March 6, 2024

New Church Data & Trends: Q1 2024 Unstuck Church Report – Episode 338 | The Unstuck Church Podcast

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    Quarterly Unstuck Church Report

Ministry Insights from the Q1 2024 Unstuck Church Report

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Every quarter, The Unstuck Group compiles all the data we’ve collected to monitor trends in churches in the United States. For this quarter’s report, we only included churches that provided data between January 8 and February 3, 2024.

We received survey responses from 355 churches, ranging from under 100 to over 10,000 in physical attendance for worship gatherings. The average in-person attendance of churches that participated was 870 people. This provides a very current snapshot of ministries of all shapes and sizes.


Unfortunately, many churches focus more on “doing church” than “being the church.” As a result, ten percent of the churches that responded to this quarter’s survey had no decisions to follow Jesus in the last 12 months. No salvations. No baptisms. No one saying “yes” to Jesus.

When I saw that number, it made me want to do a deeper dive into the data. I was curious to learn about some of the critical differences between churches where many people are crossing the line of faith and churches where there is little indication that people are making decisions to follow Jesus.

In this episode, Amy and I will discuss my key findings from this quarter’s report and unpack what’s distinct about these “Jesus-centric” churches.

  • New data on attendance and engagement
  • What’s distinct about “Jesus-centric” churches
  • Insights from Church Central Office on ministry finance
10% of the churches that responded to this quarter’s survey had no decisions to follow Jesus in the last 12 months. [episode 338] #unstuckchurch Click To Tweet Churches with more people crossing the line of faith have more than 4x as many people watching services online. This helps confirm that online is a front door for people connecting with faith and church for the first time. [episode 338]… Click To Tweet Per capita giving is 30% higher in churches with fewer decisions to follow Jesus. However, overall giving in those churches has declined year over year. On the other hand, churches seeing more people say “yes” to Jesus experienced a 10% increase… Click To Tweet Churches with fewer faith decisions had more complex governance structures, including bigger boards and more committees. Giving more people a vote in ministry decisions does not help the church experience more health and growth. [episode 338]… Click To Tweet Churches with more decisions to follow Jesus were 40% more likely to be non-denominational. [episode 338] #unstuckchurch Click To Tweet

This report includes special financial and staffing insights from Church Central Office, such as:

“We’re seeing that more and more churches, especially “legacy churches,” are tending to hang on to more and more cash for those “what if” scenarios. However, churches that hold excess cash beyond their capital improvement needs and the suggested 2-3 months of operational reserves, really constrain their ability to leverage their resources to do ministry. Be wise and create adequate reserves, but don’t let your concern for tomorrow prevent you from using resources to do ministry today.”

Subscribe to the Quarterly Unstuck Church Report:

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This Episode is Sponsored by Church Central Office:

Church Central Office focuses on your finances so you can focus on ministry. The only outsourced and remote church accounting department and CFO team that is founded by a former Executive Pastor, Church Central Office knows what it’s like to juggle the complexities of church budgeting, finance, and operations.

With Church Central Office, you’ll receive dedicated finance management and reporting, advice on budgeting and forecasting, and trusted council for all your accounting needs.

Share Your Thoughts and Questions on Social Media

We use #unstuckchurch on Twitter, and we start a real-time conversation each Wednesday morning when the episode drops. You can follow me @tonymorganlive and The Unstuck Group @unstuckgroup. If Facebook is where you spend your time, I’m there, too.

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Sean (00:02):

Welcome to The Unstuck Church Podcast, where each week we are exploring what it means to be an unstuck church. Every quarter, The Unstuck Group releases fresh data on churches as well as some key learnings in The Unstuck Church Report. On this week’s podcast, Tony and Amy share their thoughts on what we’re learning from the data about the most recent church trends. Before we get into today’s episode, though, I want to tell you about an upcoming opportunity we have for leaders of multisite churches. Our next multisite leader cohort kicks off April 23rd, and registration for it closes on March 8th. During our year-long cohort, you’ll get to connect with executive pastors and multisite directors from other like-minded churches around the most common challenges multisite churches are telling us they’re facing and actively participate and learn from each other. To learn more and secure your seat, check out the information in your show notes. Now, before this week’s conversation, here’s Tony.

