These 18 Numbers Indicate the Health of Your Church

What kind of fruit is your church bearing?
What kind of fruit is your church bearing? (Flickr )

Whether you've thought it or not, your church has an evaluation system.

Every service is evaluated by every attendee. They talk about it afterward in the lobby. They share their impressions between friends.

If it's really good, others hear about it. If it's really bad, even more "others" hear about it. We can't help ourselves; we are made in the image of a God who has evaluated everything He's ever made.

In Genesis 1, we find God giving Himself a grade every day. In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said: "Even so, every good tree bears good fruit. But a corrupt tree bears evil fruit. A good tree cannot bear evil fruit, nor can a corrupt tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore, by their fruit you will know them" (Matt. 7:17-20).

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We're not supposed to judge the people around us, but we are supposed to evaluate the fruit we are producing.

During Jesus' talk with His disciples in the Upper Room, Jesus said, "I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that bears no fruit, He takes away. And every branch that bears fruit, He prunes, that it may bear more fruit" (John 15:1-2).

A good farmer inspects his vines for fruit. Then he takes action to enable them to bear more fruit.

Two Ways to Measure

There are two ways to measure the health of an organization. One is by quality; the other, by quantity. Quality measures tend to be subjective. They rely on taste, perception, anecdote and intuition. Quantity measures tend to be more objective. They rely on numbers. Numbers need to be interpreted, but they tell a story, and that story is usually very accurate. Healthy churches measure both ways.

Healthy churches evaluate by both quality and quantity.

Let's look at quantitative data this week. Next week I'll give you great questions to ask when doing qualitative evaluations.

The Importance of Numbers

When I go to my doctor, he measures things in numbers: my weight, blood pressure, heart rate, cholesterol, triglycerides, etc. These numbers tell him a lot about me. I can argue with the numbers, but they don't lie. If my blood pressure is too high, that's a sign of bad health. Likewise, we now know enough about what a healthy church looks like to be able to tell a lot about a church from its numbers.

Here are 18 indicators you may want to pay attention to:

1. Your number of first-time guests. To maintain your current size, you'll need three first-time guests each week for every 100 regular attendees. To grow, you'll need to average five first-time guests per week. What's your number?

2. Your percentage of return guests. The average church sees 6 to 10 percent of their first-time guests return for a second visit, 25 percent of their second-time guests return for a third visit, and 35 percent of their third-time guests become regular attendees. What are your numbers?

3. Percentage of guests who stick. Average churches see 6-10 percent of their first timers become regular attendees. Outstanding churches see as many as 30 percent become regulars. What's your number?

Note: these three numbers are indicators of the health of your Assimilation System. I've written about how to improve your assimilation system in Ebook #1: Keeping Your Guests Coming Back.

4. Number of first-time decisions for Christ. Only the Holy Spirit knows for sure whether a person who indicates a first-time decision for Christ represents fruit that will remain. But charting this statistic is your most important measure of fruitfulness. Jesus said to go and make disciples, and a disciple starts with a decision to follow. How many adults, teens and children made that decision in your church last year? How many did your church help led to Christ outside your church (on missions trips and evangelistic ventures) last year? Compare this year's number to prior year's numbers and you'll be able to see if you are becoming a more fruitful church.

5. Number of baptisms. Baptism is a step of obedience as well as a public declaration of faith. A healthy ratio for your church is to baptize about one for every three who make a public profession.

If you'd like help improving your Outreach System, I've written about it in Ebook #2: Attracting More Newcomers.

6. Number of churches planted. Healthy things reproduce, and they reproduce after their own kind. Dogs reproduce dogs, people reproduce people and churches reproduce churches. Healthy churches intentionally participate in church planting. Sometimes they send out a group to plant. Other times they assist and partner with another church that's sending out a group to plant. Healthy families usually give birth every two or three years. So do healthy churches. Aggressively healthy churches try to plant or support the planting of a new church every year. How many churches have you planted or partnered in planting in the last 10 years?

7. Total giving. This is a measure of the maturity and generosity of your church, and the key indicator of how much ministry you will be able to do.

8. Total number of givers.
It's useful to compare this number to your total attendance. Tracking your ratio of givers to attenders year by year will objectify your church's financial maturity.

