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Metrics That Matter – 8

Before we put a final bow on this series of blogs where we’ve reviewed some of the better church health metrics, there one that’s likely the easiest to calculate, but the most challenging to improve–the church’s adult average age calculation

8. Average age – Adults

How young is our congregation?

Now, this question has many ideas and expectations nestled in its intent. Some want to look at this number to demonstrate that they have all ages worshipping together. Others want to send a message that they are a church for young people. Still others hope the results reveal something other than that their church family is aging at a rapid rate, and one that would seem to have a limited future.

If we’re going to measure the average age of our congregation, we should begin with identifying the question we’re trying to answer. For example, if we want to send a message to young adults that we are a church where they will fit in, then the real focus of their interest would be how many people of their approximate age attend there. Simply averaging all the ages of those who attend our church won’t really address their interest accurately. A church filled with people in their forties and their preteen and teenage kids might have an average age of 29, but that doesn’t mean there are any young adults in the church. In the same way, a church dominated by older adults can have an active bus ministry and bring in dozens of children, making the average age of the church mid 20s, but that doesn’t mean my sanctuary experience won’t be primarily filled with gray hair.

If we want to make good use of an average age metric, we should only include relevant parties in our calculation. That’s why I strongly encourage you to include only the adults (18+) in your calculations. Only then will you have a real picture of what an experience among your people will really be like.

Another age calculation you might make would be the average age of those who serve in various ministries in your church. Since about 1 in 4 people volunteer at most churches, take a look at who these folks are. Their average age likely shows you who has taken ownership of the ministry of your church.

Still another great age calculation is the average age of the church’s decision-makers. How old are the deacons and non-staff ministry leaders? Chances are good that this calculation will show you who you are currently best prepared to reach because decisions are likely reflecting the values of those who make them. Here’s a simple truth–the average age on the platform is not as large a factor in a church’s ministry as the average age of its decision makers. I’ve been to churches where young adults dominated the platform musician slots and they were almost the only young adults in the room. The age of decision-makers reveal “whose church is this?” to your guests.

What is the average age of your hospitality team? Now there’s a group that might be communicating who is welcome here. There must be some young faces on that team if you’re going to convince me that young adults are active here. At the same time, if your greeters are all young adults, then older guests may not feel as welcome either.

Some church leaders believe that the “age” of their music is a key to health. In my experience, real problems start when your approaches to ministry are inconsistent with the age of the congregation. Only when we’re agreed to target a new audience in our ministry effort can such a disconnect between who we are and what we’re doing be managed–and it will still be a challenge.

Age in a church is a big deal. There are many uses for such a calculation and there is no magic number that automatically makes a church healthy. So make a few calculations and think through how your ministry is affected by what you see. Then make choices that can help you more effectively reach those you’re reaching for.

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