Tony (00:57):

Before we get started, let me tell you about Church Central Office. They focus on your finances so you can focus on ministry. They’re the only outsourced and remote church accounting department and CFO team that is founded by a former executive pastor. Church Central Office knows what it’s like to juggle the complexities of church budgeting, finance and operations. With Church Central Office, you’ll receive dedicated financial management and reporting, advice on budgeting and forecasting and trusted counsel for all your accounting needs. Interested in learning more? Visit

Amy (01:40):

Well, welcome back to The Unstuck Church Podcast. Tony, as always, it’s great to see you. And we’re gonna be talking about today the newest issue of The Unstuck Church Report, which was just released. But before we do that, where have you been in the country, serving churches these past few weeks?

Tony (01:56):

Yeah, it’s been a busy season for me. So, most recently, I was up in Ohio working with, gosh, probably close to 50 different churches.

Amy (02:08):


Tony (02:08):

We were just talking about how to move forward in this season. And, goodness, it’s just, it’s fun to see what God’s doing in different parts of the country, including several churches in western Ohio. So, that was fun.

Amy (02:22):

You always get to see family when you get to go to Ohio.

Tony (02:24):

I do. Yes.

Amy (02:25):

Because you always seem excited to go to Ohio and I think that’s why.

Tony (02:28):

I’m the only one on the team that looks forward to traveling to Ohio for some reason. It is the heartland.

Amy (02:34):

It is. It’s just in the winter, but it’s been such a weird winter. It probably has been just joyful to go to Ohio this winter.

Tony (02:40):

That’s right.

Amy (02:41):

Oh, well, Tony, as I was looking at, you know, kind of prepping for the podcast today and after reading through it, it looks like we have a lot to talk about today.

Tony (02:50):

I think you’re right, Amy. So, first things first, this is all available to you for free. So, if you aren’t yet subscribed to The Unstuck Church Report, you can do that at And right now, there are over 13,000 other church leaders that are subscribed, so you’ll wanna join in the fun there. And this report this quarter is thanks to nearly, I think it’s 355 churches that participated in the survey this time around. That included churches, smaller churches under a hundred, and there were at least two churches, I think, over 10,000, maybe a couple more. So, thank you for all the churches that participated. We captured this data in January, so it’s fresh. When we talk about current trends in churches, it’s very fresh. So, look forward to, sharing some of what we found in the, this quarter’s report. And if you are subscribed to The Unstuck Church Report, you’ll receive a reminder every quarter to refresh your data. And, of course, the more churches that continue to do that, the more detailed we can get in the analysis. So if you want more data about churches similar to your church, you need to participate, and then, you need to encourage all your friends in similar churches to do so as well.

Amy (04:15):

Mm-Hmm. That’s great. And we’re gonna take the conversation in just a little bit different direction today than we usually do when we release The Unstuck Church Report. But before we do that, Tony, do you wanna share some of the highlights from the current trends that we saw as a result of this Unstuck Church Report?

Tony (04:31):

Yeah, we’re gonna, we are gonna take this in a bit of a different direction, but let me share some of the highlights from current trends in churches. Amy, in-person average weekly attendance, and that includes everyone, adults, kids, students, that’s up 18% year-over-year. So, it’s fun to see churches still experiencing growth in this season. Online service views, if you’re curious, still down. That has dropped 9% year-over-year. We have adults and students participating in groups, again, which is encouraging. So, there are 53% of adults and students are engaged in groups. I say that’s encouraging. It’s actually still a slight drop from where we were a year, year ago, but it’s good to see more than half of adults and students participating, engaging in smaller groups. The number of adults and students serving is at 35%. And it’s hard to believe that’s a slight uptick from what we were seeing last year. But this is an area, Amy, where, just it’s, it’s, churches are still struggling to get people to come back to serving because previously we’ve seen that number closer to 50%. And then, on the giving side, per capita giving, which is looking at how much each adult is giving every week, that’s at $53 per person per week. And that is down slightly from this time last year. But, overall, giving is up. And that’s because of the attendance increase. So, Amy, with all the talk about people deconstructing their faith, the decline in church attendance, the rise of the nuns, which is the common name for people who are religiously unaffiliated, not meaning they wear, what do they call those outfits?

