Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Attendance and Stewardship

This blog post is about the relationship between attendance and stewardship at Stratmoor.

In 2003, when the congregation was averaging 34 in attendance, stewardship from within the church was about $40K.

In 2011, the church is averaging about 100 in attendance; our stewardship looks like it will finish the year in the $115K or so range.

Using Algebra I a simple extrapolation from the 2003 attendance number of 34 and the corresponding $40K says we should expect given an attendance of 100 to have a total income of about $117K or so, or just a little over what we expect to achieve. 

We have done extremely well over the last seven years.  For example, we’ve been able to do without the rent from two other congregations using our building on Sundays which has given us worship versatility.  We’ve paid off the loan on our new windows.  We’ve been able to have a musician dedicated to each service.  We’ve been able to fix up the Fellowship Hall and the classrooms.   That said, we are financially still at a fragile place.  I believe our operational income needs to be in the $150K range in order for us to meet the minimum baseline requirements for our existing building and ministry expectations.

We need to continue focusing our attention on:  (1) vibrant and meaningful worship; (2) thinking missionally outside of our doors; and (3) discernment of God’s call on our lives through discipleship.  These are the three critical elements of our continued growth.  The impact of these three foci will, I believe, lead to increased attendance, more small groups, more people involved in mission, and more resources for us to reinvest in the world through the connectional church (nationally) and to reinvest locally (Food Pantry.) 

If the Algebra I extrapolation holds true for the future, I believe the path to long-term financial viability at Stratmoor rests in the continued growth in attendance.  The target attendance number for the $150K annual income level is about 130 to 135.  (That is a minimum, it should not be our ultimate goal.)  

Attendance growth naturally leads to more people participating in mission projects while at the same time growing in their discipleship.   

Monday, November 07, 2011

Vital Congregations

The United Methodist Church is taking a long, and in some cases, hard look at the slow but steady decline in numbers for the church.

Our leaders are most concerned about how a decline in membership and attendance, which has been matched or exceeded by most of what are called “The Mainlines” i.e. Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Congregationalists, Disciples of Christ, etc., impacts the viability of local churches.  I applaud the willingness of the national church to suggest there is a problem, and to organize a reasonably common approach to dealing with it.  That said, context matters, and our individual local church contexts are different locally and across the country.  Our stories are different united by a common focus.    

There are about 35,000 United Methodist (UM) churches spread across the fifty states.  There are a little fewer than eight million “members.”  However, most of us consider attendance to be the true indicator of vitality. 

A few years ago, the median for attendance (half-way down the rank ordering of all UM churches) was 65 in worship.  Our average attendance is 100 so we are about 35 over the median. 

The approach taken is that worship and involvement in the community are key elements of congregational vitality.  Think of that as if it is our body.  That is quite biblical as Paul talks in 1st Corinthians 12 as the church as a body (Greek:  soma).  We track the health of our body by looking at temperature, blood pressure, pulse, respiration, cholesterol, and other indicators.  Many of these I just listed can be modified through exercise, weight control, stress reduction, and the like.  They are medical indicators of the health of our body. 

The Vital Congregations project is using a set of five indicators as measures of the health of our churches.  They are:  Average Weekly Attendance, Professions of Faith, Small Groups, Members in Mission, and Dollars given to Mission. 

We have been asked to provide to our district superintendent, The Reverend Doctor Melanie Rosa, a picture of where we believe we will be with these health indictors at our Church Conference on December 4, 2011 (at Good Shepherd UMC in Security at 4:00 PM). She will accept our input at that conference and then "lock it".  We will be able to edit our goals over time.    

Stratmoor Hills History
Avg. Weekly Attendance
Professions of Faith
Small Groups
Members in Mission
Dollars Given to Mission
$ 11,489
$ 11,668
$ 18,658
$ 8,161
Our Last Five Years

Stratmoor Hills Future Story?
Avg. Weekly Attendance
Professions of Faith
Small Groups
Members in Mission
Dollars Given to Mission
$ 15,000
$ 17,000
$ 21,000
$ 25,000
A Potential Next Four Years?

Average Weekly Attendance is shown here as increasing by about 5% per year.  My next blog will be on the minimum number we need to get to in order to be economically viable in the minimum baseline case.  As I said, my next blog will deal with this.

Professions of Faith are new Christians.  I am showing two confirmation classes in the four years:  one in 2012 and a second one in 2014.  A person who belonged to a church in 1971 and then lapsed for 40 years is a restored by affirmation, not a profession of faith. 

Small Groups at the national level is double counting.  Three different classes with the same people in the class was shown by us in the national report as three.  Given the definition of what they want to see as a small group, that is really one.  That said, they didn’t count the choirs, our United Methodist Women (UMW), our youth, the group supporting the food pantry, etc. 

Members in Mission are those engaged in local, national or international outreach ministries.  This I think could include the UMW Tuesday morning prayer shawls, the B-Street Food Pantry, our Fox Meadow Middle School tutoring, and our Youth to Salt Lake (last year) and the Lakota tribe (this year).  They do want individuals.  This will take a little work on our end. 

Dollars given to mission is our apportionment and special offerings to the conference plus other resources we provide outside of the Methodist connection.  The rent we pay on the B-Street food pantry is clearly a dollar given to mission.  The same is true with what the UMW sends to various ministries.  We frankly overreached in this area in 2009 and we made a pretty significant retrenchment in 2010 and 2011.  The “bump” in the forecast is driven by suggesting we get to a full payment of our apportionment (we are about 80% now) in 2014.  Send me a note if this number concerns you. 

Please look over the proposal.  Again, we need to approve this as a community of faith on December 4.  I see this as a statement that we realize this body of Christ is willing to provide an assessment of our health and vitality, and that setting these goals is appropriate in our commitment to continued growth. We are showing increasing vitality on a daily, weekly, monthly and yearly basis.

Alane Sheaves has graciously said "Here I Am" and will provide the input on this (weekly) national data call come January.  The means by how we will gather this data internally is yet to be developed.  We are working on it.

I am proud to be the Pastor at Stratmoor Hills!   


Pastor Dennis