Impacting Church Attendance

I have often noted the importance of Sunday attendance as an indicator of a congregation’s vitality. Each week I correspond with those pastors who, according to the weekly Dashboard reports, lead churches who show the largest gain in attendance. Attendance, as a percentage of total membership, is one of the most important measurements of a congregation’s spiritual health. (Do you know your church’s AVM number? The Conference Dashboard can tell you.)

I’ve asked dozens of pastors to share with me something that they have done that may account for a sustained rise in attendance.

While I’ve earned much in these conversations, here are a few insights on how our churches are finding ways to grow participation:

  • An increase in the AVM number (attendance as percentage of membership) is a sure sign of congregational confidence in and responsiveness to pastoral leadership. Last year Bill Brunson and Wade Langer (Trussville UMC) have set specific goals for increasing their AVM number, carefully monitoring their progress each week, and they got specific results.
  • Mike Skelton (InnerChange) and Mike Edmondson (Helena) both stress the need for a culture of hospitality.
  • Mary Bendall (Tuscaloosa First) has initiated a fine program that trains greeters and hosts to begin the welcome of guest in the church parking lot.
  • Do something to show expectation and determination to grow the church. Any growing congregation is a testimonial to a pastor and a congregation who have determined to grow rather than to decline and have asked God to show them how. Calvin Havens at Friendship in the Northwest District has a congregation that has exploded with young adult growth. Calvin says that a big factor is deciding that “the church exits for those who are not here as much as it is for those who are here.”
Will Willimon

Is your congregation growing? Is its AVM increasing? You can find out exactly how well your church is doing this week by logging on to the Conference Dashboard.

2 thoughts on “Impacting Church Attendance

  1. What might it mean when AVM is scaled up? There is incredible variation in AVM among annual conferences that runs counter to the rhetoric about where the church is and isn't effective in the US. AVM percentages in 2007 ranged from 66.1 at the highest and 24.2 at the lowest. I wrote about it a year and a half ago here: that year to year might tell an interesting story.


  2. Luke,I very much enjoyed, and was surprised and challenged, by your post. I was fascinated by this, but I don’t know what to make of it. I shall be pondering this data from Annual Conferences for some time. Will


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