Church Attrition

August 8, 2006 by

Earlier this year we did a series on church growth which hinted (or at least the comments did) at an idea Bob Franquiz of Calvary Fellowship in Florida elaborates on: attrition.

Every church experiences attrition to one degree or another. People die, people backslide, people get upset, and people move. It’s the natural reality of ministry. …

The national average for attrition runs at about 15%. In a big city, that number could be as high as 25% to 30%.

I’m not sure where Franquiz gets the numbers, but if you’re losing 15% per year, that means you need to gain 15% per year just to stay where you’re at. It adds a tricky little dynamic to the church growth question.

Franquiz chooses to look on the bright side: “We are probably reaching a lot more people than any of us realize!”

Post By:

Kevin D. Hendricks

When Kevin isn't busy as the editor of Church Marketing Sucks, he runs his own writing and editing company, Monkey Outta Nowhere. Kevin has been blogging since 1998, runs the hyperlocal site West St. Paul Reader, and has published several books, including 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love With Reading, The Stephanies and all of our church communication books.
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10 Responses to “Church Attrition”

  • JD
    August 8, 2006

    This may be a little off topic, but I didn’t even know what attrition was. Why can’t we (christians) just say things in plain English. Do we always hae to throw Christianese into a conversation?
    Now, on topic, I’m a founding memeber of a 3 yr. old church in So. Cal. and we’ve almost turned over our whole congrigation in that time. There are many reasons why, but the main is that we didn’t do things right. Lack of teamwork and lack of a solid plan mainly.
    There will be plenty of times that people don’t agree with biblical truths or opinions and leave, but we have to be sure that we’re not causing the attrition by ignoring the problems we may be creating. Look at that, I used it in a sentance. Someone owes me a quarter.

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  • Rick
    August 8, 2006

    Aside to JD: Attrition isn’t “Christianese”. It’s a real word that means gradually losing a number of something.
    But yeah, losing people for whatever reason is not a good thing. It’s important to make sure that if somebody is leaving, it’s not because of something happening internally within the church. That “something” can be difficult to define sometimes as well.

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  • bob Franquiz
    August 8, 2006

    I should have posted my sources. I got my numbers from They have some articles on the subject of attrition. Also, googling the words “church, attrition” will give you a lot of the same stats I shared.

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  • Rudy Garrido
    August 8, 2006

    Apart from the people moving and leaving the church you always have people in and out that hear about the church and come just to see what God is doing there. We like to call them Tire kickers. :)

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  • Kevin D. Hendricks
    August 8, 2006

    I think what’s so interesting about Bob’s post is that the attrition isn’t something you can do something about (at least that’s the way I took it, maybe the actual numbers include this kind of attrition and the kind you can stop). People move. People die. Those kind of reasons have nothing to do with the style of service you have. No matter how good your welcome is, some families will still move away.
    So the lesson is that you’re always losing people. So you need to be sure you’re gaining that many more.

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  • Paul Merrill
    August 9, 2006

    The best church growth is when the non-churched are the new joiners.
    So few churches attract those who don’t already know Jesus.

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  • emergingblurb
    August 10, 2006

    This idea still revolves around the premise that church is a place rather than a people. We then define growth/attrition in terms of head counting. For the traditional system in place we will always be locked into the concepts of ‘counting’, ‘selling’, ‘marketing’, ‘programming’ and meetings.
    As an emergent type, I wonder whether some cross-fertilisation of approach could help circumvent the chasing your tail syndrome. There has always seemed to be an onerous task of getting people to ‘church’ and keeping them there as if that was the primary indicator of God working in our lives. I sometinmes cynically wonder whether the business associated with ‘running the show’ and being involved in all the programs actually stiffles God’s activity in our lives.
    My suggestion is that we abandone the numbers game and seek a more fluent approach to living where people aren’t connected by a commitment to a program but by a friendship to each other that creates community as opposed to fellowship. And I wonder whether then we could become empowered to go out and ‘do’ rather than ‘stay’ and ‘listen (ie; endless teaching programs which).

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  • Aaron
    August 19, 2006

    C’mon people, if it’s done in a Biblical caring way there is nothing wrong with counting. “Acts 2:41Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.”
    God even devoted a whole book of the Bible to “people counting,” you know that one that comes in between Leviticus and Deuteronomy…Numbers.
    And if anyone is going to bring up 2 Samuel 24:10 read the whole context. God was testing David to see if David put his trust in the Lord or in statistics.

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  • Harry
    October 22, 2006

    I am about to leave my “new” church. I am a founding member of this split from an established church which is masquerading as a church plant and has been doing so for about seven quarters (so I’m in business and track everything by quarters, sue me). I think the first comment, that the church in SoCal did everything wrong is ripe and applicable to my church expereince. We’ve had a PDO, college, youth, and deaf ministries flop in a year. (why on earth we started all four of those right out of the starting gate, I don’t know) Before the year is out 5 of the 7 original volunteer leaders (me being one of them) will no longer be involved in the church. The church marketing is non-existant, we don’t even have a website. The pastor has made it clear that members have no voice in the direction of the church and that our only votes are with our feet. We are supposed to be built on the Purpose Driven model, but the only purpose the pastor cares about it evangelism. The sermons are all “what to do about (insert name of problem here)”, as if everyone operates in crisis mode every moment of everyday and especially at 10:00 on Sunday morning (side note, how many lost people, if you can convince them that they need to come to your church, are going to be excited about 10 AM Sunday morning? Sitting through a sermon at 10 AM on a Sunday morning is tantamount to 8 AM MWF history lecture after just beating the 1 AM curfew at Bible College the night before). Small Group and Worship are geared toward the lost, so there is no meat for the saint. Sure, I am ranting about what I don’t like about my congregation, but I’m doing it to point out that the problem with attrition may not be the peopel who left. It may be a systemic problem with the church, or just slick salesmanship where the product does not live up to the pitch. I’ve moaned about my church quite a bit, but hopefully it will keep some of you church planters from making similar mistakes.
    In my expereince, attrition happens in all situations because a need is not being met. Death and relocations are need the church physically cannot meet, as no church member (or pastor for that matter) can extend life or talk a boss out of a transfer. Meeting needs in your congregation is something that the church can do, but resources are limited and not every need will be met so attrition most likely will continue in any and every congregation.

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  • Steve Kreager
    October 14, 2007

    There is a consulting firm out of Los Angeles called The Attrition Busters
    who specializes in business attrition reduction, but also done quite a lot of good work with Churches and ministry. I saw the president speak at a Church outreach event and took back several of his tips and tools. So far, we have experienced a good amount of success with them. You might want to check them out!

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