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Department of Religious Studies, Furness College, Lancaster University LA1 4YG.

The Congregational Attendance Count

As part of the first round mapping stage, we did a ‘church attendance count’ in November 2000. This began with contacting the ministers or leaders of all the churches to get permission to do the count, and check details such as multiple entries, numbers of people attending more than one service and the like; although for obvious reasons we did not inform them of the date of the count so as not to skew the result until a few days before it was planned. After a pilot count at one of the medium-sized churches in the town, we recruited 24 undergraduates as counters, plus the 5 permanent project team members. Each counter was given instructions, a count sheet, which they were trained in the use of, and information about the church they were to be counting. The count sheet allowed us to tally overall numbers, gender divisions, and age divisions of the congregation, expressed in terms of 'baby' (too small to distinguish gender), 'child' (primary school age), 'adolescent' (high school age) and 'adult' (18 and above), although these had to be estimated by the counter given the practical constraints on questioning individuals streaming into churches in large numbers in a small period of time.

Students were dropped off half an hour or more before the service with instructions to count people already there and then station themselves by the entrance to check congregants off. In churches where there were two entrances, one counter was placed at each entrance. Where churches had a second service, in order to avoid counting twice people who had gone to both services, people were asked as they went into the second service whether they had attended earlier that day. Where this was impossible, the clergy or greeters were asked to estimate numbers of double attenders.

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