Guidelines for Counting Worship Attendance

Guidelines For Counting Worship Attendance

Arkansas Annual Conference

Year 2015


How to use metrics to measure ministry and evaluating which metrics to use is an ongoing conversation in the church at large.  Though worship patterns are shifting culturally, and worship attendance is not as reliable an indicator of church health as it once was, it is still one of the most important metrics of vitality.  However, “worship attendance” can mean various things, with multiple services, new expressions of faith communities, and internet streaming all becoming more commonplace.  While particular charges are not competing against one another, we do compare churches with regard to vitality metrics, including worship attendance. Therefore it is helpful to have guidelines so that we can have consistent measurements of attendance between churches.  Thus the Arkansas Annual Conference Cabinet encourages that these guidelines be used in counting worship attendance in the churches.  We understand that each mission field is different, and pastors will still have to make “judgment calls” with regard to counting.  But we hope these guidelines will give us a more consistent picture so we can promote and support more vital congregations.


Principal weekly services—do count

  • All services that occur on a weekend (Friday-Sunday) as part of the regular schedule of worship
  • Weekday services that occur regularly and involve an order of worship and/or a different population than is involved in weekend services. (e.g., a weeknight contemporary service or a service targeted at youth, but not a Bible study that starts with a prayer and a song or a prayer meeting that only includes prayer)
  • Children’s church and child care if not counted in the regular worship attendance (Don’t count them twice!)


Special services that may be counted in the average

  • Worship services for holy days such as, Christmas, Ash Wednesday and Holy Week extra services
  • Groups who are extensions of the ministry of the church who are worshipping away from the church on a Sunday morning (e.g., youth retreats, mission trips)


Do not count

  • Outreach services that are held by pastors or members of the church away from the church (e.g., nursing homes, homeless shelters, food pantries, football stadiums, “See you at the pole” rallies)
  • Revivals or other occasional special worship events
  • If services are cancelled or are more than 50% below average attendance because of inclement weather, leave that Sunday out of the average and do not record any number on Vital Signs. (You can note extraordinary circumstances on your Vital Signs report.)


Keep a separate count

If your church streams live services over the internet and has a way to track viewers, keep a separate count.  This is a new frontier for worship, and the Cabinet would like to study connection patterns and learn more about effective online ministry.  For the time being, continue to include online worshippers in your weekly attendance total, but by the end of 2016, after the cabinet confers with the general church to establish common measuring procedures, this policy may be altered.  It would be helpful to know the numbers who connect online, what the duration of a connection is, and how churches are following up with online viewers.


Please keep Vital Signs up to date so we can have accurate and recent metrics for each church in the conference.  Thank you!