Numbers – Why We Count in Church


There are many ways to measure church growth that have nothing or little to do with numbers. We want spiritual growth (how do you measure that). We want people to be more loving, more generous, and generally more Christlike (there is no yardstick to measure that one). Because of this outlook, some people protest any use of numbers in church life. I agree that there are many things that help us understand our effectiveness and these need to all be processed together when we look at what we are doing in the church. There is no doubt though that one of the the measures that must be included is a detailed accounting of the numbers. How many came? How much did they give? How many were saved?

You’ve probably heard the preacher story: Numbers are so important God made sure to name an entire book of the Bible after them. Numbers are important to those of us in the Christian community because every number represents a person – a child, a father, a wife, a grandparent, a soul for whom Jesus died. For this reason we count people, because people matter to God.

There are other reasons we count, and other things we count as well.

Numbers help us celebrate God’s work. By counting people we can see how many have come to worship, to hear the word of God preached and taught. We count how many are saved and celebrate God’s work of salvation. Numbers can give us some measure, not a full understanding certainly, of growth in discipleship. We count attendance and giving to get a feel for spiritual growth. We count how many are serving and going, how many are teaching and leading, and we get a better perspective on how many are growing in their faith. This is a celebration of God at work in our churches.

Numbers show us the need and the opportunity around us. We count how many are in the population around our church and we get a picture of the opportunities we have for growth. We count how many children are in the school and we see how many families need Jesus. In many ways, as we count the population, we understand the great need, and therefore the opportunities to grow.

Numbers can warn us of impending danger. When you make an accurate accounting of your church attendance, giving, serving, going, and more you can see trends that warn you of problems that need to be addressed within your church. Keeping good records allows you to accurately see trends without emotion or the bias of “rose colored glasses memory.” You can track whether your church is growing, plateaued, or declining.

  • 1 year of plateau or declining attendance – Be aware of it but know that churches go through seasons of growth and seasons of strengthening
  • 3 years of plateau or declining attendance – Take corrective action – Look inwardly and outwardly to gain an understanding of what is causing the decline and how to reverse the trend
  • 5 years or more of plateau or declining attendance – Take significant action – Deep dive into the changes that need to be made to turn around the current trend

Numbers are important. For these reasons you should track them and review the information on at least a yearly basis. Here are some of the basic numbers you should keep each week for your church:

  • Worship attendance
  • Small group (Sunday School) attendance
  • Giving
  • Public decisions made (salvation, church membership, recommitment, vocational surrender)
  • First time visitors – or visitors who completed a guest info card
  • Return visitors – may be harder to track in a larger church

Keeping a simple spreadsheet with this info will give you the ability to quickly calculate averages, create charts, and detect trends.

For help creating a record keeping system or diagnosing the accumulated information please contact our office or send Steve an email.

Leave a comment to let us know what other information you track to gauge the growth or health of your church.