Amy (06:26):

Those are called habits. That’s all I can think of.

Tony (06:29):


Amy (06:29):


Tony (06:30):

Yeah, yeah. So, it might surprise you then that the average attendance is actually increasing close to 20% year-over-year. And I get it. You should be a little bit skeptical about that. I think this data probably indicates there’s something distinctive about the churches that engage with our Unstuck content and then respond to our surveys. I trust that the more than 300,000 Christian churches in the United States are not experiencing that same attendance increase.

Amy (06:58):


Tony (06:59):

However, it’s encouraging to see so many churches that are engaging with our content are experiencing health and growth in this season. Lemme give you a couple examples, Amy, and I actually circled up with both of these churches just to confirm what we were seeing in the data that they submitted, submitted. But Mariner’s Church, they’re in Irvine, California, Orange County, California.

Tony (07:24):

Over the last 12 months, they had 1900 people make decisions to follow Jesus.

Amy (07:29):

Wow, that’s amazing.

Tony (07:30):

So, that’s just encouraging to see, good-sized church, but to see that many people cross the line of faith, just love to celebrate that. So, thank you, Eric Geiger and the team at Mariners Church, for the great ministry that you’re doing. And then, another story to highlight here: The Summit in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina, their in-person attendance increased by nearly 30% in the last year. So, again, big church, but seeing a lot of increase when it comes to people showing up for worship on Sundays. So, to JD, JD Greear and the team at The Summit, my goodness, that’s, that’s a great thing to see the church continue to thrive in this season. So, a couple good stories but there are actually several stories like that in the data from this past quarter, Amy.

Amy (08:24):

Yeah, it didn’t surprise me. I mean, when I look at the churches that I’ve worked with this year, I think I’ve been out six or seven times since the new year, maybe more. Anyways, I’m seeing those numbers in their vital signs. They are growing churches, and it’s just, it’s exciting to see not only the return of church people but also the new faces that are showing up each weekend ’cause that’s what it’s all about. Well, as I mentioned, there’s a lot more data in the full report that impacts trends regarding things like ministry reach, connections, staffing, leadership, finances. But, today, I’d like to focus on the bonus thoughts, Tony, that you included in the new Unstuck Church Report, namely, your focus on what you called the, you know, air quote Jesus-centric churches. Because aren’t all churches, you know, Jesus-centric churches?

Tony (09:10):

Well, I hope so. I want that to be the case, but as I mentioned in this quarter’s report, Amy, I know that’s not always true. Unfortunately, many churches focus more on doing church rather than being the church. And as a result, and this is not to be celebrated, but it’s what the data showed. 10% of the churches that responded to this quarter’s survey saw no decisions to follow Jesus in the last 12 months. So, that’s one in 10 churches that had no salvations, no baptisms, no one saying yes to Jesus. And that was for a full year. And, Amy, no surprise that, I mean, that breaks my heart when I see data like that because that’s the mission that we’re on. So, when I saw that number, it made me wanna do a deeper dive into the data. And I was curious to learn about some of the critical differences between churches where many people are crossing the line of faith and then the churches where there’s little indication that people are making decisions to follow Jesus. So this is, this is what I did. I decided to compare the churches that see a higher percentage of people making decisions to follow Jesus with those that see a smaller percentage. So, in the first group of churches, I included churches that saw more than 10% of their average weekly attendance cross the line of faith at some point in the last 12 months. And then in the second group, I included churches that had 5% or less of their average weekly attendance make decisions to follow Jesus in the last year. Now, before we dive into this, let me just say, though the churches were on average similar in size and both groups included churches ranging from less than 100 to churches with more than 10,000, there were some significant differences between these two groups of churches. And I think those differences, to me, raised some critical questions.

