The Big Questions: How Many Will Come Back (Part 4 of 4)
by Rebecca Burtram
In this four-week series I have been addressing some of the biggest questions I had leading up to the launch of Redemption Church Charlottesville (Easter 2016).
- How do you raise enough money to plant a church?
- How do you build a team?
- How many people will show up to the launch?
- How many people will come back after the launch?
This week’s question, “How many people will come back after the launch?” will probably be your biggest question of all. We all want to know if our churches will be viable and impactful. There are so many factors, but I will do my best to help you navigate the statistics and experiences of others to get a general sense of what you can expect.
Question 4: How many people will come back after the launch?
What the Statistics Say:
According to both the Church Multiplication Network and ARC, most churches see a 50% attrition rate in the weeks following the launch.
This can sound scary at first, but it makes a lot of sense when you pick the numbers apart. Looking at the groupings from my post on how many will show up to the launch, you can get a sense of who will also come back.
Your launch team will stay, but, for obvious reasons, your friends and family from out of town will not. People who come based on a personal invite are more likely to come back than those who have come from a mailer, Facebook ad, or Google ad.
It is always good to remember that statistics are not a hard and fast rule. Your church may only see 10-25% attrition, or your church might see 75% attrition. The 50% rate is a guide, but there are always outliers.
What We Have Experienced:
We launched with 125 on Easter Sunday this year. We had 76 our second week, and it seems that no matter how many guests visit on a Sunday or how many guests return we have about 75 every Sunday.
Our lowest attendance was on Memorial Day (63), our highest number (besides launch) was the following Sunday (83). All of our other Sundays have been in the 70s.
There are a ton of resources out there on how to connect people to the church. Here are a few things we have trained our team to do:
- Greet guests as soon as they are on the church grounds.
- Offer coffee, pastries, fruit, etc. Coffee and tea are easy conversation starters.
- Make conversation while guests fill out basic contact information at the “New Families” check-in station.
- Make a point to speak directly to parents, not just their children, as kids are being dropped off.
- Make as much effort to speak with guests after service as you do before service.
Our goal is to help our guests have the opportunity to connect with as many people as possible throughout their visit to the church.
While giving out t-shirts and coffee mugs I ask guests about their jobs and their children. I make a point to introduce them immediately to someone else in the church community that has a similar career or interest. Of course, there will always be guests who do not engage beyond the initial "hello," and that is just a fact I've had to get used to.
After guests turn in a connect card they receive three emails from us. One is a welcome email with two links: The first to a survey about their experience, and the second to a form that gives us more contact information (our connect card only asks for their name and email).
We run RCC Connect (a slightly modified version of Growth Track) in our home twice a month on Sunday evenings. The second and third emails are invitations to these events, and they are sent out the Monday or Tuesday prior to the event itself.
Of those who committed enough to fill out a connect card during their visit, we have had an 80-90% return rate. They may not all have made RCC their church home, but they have come back at least one other time. Of those who have participated in RCC Connect, 100% have become active team members or regular attendees.
Although it may sound as though it is all about the systems, it isn’t. Our systems are in place to remove as many barriers as possible for people to able to connect to God. We want our church atmosphere to be a reflection of God’s love. We attempt to serve with excellence and authenticity so that people can experience God without feeling out of place or alone.
We also pray over our services, our team, and those we know God is drawing. We do our part, and we watch in wonder as God shows up again and again in the individual lives that come through the doors.
What Others Have Experienced:
I have been part of several Facebook groups for church planters, and the experiences discussed there have convinced me there is no way to know what you will get from week to week.
The most common numbers I have seen for churches that have launched in the past 6 months have been in the range between 50 and 100. Some planters have 90 one week and 45 the next. Others, like Redemption Church, have been sitting at almost exactly 75 weekly. I have maybe seen one planter post about sitting slightly above 100 in this early phase, and I have see another who is in the 40's.
My brother and his wife planted Two Rivers Church three years ago in Binghamton, New York. They launched in February with 303 people, and they saw 187 week two and 170 week three. Their low was 134 during that first summer. They now run around 230 to 250 on a weekly basis.
I know there are churches who have immediately had in the 200's and beyond, and I know there are churches that have struggled to break into the 50's. Whether you end up in the high end or the low end, your church will be impactful. Even one changed life is worth it all.
Beyond the Numbers:
One night I was contemplating our numbers and feeling a little miffed by our inability to break out of the 70's these past three months, but then I read a post on Facebook by a woman named Kristi. She wrote a beautiful post about how connecting to the church changed her life. I immediately understood the importance of the numbers and the importance that reaches far beyond the numbers. You can read Kristi’s story here: “Tonight, She is the Most Important Number.” Her story is why we plant churches and why we care about the numbers.
I cannot tell you the exact numbers you will see God bring into your church. I can tell you what work you will see Him do. You will see lives changed by the power of the Holy Spirit; you will see hearts connect to a heavenly father; and you will know that every single person that walks through the doors of your building is more than just a number.
Rebecca Burtram and her husband, Jonathan, are church-planting pastors at Redemption Church in Charlottesville, VA. They have been married for 13 years, and they are the parents of three children, ages 12, 10, and 8.
Rebecca graduated with top honors from Evangel University with a B.A. in Spanish Education and English. She also holds an English M.A. from the State University of New York at Cortland. Presently, she teaches Spanish at Albemarle High School, but her dream is to make writing and speaking her full time career. She blogs at rebeccaburtram.com and writes a weekly post for tworiversblog.com.
If you would like to write for the CMN Wives Blog, contact Rebecca at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are always looking for new contributors.