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Who is my church’s target audience and where do I find them?

SUMMARY: Congregations that actively help people in need, accept everyone and strengthen families are most likely to attract persons, ages 25 to 54, seeking a spiritual home.

That finding illustrates the importance of determining your church's target audience. Whether it is teens, young families, persons anticipating retirement, older adults or a combination of all of these groups, plenty of help is available as you define your target audience and decide how best to reach them.

United Methodist Communications selected the 25- to 54-year-old audience by conducting independent research through the Barna Research Group. These market research professionals surveyed individuals in this age range, either marginally churched or unchurched, and who did not typically attend a United Methodist church.

Interviews were conducted within ZIP codes where a United Methodist church was located. The research team tested 18 United Methodist attributes and asked unchurched persons how likely they would be to attend a church with these attributes.

Abbreviated results appear here for your information, both to influence your choices about media placement and to give you insight into the mindset of the people we are trying to reach.

Respondents said the following attributes would make them extremely likely to attend a church:

  • Actively helps people in the community who are in need (35 percent);
  • Accepts everyone because God cares for everyone (32 percent); and
  • Strengthens families by ministering to children, teens and parents (31 percent).

Other research findings revealed how A) our target audience views and experiences the world, as compared with B) others in their same age range, 25–54, and C) other adults, both younger and older. When asked which of these phrases describes them, people responded as follows:


   A) UMC Target  B) 25-54*  C) Adults*
 Excited about the future




 Seen as a leader by other people




Financially comfortable




Stressed out 




Searching for meaning in life




*Source: Barna Research 1998 national tracking study

If you need information about your surrounding community to implement worship or other significant programmatic changes, the Office of Research of the General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM) and Percept Group Inc. are two essential contacts.

GBGM can produce charts and demographic trends for any ZIP code in the country. GBGM also keeps membership and financial data online from 1974 to the present for the approximately 36,000 U.S. United Methodist churches. Customized reports that include charts and graphs for the past 10 years are available for all existing United Methodist churches. Access this information by contacting:

Office of Research
General Board of Global Ministries
475 Riverside Drive
New York, NY 10115
Telephone: (212) 870-3600
Web site:

Another organization providing demographic information is Percept Group Inc. Many conferences subscribe to Precept and can offer their local churches this information at no charge. Percept's Ministry Area Profile™ provides an extensive demographic report, including information about faith preferences, behaviors and concerns within a defined area. Contact Percept at:

Percept Group Inc.
29889 Santa Margarita Parkway
Rancho Santa Margarita, CA 92688
Toll free: (800) 442-6277
Web site: or

Similar valuable demographic information may be obtained at little or no expense from local school boards, utility companies, chambers of commerce, county planning groups, local radio and television stations, local newspapers, and local colleges and universities.

--- Excerpted from the Igniting Ministry Planning Handbook