By David Thoroughman
I was recently talking with a pastor at a multisite church about the stagnant growth he was experiencing at one particular campus. The church (in general) is experiencing great attendance and giving growth across many of their campuses, with only a couple that were lagging. After asking a series of questions and learning about the ministry, I asked him: “What is your retention rate of your givers?”
In all honesty, he had never seen the value of measuring retention. We proceeded to have a great dialog on the subject, the main points of which I summarize in what follows in order to share the basic idea and the value of measuring retention across a church’s constituency base. I also suggest an idea below to help you measure your church’s retention.
At MortarStone, we think of retention as an efficiency index. The higher the retention rate, the quicker and more efficient you grow. For example, every church has a “front door” and a “back door.” No matter how many people you have coming in the front door, if people are leaving just as quickly out the back door, you won’t see any net growth. The concept of measuring new people and comparing that number to those who were attending or stopped giving is a measurement of retention.
A Sample of Donor Retention and its Effect on Income
From 2013 to 2015 the church in this example lost givers and their giving (where the red bars are larger than the blue bars in the chart on the left; note the corresponding income loss in the chart on the right). In 2015 to 2016 that trend reversed with greater attendance growth and giving growth.
So, why is retention important? For starters, the process of retaining your givers is a measurement of your assimilation process. If people are plugged-in then it is safe to assume they will keep coming back.
The bottom line, churches that are intentional about engaging, stewarding and assimilating their people grow more efficiently.
Translation: High Retention = High Growth
To put retention in the context of a business, healthy (and profitable) businesses are those that retain their customers. Businesses invest heavily in attracting new customers, and it’s vital they return. The church’s business is reaching, leading and growing disciples. If you are seeing new faces, that is great and worthy of celebration. However, if the “old faces” are not sticking around that can be an indicator of a problem that needs to be addressed.
That is why there is great value for church leadership in knowing your retention rate across various segments of your attenders.
Developing and analyzing such metrics takes time and resources, but this is where Leadership Network and MortarStone can help. For starters, we have a free report titled How Can Big Data Increase Generosity in Your Church? 13 Vital Benchmarks to Assess Giving Potential, that will show you what the norm is based on $1.5 Billion of personal church giving. But MortarStone can take you one step further: for a limited time, MortarStone is providing Leadership Network readers an “Easy Button” to purchase a full health assessment of your church for $299.
This assessment uses your church’s data, and will help you to unlock the potential giving of your congregation.
In closing, I think it is fair to say double-digit, year-over-year church growth is something we all desire. Our calling as pastors is to see our churches grow in people and generosity. Whether you are a church planting model or multisite strategy church, growth is healthy and the greater the growth, the greater the impact our ministries will have on our communities.
David is the co-founder of MortarStone, a data analytics company located in Reno, NV. His mission is to resource the church by way of its leadership with actionable internal and external data insights. David enjoys thoughtful discussion on the ethical and practical use of data to reach, teach and grow along a discipleship and leadership continuum. MortarStone serves thousands of church leaders nationally, tracking billions of dollars, for the benefit of spreading the gospel through local and para-church ministries. David is an avid snow skier and married to his high school sweetheart (and prom date), Melissa. He and his wife are blessed to share their lives as parents to their nine-year old daughter, Madison and their four legged son, Sebastian.