What numbers are important?
So here’s my question today: what numbers are important? We love to talk numbers at church. Unfortunately, most of them mean very little.
“How big is your congregation?” I can tell them. Sort of. We keep track of our membership. But we have a good number of people who attend worship on a regular basis who aren’t members. Then we have those members who for whatever reason don’t attend worship. Plus, some people are only here part of the year. What number would you like me to use?
“OK, then how many do you have in worship?” We keep track of that, too, at least an average number for each Sunday. However, most people seem to attend worship about twice a month, so no one week gives an accurate picture. A few years ago we had zero in worship on a Sunday when a hurricane was passing through town. Do I have to count that week in my average? On Easter Sunday, our attendance is double what it normally is. Should I factor in that week? What number should we use, and what does it tell us?
“Show me the money.” How are our offerings doing? It depends on the week. Are we paying our bills? Yes. Could we use more? Of course. Do we support missions? Yup. Our monthly financial report is over 15 pages long, a literal sea of numbers that sucks you in like a rip current. They never taught me how to interpret that at the seminary. I can read some New Testament Greek, though.
“How many lives have been changed?” No way to tell. Everyone who worships here may be out affecting other lives where they live and work and study. I am certain their prayers make a difference in the lives of many, too.
In the initial years of my ministry, numbers meant a lot. My level of confidence rode the peaks and troughs of attendance, offerings, and new members. Now they don’t mean so much, probably because I’ve seen God do some of his best work in a meeting with just one other person.