It's a way to measure how many people actually attend on Sundays (or whatever day to meet), as opposed to how many people consider themselves members.
Membership numbers are helpful, and congregations and the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) have kept track of them for years. Membership numbers tell us who wishes to affiliate officially with the congregation. And members usually contribute financially to the health and mission of the congregation. But attendance numbers are important, too. It tells us who actually shows up for services or other Sunday morning activities. Some people are simply not joiners, but they attend services and contribute both financially and with their energy. Measuring attendance enables us to include these people.
Measuring attendance can help us understand whether the Sunday morning program is meeting the needs of people – members or guests. If a congregation has high membership, but low attendance, it can help the leadership of the congregation explore what that means and whether changes to the services or programs would be helpful. Similarly, if attendance is higher than membership, it could mean that needs are apparently being met, but some people haven't taken the plunge to become members. It might indicate a need to invite them to join, to not just be consumers but also engaged, voting members of the congregation. (Generally only members are entitled to vote on congregational matters.) Also, most mainline church focus on attendance, not membership. When we want to make comparisons for various reasons, it will enable the proverbial "apples to apples."
While membership in the UUA has increased over time, many believe attendance is growing faster. It would be good to know if that's true, and have the chance to explore what that means. Looking back ten years from now, having both membership and attendance numbers will be interesting and useful for individual congregations and for the UUA as a whole.
Here's how to calculate your congregation's average weekly attendance:
For more information contact data_services @ uua.org.
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Last updated on Wednesday, November 9, 2011.
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