What Are the Numbers

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Throughout the past 8 years, I have had a more vested interest in understanding and helping other leaders.  As I connect with these leaders about their ministry work, a topic that comes up often is getting an increase in event attendance.   There is a connection between the number of people who attend and how we assess success.  The more people in attendance, the more successful the event.  While this success measurement works in some industries, such as entertainment, it is not the appropriate measure in others.  For example, we do not look at the success of a school based on the number of students who attend but rather the percentage of students that graduate or move on to college.

In ministry, more often than not, we are using the wrong measurement.  We determine our success rate by the number of seats being filled versus the impact/engagement of those who are in attendance.  A mantra that I have often relied on is that I trust God to bring to an event exactly who is meant to be there, whether it be 2 or 200.  We do have a responsibility of being a good steward with our time, finances, and resources.  That responsibility affirms that we can’t just ignore the numbers but that we use the data obtained to better plan for our future events.  Numbers do matter, but how we use the numbers matters the most.

For example, you are planning for a Women’s Brunch with an expenditure of $5 per woman to cover your speaker fees, decorations, and take home favor with an expectation 200 women will attend.   Your ministry has paid $1000 into this event, yet only 20 women show up.  You have essentially “lost” $900 preparing for the event.  You could see this as a failure, and vow to never hold this event again.  Or, you learn from the data and the next time you plan an event with a lower expectation on attendance.  Instead of seeing it as a failure, it becomes a learning experience.  However, it is also important to understand the numbers by not just analyzing the data after the fact but understanding the numbers out the gate.

Regardless of the industry, there is what is referred to as the 10% rule.  The 10% rule is pretty simple.  Whatever it is you are attempting to do, your response rate will be 10%.   If you attempt to sell bikes to 100 people, 10% will actually make the purchase.  You will sell 10 bikes.  Simple concept, simple math, and one we can use to plan for our desired results in advance.  Let’s put this into perspective of a ministry event.

If you have a church of 500 adults, approximately half being women, you are starting with 250 women that you will invite to your event.  Apply the 10% rule, you can expect 25 people to show up.   Since we do know that women tend to attend events in groups or if you are holding an event that encourages the women to invite a guest, it is reasonable to plan for 50.

If you have hosted events like this in the past, you will want to consider those numbers into to your planning.  If your church has grown or shrunk in attendance, that it going to affect your numbers.  If a church of 250 women normally has 25 attendees, and since the last event has grown to 500 women in attendance… you would want to adjust your planning to accommodate that growth and plan for 50 women.  If your church has remained at a steady size, but you notice that event to event there is a 15% growth in attending your events, you will want to use your previous attendance and plan for an additional 15%.

If you notice that your events are decreasing in attendance you will want to plan for that, but also try to understand why there has been a decrease.  Church calendar too busy, too many options competing, or is the event no longer something that is interesting to your members.

Another good example would be in the introduction of Small Groups.  If you currently offer 2 Bible Study/Small Groups, you will see a large attendance in these two groups.  However, if the following fall you expand your studies and now have 10 groups meeting… you may get more people from the church at large signing up for small groups.  You may also have women that move from one of the original groups to one of the new ones, due to more convenient meeting times or interest in the study topic.

Numbers are important, somewhat predictable, and subject to shifting.  This is why the numbers alone are not enough to be the sole basis of decisions.  Analyzing the data that accompanies the numbers is the key to understanding the full story.

If you want 10 women to volunteer to serve in the church, you will need to ask 100.  If you want 10 small groups with 5 women in each group (50 women) then you need to invite 500 women.

While these numbers may seem daunting, I want to share with you the release they also bring.  If you have 200 women and 20 show up, you are doing well.  If you have 40 women, and 4 attend your event, you are doing well.  Do not be discouraged!

This is so important and a reminder why we can’t compare our ministry work and success to someone another ministry.  If your church attendance numbers are varied, if your percentage of women attending vary, then you will see a variation in your attendance number.  Don’t get caught up in it, learn from it, grow from it.

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