Amy (11:16):

Yeah, that’s, that’s actually what I wanna dive into. So, what questions, Tony, did that analysis raise for you?

Tony (11:22):

Yeah, so a first question is our denominational ties may be creating some barriers to health in church. And the reason I raised that, and this is just what the data shows, the churches with more decisions to follow Jesus were 40% more likely to be non-denominational churches. So, I hope this is received as an encouragement for denominational leaders and also for those that are leading churches that have a denominational tie that we just need to make sure that we’re prioritizing the gospel, the good news, putting people towards Jesus. And that has to take priority to whatever we’re trying to do to maintain connection or follow through with whatever our denomination, is not part of that denominational mission as well. So just making sure that Jesus continues to remain the main thing. Another question that was raised: does church governance and complexity around that create unnecessary constraints? And the reason why I asked that question is because churches with fewer faith decisions had more complex governance structures, including bigger boards and more committees. So, giving more people a vote in ministry decisions does not help the church experience more health and more growth. And it certainly doesn’t help more people cross the line of faith. Another question that it raised: are churches focused enough on reaching younger families? And the reason I say that is because the churches with more people making faith decisions are reaching younger families with a higher percentage of kids and students. And my suspicion is one of the reasons why they’re seeing more people crossing the line of faith is very likely because many of those faith decisions are actually kids and students. And so, they’re, they’re, because of that, they’re seeing more salvations. And then another question is: can we encourage more churches to leverage a multisite strategy? And that one may surprise you, but, again, when I compared these two groups of churches, the churches seeing more people say yes to Jesus,were almost twice as likely to be multisite churches. And my suspicion is that probably is a reflection of their commitment to multiplication, including multiplying the number of believers, the number of disciples of Jesus, the number of leaders, and then ultimately multiplying in different locations. So, those are some of the initial questions, Amy, that, that the data raised for me.

Sean (14:18):

Before we continue with today’s podcast, here’s some quick practical advice from today’s podcast sponsor, Jeff Hightower, from Church Central Office.

Tony (14:28):

Jeff, in this quarter’s report, we saw that staffing levels remain high compared to attendance, and now, in fact, the average church employs one full-time equivalent staff person for every 54 attendees at the church. And by comparison, we recommend at The Unstuck Group that there’s only one full-time equivalent for every 75 people in attendance. So just, why, why is this number such a big concern when it comes to hiring and retaining high-capacity staff?

Jeff (14:57):

Yeah, so for us, we see the biggest impact really on employee compensation. Because as that number gets driven down, so to speak, of like the lower that ratio gets, the average compensation per employee goes down as well. And so we, we throw an example in there, but you can imagine if you’re trying to keep your, you know, budget number for staffing to your overall budget fairly consistent as a percentage, the more people you have on staff, the less they get paid. And so, you start throwing into the mix higher paid executive or senior-level pastors, and so that’s gonna push that average down even further. And so we just see church, and I get it, like it’s a, it’s a hard thing to change. But, oftentimes, churches aren’t willing when they, when they see that happening as attendance maybe drops a little bit, they’re not willing to, as people roll off, let’s eliminate this position, or let’s, let’s get creative. And you look up a year or two later, and now they’re in a much more dire situation with staffing. And so, we, we just see that more and more. And I think some of the churches are kind of in that position, like you said, of that that number’s pretty low right now. And so, like we see some pretty poor compensation as it pertains to some full-time church staff right now. So that’s a, that’s a struggle for a lot, ’em, that we’re seeing. That kind of relates to what, what you guys were talking about there with attendance ratios.

