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 the number of people of any age who attended or who served as a leader in one of the following: worship/other services; church school for children, youth, or adults; and nursery care during worship. Count each person only once for a given weekend. Total all 52 weeks and divide by 52 (or the number of weeks you met) to compute an average attendance for that 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. Do not adjust for Easter Sunday or any other holiday that always falls on a Sunday—continue to count those within with your regular attendance figures.
- If you have less than six months of data, please wait until next year to submit an average attendance figure. This year enter 0 (zero).