- Average worship attendance as percentage of membership;
- Total membership;
- Number of children, youth and young adults attending as percentage of membership;
- Number of professions of faith as percentage of attendance and membership;
- Actual giving per attendee; and
- Finance benevolence giving beyond the local church as a percentage of the church budget.
So yes, this turns out to be a pretty helpful indicator of vitality for a congregation. If most of the members are present in worship, you have two basic functions of the congregation covered well-- worship and a means of caring for each other.
2) Total membership: This indicator is probably a bit more "slippery" for United Methodists now than it formerly was, since "total membership" for us at this point would have to include both baptized and professing members. We used to mean by that only "full members," the equivalent of what we now call professing members.
I'm not talking here about anything mysterious. I'm talking practicality. What are the factors congregations engender that most predict this kind of outcome?
I might argue that the most important of these is caring for each other. If cognitive science has taught us anything over the past two decades, it is that every decision people make is first emotive and second "rational." So people profess their faith in Christ in a given community when that community has showed persons they really do care for them and that Christ has something important to do with that.
Worship has something to do with this too, and, I would argue, perhaps more on an unconscious level than a conscious one. Where worship happens in ways that people can encounter and WANT to encounter God, there is a kind of social contagion of desire that others present can pick up on and respond to.