one day pack the place out and save every one there! But if I know we’ve only averaged enough lately to set our goal at 11, I won’t be overly disappointed if that doesn’t happen this Sunday. (But it could.)
Do you have a process for setting attendance goals? Have you tried this method before? How has it worked for you?