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Unlocking Church Health: Insights, Benchmarks and Trends from The Unstuck Group

Our friends at The Unstuck Group recently published updated data on church health and trends, including its Q3 2023 Unstuck Church Report.

Each quarter, The Unstuck Group tracks church trends in the U.S. This quarter's report features data from 288 churches, providing a real-time view of ministries in various sizes, focusing on the period from July 14 to August 2, 2023.

Next, we’re recapping some insights you might find helpful.


Ministry Reach

In the latest church data, there's a notable 4% increase in the number of new attendees tracked by churches over the past year, with an average 22% growth in in-person attendance. 

However, the rate of people deciding to follow Jesus decreased by 11%, and online service engagement dipped by 6%. A significant portion of large churches (54%) now operate as multisite, while many churches have transitioned away from traditional worship, favoring "modern/contemporary" styles. 

Children's ministry attendance has increased by 16%, constituting 18% of overall attendance, and student ministry attendance rose by 12%, with eight students for every 100 weekly attendees.


Ministry Connection

In the realm of church community engagement, home groups have emerged as the primary option, with 55% of surveyed churches exclusively offering them, sidelining Sunday school or midweek gatherings. 

However, group engagement has seen a decline, with 47% of adults and students now participating, down from 51% in the past year. Despite an increase in group participation, it lags behind attendance growth. Volunteer engagement also presents challenges, with only 34% currently serving, a slight drop from 37% a year ago. 

Furthermore, churches maintain a span of care of one volunteer leader for every 17 attendees, a far cry from the best-practice ratio of one leader for every five attendees.


Ministry Staffing & Structure

On average, churches employ one full-time equivalent staff member for every 53 attendees, including all ministry and support staff, which exceeds the recommended ratio of one FTE for every 75 attendees advised by The Unstuck Group. Church boards or elder teams vary, with a median size of seven members and an average of nine, occasionally influenced by larger boards. In extreme cases, some boards can consist of up to 65 members.

Typically, churches maintain around three additional boards or committees, though larger churches tend to have fewer. In one instance, a church reported having just one board but an astonishing 26 additional committees.

As for staffing expenses, Christian Financial Resources recommends that they remain below 50% of actual income, not just the budget. This is typically allocated as follows: 35-50% for staffing, 10-20% for missions, 10-20% for programming, and 20-45% for administration (covering debt, facilities, insurance, office, etc.). 

The recommendation is to be conservative in staffing to create opportunities for member involvement in ministry, fostering spiritual growth and maturity while keeping room for future growth adjustments.


Ministry Finances

General fund giving has seen a slight increase, with churches reporting an average growth of 4.4% in the past year. Churches allocate over half of their ministry budget to staff expenses, with an average of 56% dedicated to salaries and benefits. The recommended range for staffing budgets is between 45% and 55% of the overall budget, a guideline encouraged by The Unstuck Group.

Another noteworthy finding pertains to church financial reserves, with churches maintaining an average of almost six months in cash reserves. This exceeds the recommended two to three months suggested by The Unstuck Group. The reserves have notably increased compared to pre-COVID times when churches typically had around three months in cash reserves.

Furthermore, churches are in good financial standing with minimal debt, averaging a debt load of 0.8 times their total annual giving. The recommended threshold is to keep total debt below 2.0 times annual giving, as endorsed by The Unstuck Group.


The Q3 2023 Unstuck Church Report is packed with 20 key metrics, shedding light on church health trends. The report also includes church lifecycle data, size-specific summaries, and additional insights from Christian Financial Resources. 

Subscribe here and receive The Unstuck Church Report for free each quarter.

And if you need help executing your role in ministry, BELAY has served more churches than we can count.

When BELAY was founded 13 years ago, churches were our very first clients. And for the first few years, they were our only clients.

While we’ve evolved a lot since then to better meet each of our client’s unique needs, one thing remains unchanged: We are committed to honoring the trust of the churches we serve.