Tony (16:29):

Related to staffing and then compensation, it’s been a recurring trend in our research that churches are maintaining a cash reserve that’s really well beyond the two to three months that we typically recommend. What is it about that trend that concerns you, Jeff?

Jeff (16:46):

Well, I think a lot of the, the churches kinda live in a more of a, a fearful mindset. And so just the natural tendency there is if there’s a lot of unknown, let’s, let’s set aside more cash. And I think to a degree, I think that’s, that’s fine within reason, right? And so there’s some recommended percentages and numbers that, that exist out there as, you know, with operating reserves and, and that kind of thing. But you can look up and if you’ve had some uncertainty, there’s been questions in the economy for a year or two years, you can have significant reserves, and now, you’re really limiting your ability to do ministry on a year-to-year basis ’cause you’re throwing so much of that into reserves. And so, you know, our recommendation to our churches are, “Hey, if you, if you need reserves, which you, you do, let’s, let’s be reasonable. We still have to operate this thing from a faith perspective. So don’t go overboard. If you’ve got some, you know, real estate and property to manage, sure, it’s smart to have some capital improvement reserves in that mix as well. But don’t, like, don’t restrict your day-to-day ministry just for the fear of the unknown when it comes to setting cash aside for the, the what ifs, you know, of the season.”

Amy (18:12):

Yeah. As you were talking about multisite, you know, we discuss this often. We don’t want to encourage every church, right, to leverage multisite strategies. We know from previous experience that churches really need to have at least a thousand people or more in attendance before they’re ready to consider this step. And if they can be even larger before launching their first multisite campus, that’s even better. Secondly, we only wanna encourage healthy churches to go multisite. And again, we know from our experiences that multisite is a great response to health and growth, but it doesn’t produce health and growth, right?

Tony (18:50):

That’s right.

Amy (18:51):

It’s a great response, but it doesn’t produce health and growth. So when churches that aren’t healthy or not growing launch a multisite location, it’s as if it accelerates the stuckness that the church is experiencing.

Tony (19:04):

Yeah, you’re absolutely right, Amy. And because there tend to be so many questions around multisite strategy with the churches that we engage with, I’m actually looking forward, next week, we’re launching a brand-new series. It’s gonna be called Multisite Madness. And we’re gonna be looking at some of the predictable outcomes that we see in multisite churches. And so, that’ll be a fun series in March, so looking forward to that.

Amy (19:35):

What other questions did that analysis raise? You had a few more in there.

Tony (19:39):

Yeah, so again, we’re comparing these churches that are seeing a lot of people cross the line of faith and those that aren’t seeing as high of percentage of people take those first steps towards Jesus. And, gosh, one of the key questions that the data raised is can we increase online engagement? And again, that one may surprise you, but the churches with more people crossing the line of faith had four times as many people watching services online.

Amy (20:10):


Tony (20:11):

So, it certainly confirms that online is a front door for people connecting not only to the church, but also connecting to faith. And so, we wanna make sure that we’re encouraging that engagement. And, and that, as we’ve seen from previous data, too, Amy, increasing online engagement also drives attendance growth in churches. So, it doesn’t detract from it. And so because of that, it’s not competing; it’s actually accelerating growth that we’re seeing in churches. Another question it raised: is overstaffing impacting more than just the financial health of the church? And the reason why is the churches with fewer faith decisions have 40% more staff and spend more of their budget on paid employees. Yeah. You heard that, right. Having more paid staff correlates with seeing fewer people meet and follow Jesus. So, now, Amy, that, I would not encourage you, you wanna see more people follow Jesus, just start firing staff. Don’t do that.

Amy (21:17):

No, no.

