When it comes to church retention, first we have to define what we mean upfront. For this post's purpose, we're talking about retention in terms of a new church attender continuing to come back and get involved over the next few months. They might continue to attend services only or get connected in a group or serve on a ministry team. 

Either way, they're retained.

What is a Good Church Retention Percentage?

That's a question many church leaders, including me. I have only seen a couple of useful guidelines for this. Which means we lack reliable data to use as a benchmark. But, let's look at those two benchmarks for church retention.

#1 – The Book What Every Pastor Should Know

In this book, the authors (Gary McIntosh & Charles Arn) suggest that their research showed non-growing churches retained about 9% of their first-time guests while growing churches retained about 21%. Roughly speaking, we're talking about 1 out of 10 or 1 out of 5 guests, neither of which sounds great.

#2 – The Book Fusion

In this book, Nelson Searcy suggests that the average church he worked with had an assimilation rate (same as retention in our definition) of 1/20 or 5%. He suggests that church leaders strive and pray for 1/3 or 33%

Okay, a Church Retention Percentage of 21-33%. Now what?

I think 21-33% is a good range to shoot for, and leaning more towards 33% is ideal. Let's look at a church of 1000 in total average attendance.

  • Let's say this church of 1000 sees 800 new guests in one year (total, including kids).
  • Of those 800 new guests, they retained 10%, which = 80 new guests.
  • One would think their church is now averaging 1080 in attendance, 1000 + 80 new attenders. That would be an 8% growth, which would be great.
  • The problem is ATTRITION (and frequency of attendance, but we'll save that for another post).
  • Most churches lose 10-15% of their attenders each year (moved, stopped attending, etc.)
  • So, let's say our church of 1000 lost 10% or 100 people.
  • Now, that math is 1000 (average attendance) + 80 (new guests retained) – 100 (attrition) = 980.
  • Our church of 1000 actually declined 2% in attendance to 980.

Why the Church Retention Percentage Matters – What if 10% was 20%?

Let's run the math with our church of 1000 but instead of retaining 10%, what if they retained 20%?

  • The church of 1000 still sees the same 800 new guests in a year, but they retain 20%, which = 160 new guests.
  • So, 1000 (average attendance) + 160 (new guests at 20%) – 100 (attrition) = 1060.
  • Now, our church of 1000 grew 6% to 1060.

That is the power of retention, and all of it happened without actually reaching more guests (and we'd like to do that too).

Just think, if this fictional church of 1000 could retain 30% that would mean 1000 (average attendance) + 240 (new guests – 30%) – 100 (attrition) = 1140 or 14% growth!

What It's Really All About

14% growth is excellent, but all of this isn't really about growth, numbers, or percentages.

It's all about people.

How can we help more PEOPLE who are already attending take steps toward Jesus?

By the time someone attends our church online or in-person, they have already taken multiple small steps. We must meet them where they are and help them continue to take steps toward Jesus. In order to do this well, we need a comprehensive church retention plan with clear next steps laid out and a communication plan to support it.

The New Family Retention Plan

The New Family Retention Plan is a Ministry Boost resource that includes a 5-Part Framework that will help you do just that in your church, and it will save you a ton of time in the process. It's a digital download that includes:

Altogether, you'll get over 75+ documents, files, and resources to help you retain more guests in your church. You'll still have to put some time in as you customize it and implement it in your setting, but far less time than you would without the kit.

You can grab the New Family Retention Plan here for just $99.

Change the math on church retention and let me know how I can help you in the process!