Adjusting Attendance Expectations

When the fall arrives, church attendance usually increases. Summer vacations are over, and regular routines return.

The fall is also a natural time for new visitors. Individuals and families who have moved to town over the summer start looking for churches. Or you might see the fruit of your intentional fall kickoff/back-to-school outreach activities.

The graph is trending up! August and September are so encouraging!

And then October hits…

It is amazing how much expectations play into our mood and outlook, isn’t it?

When expectations are surpassed, we are excited. When they are not met, we are disappointed. This often holds true even if the disappointing reality is actually better than the exciting one!

You can see this in action in the world of college football. A fan base will call for the firing of their coach after a string of 10-2 seasons if the team doesn’t win any conference championships. But they will overflow with excitement after an 8-4 season with a new coach and freshman quarterback because they aren’t expected to win right away.

The same thing can happen in our ministries, and you might run into a sneaky version of it soon—if you haven’t already.

Where I live in the southeastern United States, church attendance is usually still up in October, but the trend slows or even plateaus. And this can be a cause for discouragement.

But there are logical reasons for this trend:

– The weather is changing and weekend getaways start.
– College football season has started and people are staying up late or going to games out of town.
– The people who moved to town have likely found a church by now.
– The “new season, new you” seekers are also settled in, and the next spike will be around New Years.

All of that makes complete and total sense, but we can forget about it when we look at the numbers.

Study the real numbers and history of your church and your area. Pay attention to the context of the seasons. Talk to people in your community about their rhythms and patterns.

It is not that we should lower our expectations, but we need to have realistic expectations. With realistic expectations, we can have a realistic perspective, and make realistic plans.

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