From Rev. Elizabeth: How Big Is Chalice, Anyway?

Or: Minister Gets Too Excited About Data

There’s a funny thing going around Facebook where you describe yourself using three fictional characters. Mine would probably be Hermione, Mr. Spock, and Dr. Holtzmann from the new Ghostbusters. In other words: I really like research and patterns. This is one reason I have loved having our Connection Cards: it has really helped me get a better sense of who attends worship at Chalice, and how often. Here’s what I can have learned (bearing in mind that a handful of folks don’t fill out connection cards):

Worship Attendance:

  • About 125 adults attend worship at least once a month.
  • Of those, about 90 are Members, 15 are Friends, and 20 are regulars. (Regulars attend Sunday worship regularly. Friends attend worship, participate in other activities, and make an annual financial pledge. Members make a pledge and officially join by signing the membership card and membership book.)

Most UU churches get a LOT of visitors, and we’re no exception. Congregations that are growing generally do so not because they get more first-time visitors, but because more of those newcomers “stick,” becoming fully-engaged participants in congregational life. In 2014, Chalice’s Transition/Growth Task Force told us “we need to have more systematic ways of helping congregants find activities and programs at Chalice that nurture their spirits so that we retain more of our visitors.” Here’s how we’re doing:

  • In fiscal year 2015-2016, we had 116 adult visitors, or 92 families. That is, weirdly, exactly TWICE what we had the previous fiscal year. However, we did not have connection cards until 8/2015, so it is possible that connection cards are simply better at counting visitors than the “visitor information sheet” was.
  • We had 55 of those individuals, or 44 families, return a second time.
  • We got 25 new “regulars” (20 families) out of this crop of visitors, although not all of them have continued to “stick” after coming 5 times.
  • We got 17 adults (12 families) who have “stuck,” as in they came for the first time during that year, became regulars, AND have attended worship in the last two months and/or have become members.

So we have a rate of 21% retention if we count families who came at least 5 times, but a real “stick rate” of about 13-14% for the last year. That’s about the same retention rate we’ve had for awhile, and is the same as most UU congregations. According to the 2014 report of Chalice’s Growth Task Force, we need a retention rate of 20-30% to grow.

The good news? We now know where we are. The challenge? We have work to do. To do it, I need your help. If you’re interested in working on the engagement and integration of newcomers, please consider joining the Pathways Team, either in the long term, or in the short-term as we envision our next steps. It takes a whole congregation to engage in growth, hospitality, and belonging. Let me know how you want to help.