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What is Average Weekly Attendance?

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:

  • Gather attendance figures for all 52 Sundays, as follows. If you hold services for only part of the year, gather attendance figures for the Sundays you meet.
  • Congregations with alternatives to Sunday morning worship should include unduplicated attendance at these services in their weekly count. In the following directions, interpret "Sunday" to include these other services as well.
  • For each Sunday, count every person of every age who is in any part of the building – members, visitors, teachers, staff members, leaders, everyone – during all your worship and other services. Don't worry about double counting, as when a person teaches at one service and attends worship at a second service.
  • Total all 52 weeks and divide by 52 to compute an average for the year. (Adjust this if you meet only part of the year).
  • You can use any continuous 52-week period as a year; it doesn't have to be a calendar year or your fiscal year.
  • If you have special holiday services that would tend to skew attendance figures when they fall on Sunday or Saturday evening (e.g., primary Christmas service), eliminate that Sunday and count twice the attendees for the following Sunday. Don't adjust for Easter Sunday or any other holiday that always falls on a Sunday – continue to count those within with your regular attendance figures.

For more information contact data_services @ uua.org.

This work is made possible by the generosity of individual donors and congregations. Please consider making a donation today.

Last updated on Wednesday, November 9, 2011.

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