9. Total number of tithers. Your city and county websites will tell you the average per household income for your area. Or, you can use the baseline poverty level income if you like. The important thing is to make a baseline guess at what a tithe looks like for a member of your church. Is it $6,000 per year? $4,000 per year? $2,500 per year? Once you set that number (and it can be somewhat arbitrary), then you can measure your number of and percentage of tithing units and monitor them year by year. If the number or percentage is increasing, your church is maturing in generosity. If you percentage of tithers is decreasing, your either attracting a growing number of newcomers, or diminishing in generosity.

10. Weekly per-capita giving. Your per-capita giving will vary season-to season. At New Song, we see a decrease during the fall, when many newcomers begin checking us out. As these people commit to the fellowship and begin to grow, our per-capita giving rises. You may see an increase at Christmas, as salesmen receive their year-end bonuses. We see an increase during tax season, as our believers tithe on their tax returns.

11. Budget breakdown. Generally, healthy churches spent a little over 50 percent of their budget on staffing, 10 percent on missions and church planting, 10 percent on local outreach, and 30 percent on operations and facilities. This varies, of course, with the age of the church and whether it's got a mortgage or not. Your church's budget will reflect its values, but it's helpful to compare your budget breakdown to other healthy churches.

If you'd like help with increasing the generosity of your church, I've written about it in Ebook #3: Developing Generous Givers.

12. Percentage of new believers being discipled. I believe the most important 20 minutes in a person's life are the first 20 minutes after they express faith in Christ. Just as the health of every newborn depends on attention from nurses and parents, the health of every baby believer depends on the attention of spiritual parents and disciplers. An important number to monitor is: "How many of our new believers are being followed up?"

13. Number of people taking spiritual steps. New Song's system for spiritual growth is called, "Next Steps." Habits such as a daily quiet time and weekly worship attendance help people grow in Christ. Relationships such as a mentor or disciple, and fellow Small Group members are critical for growth. We believe that "The more steps you take, the more progress you make."

If you'd like help with this kind of process, I've written about it in Ebook 4: Growing Spiritual People.

14. Number of volunteers. Part of God's will is that every believer serves according to this or her spiritual gifts (1 Pet. 4:10). There's a rule of thumb in church growth circles that says churches with 57 percent or more of their attendees actively volunteering in the church usually means that the church is growing.

15. Number of leaders. In 1906, an Italian economist named Vilfredo Pareto observed the 80 percent of the land in Italy was owned by 20 percent of the people. He went on to discover that this 80/20 principle was almost universal. It's a good principle to know. 80 percent of just about everything in your church is done by 20 percent of the people. So one key to growing your church is to increase those in that 20 percent range. A church of 100 will have about 20 leaders. A church of 1,000 will have about 200 leaders. In order to grow, you're going to need to increase the number of these 20 percenters. For help with this system, go to Ebook 5: Placing and Keeping Great Volunteers.

16. Weekly worship attendance. Evaluating your weekly worship services is mostly a subjective (qualitative) evaluation. I'll give you some suggestions for that in my next post. But, monitoring your weekly attendance tells you a lot about how often your members are coming, how many guests are joining and how many regulars are exiting.

Because attendance varies by season, it's prudent to compare this week's attendance to this week of last year's attendance. We find it helpful to chart New Song's attendance using a seven-week moving average. We graph it on a year-by-year basis to compare peaks and valleys. What does your graph look like?

For help with improving your worship services, I've written Ebook #6: Putting on and Pulling off Meaningful Worship Services.

17. Number of small groups. A rule of thumb is that you need one small group in your church for every 10 weekend attendees. What is your ratio of groups to attendees?

18. Percentage of adults in small groups. Healthy churches have at least 40-50 percent of their adult attendance in some form of Small Group. Great churches have upwards of 80 percent of their adults in Small Groups. If your church has adult Sunday School classes with fewer than 25 members, or your classes break into Small Groups during Sunday School, those count as well.

For help with this you might want to read Ebook #7:Becoming the Most Caring Church in Your City.

The Work Is Worth It

At New Song, it took us years to create the systems that enable us to collect, monitor and evaluate all of these bits of objective data. If you can't get to them all this year, start with the ones that seem most important to you. A good tool to help you track all of these is churchmetrics. You can download a free copy of their software at

This post is an excerpt from Hal's latest ebook: Ebook #8: Evaluating Your Church to Make It Better. You can access it and other practical tools at

Hal's mentoring cohort starts this month and will run through May 2016.  Learn how you can participate in the Monthly PastorMentor mentoring cohort.

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