Any good shepherd has one priority that takes precedence over all others.
No, it’s not giving all the sheep cute little ribbons so they look like the sheep from Little Bo Peep, or training them to jump over fences to help people fall asleep.
It’s keeping track of the sheep.
Church leaders are a lot like shepherds, and church attendance tracking is a lot like shepherding.
How can you properly lead your congregation if you don’t know what’s going on with your congregation? In other words, how can your properly lead your congregation without the right church attendance software? As a matter of fact, what the heck is church attendance software, anyway?
What is church attendance software?
Unless you’re planning on hiring a volunteer to sit by the door or roam the floor every week with pen and paper, you’ll want to set up church attendance tracking through your computer system. And if you are planning on hiring a volunteer to sit by the door, you should reconsider how you’re using your manpower.
According to By the Book, basic church attendance software:
- Records attendance for service and other groups
- Runs reports to identify trends
- And keeps a history of church attendance
Many church management software packages include some form of attendance tracking. In fact, of the 200+ products listed on Capterra’s church management directory, almost 70 feature attendance tracking AND have earned a rating of four stars or better.
Church attendance tracking also works hand-in-hand with check-in, group management, volunteer management, directories, and donation tracking. When you have all these systems working in unison, you have your finger on the pulse of your church. For example, a church leader who has an effective ChMS set up with these features can come in on a Monday morning and immediately gauge the overall wellbeing of their church.
Why use church attendance software?
Is the average age of your church 27, or 77? Has your church lost 20 regular members in the last six months? Has Ms. Trebelhorn, who has attended Sunday morning service every week since 1988, stopped showing up because her ‘81 Dodge Diplomat finally broke down and she’s been too embarrassed to ask for a ride?
Church attendance software can help answer all of those questions.
Declining attendance is just a symptom that something is wrong, but at least it is somewhere to start. Maybe the overall population in your city has been on a steady decline, or maybe a possum just died in the ventilation system and people have been staying away due to the smell.
The first issue might take decades to figure out, the latter might just require a call to the exterminator. The important part is knowing whether or not you have a problem in the first place.
Extreme Measures for Boosting Church Attendance
If your church is small, everyone has a pretty good idea who is there and who isn’t each week. But the larger a church gets, the more difficult it becomes to keep track of attendance without some help.
Patricia Lotich, founder of Smart Church Management, recalled the struggle of getting an accurate headcount using the “One, Two, Buckle My Shoe” technique.
“The church auditorium had around 1,500 seats in it … you might just finish your count and someone walks in late or you have a difficult time counting heads because they all seem to blend together. We all struggled with coming up with accurate numbers and knew that what we were reporting was a best guess.”
In the year 2017, we can do much better than a “best guess.”
How does church attendance software work?
The main problem with estimating attendance is that the data is unreliable for planning.
Church consultant Thom Rainer found that churches which attempted to estimate attendance inflated their numbers by more than 30%.
“Thus a church with an estimated attendance of 200 would really have an attendance of 140,” he wrote. “Other churches conduct an actual count only one time, but then used that number to represent the average throughout the year.”
If the church in question decided to do a headcount on Easter Sunday or Christmas Eve, then average those numbers out for the rest of the year, you can see how the numbers would be skewed.
Church attendance software does require some cooperation from your congregation.
To get accurate information, people will have to voluntarily sign in.
Better yet, some churches have started to integrate attendance tracking with their mobile app, simplifying the process.
ChurchMetrics, for example, is a free app that allows tracking of attendance, donations, volunteers, and even custom fields.
The nice thing is that once someone is in your directory, all of their information will already be included for future visits.
Once you’ve done the work of pulling the data, the church attendance software can really go to work for you.
Crunching the Numbers
Church attendance software can take the numbers and demographics of your church population and slice and dice them to produce powerful reports that would take many hours of manpower via traditional methods.
For example, say you want to see how total attendance in May compared to total attendance in June? Church attendance software can do that. Or, say you want to see which service is most popular for families as opposed to individual members? Church attendance software can also do that.
Tracking Visitors in Realm, a ChMS
The more you know
Some people say church leaders should spend more time leading their congregation than getting bogged down by numbers and worrying about how popular their church is.
Why It’s Important to Track Church Data
But the bottom line is church leaders can be more effective shepherds if they know where their followers are. Church attendance software can also take a lot of the busy work out of church attendance tracking, allowing leaders to glean valuable information about their church while having more time to focus on leading.
Church attendance tracking is a basic feature in many church management software packages. Which one has worked best for you? Please leave a review and let us know!
Looking for Church Management software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Church Management software solutions.