Businesses conduct market research because it’s important to understand consumers who might buy their product. Churches don’t actually “sell” a product the way business do, but we do provide ministries to meet peoples’ needs—spiritual, material, emotional and more. And understanding more about the who, what, when and where of ministry can open new doors for meeting the needs around us.
Research helps you know precisely where your church is at this moment. It helps you answer important questions about the people who populate your church:
- What is the age breakdown in your church?
- How many families with children are there?
- Is the average age of your church on the rise? Or is it falling?
- What specific needs do people have?
- How can the church meet them?
Questions like these tell you who your church has reached in the past and who you are reaching now. It indicates that you’re doing a good job ministering to many people in your church and community. But you might discover that something—or someone—is being missed.
An internal situation analysis is comprised of numerical data measuring various church health indicators over a defined period (usually 5, 10 or 15 years). The numbers show where growth is occuring (and needs are being met), where there’s room for improvement and where church health is indicated (or not). An internal situation analysis can include traditional measures and data such as:
- Morning Worship Service – Sample Data
- Campuses Average Attendance
- Traditional | Blended | Contemporary Services Average Attendance
- Additions – Sample Data
- Baptisms – Sample Data
- Annual Total | Under Age 6 | Ages 6-8 | Ages 9-11 | Ages 12-17 | Ages 18-29 | Ages 30-59 | Age 60 and Over
- Groups – Sample Data
- Annual Average | Unique Weekly Groups Attendance
- Sunday Groups | Home Groups Attendance
- Preschool | Children | Students Average Attendance
- College | Young Adult (22-39) | Median Adult (40-59) | Senior Adult (60+) Average Attendance
- Age Divisions
- Children’s Summer Outreach (VBS or Backyard Kids Clubs)
- Student D-Now | Summer Camp Attendance
- Women’s Ministry | Men’s Ministry Group or Event Attendance
- Missions Mobilization
- Local Ministries Participation | Global Missions Participation
- Worship Ministry
- Praise Band | Orchestra Average Attendance
- Vocal Team | Choir Average Attendance
- Tech | Media | Production Volunteers
- Total Membership – Sample Data
- Total Members | Resident Members
- Total Receipts | Missions Giving | Capital Campaign Giving
- Per Capita Giving (total receipts divided by average Sunday School or morning worship service attendance)
There may be other measures that better represent your specific church or quantify your ministry paradigm. The point is this: compile data and gather information on the journey your church has traveled and where it is right now. Map the trend lines over a period of 10 or 15 years so you can visualize areas of strength and areas of opportunity.
Assessment & Analysis
Once you’ve compiled the data, it is time for assessment and analysis:
- What does the data indicate?
- What describes the state of the church? Growing? Plateaued? Declining?
- Does the church show signs of health?
- How many people were baptized each year?
- What is the baptism ratio (average worship attendance divided by number of baptisms)? On average, how many church members did it take to baptize one person? Does this number seem unreasonably high?
- What are the age-graded average attendance patterns in Sunday School or small groups?
- What is the attendance pattern in average morning worship attendance?
- And many other possible questions…
Analysis may take some time and effort. If may also require a brainstorming session of your ministry staff team and other church leaders. Pray over the results of your research. Examine the numerical data closely and stay true to what it tells you about your current situation.