If you attended the Annual Conference Session earlier in June at Ball State University, you heard lots of statistics and numbers thrown around. Many good reports contained good news about our numbers, financially and otherwise.
One number in particular which I want to applaud is our “percentage of worship attendance compared to our membership.” That number represents the average worship attendance divided into our membership – and thus it means “On any given Sunday/weekend of worship, how many of our members are present?” Obviously worship attendance also includes some visitors, and some of our members are traveling and attending worship elsewhere, so it is not a perfect statistic. But I believe it is an important one.
The Indiana Conference now ranks 4th in terms of worship attendance of all the Annual Conferences in the United States, with an average of 119,800 in attendance; we also rank 10th in membership with a total of 201,497 members at year-end 2010, and we rank 1st in attendance percentage with 59.45 percent.
So, we are number one among the Annual Conferences in the U.S. in terms of attendance percentage.
It is nice to be number one in anything, and this is a statistic which is especially important as a measurement of vitality and faithfulness. Let me put that in local church terms: If a church has 400 members and 200 are in worship attendance on average, that is clearly a stronger sign of vitality than if only 100 of those 400 members are in worship attendance. The Indiana Conference statistics are a sum total of all our congregations and their statistics, so having an attendance percentage of nearly 60 percent says to me that we have a lot of vital congregations with faithful members and friends who attend worship regularly.
How does your local church measure up? Do you consistently have over half of your membership in attendance? Is the trend for that percentage going up? How can you encourage your members and friends to be more faithful and consistent in attendance? I know it is summer and people are traveling, but do you encourage your members to attend worship elsewhere while they are on the road?
If worship is an essential part of the life of any congregation (and I believe it is), then let’s keep encouraging one another to be faithful in attending worship. Hebrews 10:24-25 puts in this way in these two different versions:
Let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (NRSV)
Let's see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, not avoiding worshiping together as some do, but spurring each other on, especially as we see the big Day approaching. (THE MESSAGE)