Tony (21:18):

But, it probably should raise questions about are we investing or staffing dollars in an appropriate way. So investing around helping people not only take steps towards Jesus once they connect to the church but also making sure we’re investing staffing dollars to help reach new people. And we just talked about that last week on the podcast. But then secondly, making sure that the staff that we do hire are actually encouraging people to engage ministry, which is part of the spiritual formation process, rather than doing the ministry themselves. And I think that’s one of the keys here, is that as we, as we mobilize more people to use the gifts that God’s given them, it’s, it’s causing them to take steps towards Jesus, which is actually leading to more people then crossing the line of faith as well. So, just making sure we’re leveraging our staffing dollars appropriately. Another question, that, this, this analysis raised was, do all these new believers give less? And the answer to that is yes. They do. Per capita giving is 30% higher in churches with fewer people making decisions to follow Jesus. However, even though overall giving in those same churches has declined year-over-year, on the other hand, the church is seeing more people say yes to Jesus actually experienced a 10% increase in year-over-year giving. And you might ask, well, how can that be if people are giving less but overall giving is up? Well, that leads to my next question. Does this focus on helping people say yes to Jesus impact attendance? And, Amy, I can’t prove it, but there’s certainly a correlation because the church is experiencing more people crossing the line of faith were growing twice as fast as those that we’re seeing fewer faith decisions. So, needless to say, when I see these contrasts, it makes me thankful for our mission at The Unstuck Group because we aren’t satisfied with helping churches grow. In fact, there are some churches that honestly, we don’t want to help get bigger. And we also don’t want, don’t want to help churches improve at doing church. Instead, we wanna help churches make disciples, baptize them and teach them, teach these new disciples to engage in this mission, in this, in their daily lives. So, there’s no doubt about it. Whether you wanna call these churches more Jesus centric or not, they’re certainly more externally focused. And in a previous era, era, we may have said they’re more evangelical, not in the political sense, but rather in the, “we’re compelled to share the good news with people who are spiritually lost” sense. So, it’s my mission to help pastors and church leaders with a commitment to leading that kind of church: a church that focuses on helping more and more people meet and follow Jesus.

Amy (24:34):

Well, that was really interesting information. And again, you know, hopefully y’all will download that Unstuck Church Report and read the whole thing. But, Tony, before we finish up today, any final thoughts?

Tony (24:45):

Yeah, Amy, I don’t normally do this, but while we’re on the topic of helping churches get unstuck, I just want to take a moment to brag on my team. Last month, the Unstuck team was on the ground working with 20 different churches. You heard that right. 20 different churches.

Amy (25:00):

So fun.

Tony (25:00):

In Arizona, California, Colorado, Indiana, Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, even Minnesota, Amy.

Amy (25:08):


Tony (25:08):

North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, of course, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas. And then, we also went to Seattle, Washington this past month. That’s 20 churches in one month. Pretty fun. In fact, I think that’s a new record for us, but that’s not the best part. The best part is that 10 of those 20 churches are going through The Unstuck Process for the very first time. And 10 of those churches are, Amy, they’re happy repeat customers who have been through The Unstuck Process before, and then they’ve invited us to come back to help them figure out their next steps in engaging the mission God’s called them to. So that’s pretty cool. I just wanted to thank those 20 pastors for inviting us to work with you and your teams. And if you’re a pastor listening in today, we’d also love to serve your team, and you can learn more by reaching out to us at

Sean (26:10):

Well, thanks for joining us on this week’s podcast. At The Unstuck Group, our goal is to help pastors grow healthy churches by guiding them to align vision, strategy, team and action. In everything we do, our priority is to help churches help people meet and follow Jesus. If there’s any way we can serve you and your church, reach out to us today at Next week, we’re back with another brand-new episode. Until then, have a great week.

Tony Morgan

Tony is the Founder and Lead Strategist of The Unstuck Group. Started in 2009, The Unstuck Group has served 500 churches throughout the United States and several countries around the world. Previously, Tony served on the senior leadership teams of three rapidly growing churches including NewSpring Church in South Carolina. He has five published books including, The Unstuck Church, and, with Amy Anderson, he hosts The Unstuck Church Podcast which has thousands of listeners each month.

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