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.

Advertisements

Mission Trips are Transformative for You and Your Church

Image result for mission trips

I went on my first mission trip when I was 12. Our church youth choir went to South Dakota to help with a new church plant (though I don’t think we called it that then). I loved the trip. I loved riding in the bus, hanging out with my friends for 2 weeks, being away from home, and just being with our youth group. I was 12. I wasn’t in love with the idea of taking the gospel to the ends of the earth, but my church was.

That was the first of 6 youth mission trips I went on while I was growing up and it set the stage for my love of mission work. As a pastor I always said I wasn’t called to be a vocational missionary but I was called to pastor a mission minded and mission active church. That all began when I was 12.

Mission trips transformed my life and I believe they transform the church. There is no better experience as a believer than to be in an unfamiliar place, doing unfamiliar things, eating unfamiliar food and being generally uncomfortable with everything around you for the sake of the gospel. It is in those moments you learn to trust the Lord and you see Him move through your life.

If you have never been on a mission trip before then 2019 needs to be your year. Find out where you church is going or find another church going and join them, or join my ministry, Exposed to Christ (ETC) Ministries on on of our trips. Find out about them here.

Let me know in the comments how a mission trip affected your life.

Do you have “wrong-chitis”?

My grandson Jackson got a little sick last week. His mom took him to the doctor who told us he had a touch of bronchitis. He prescribed some medicine and they came home. Jackson was telling someone about going to the doctor and he told them he had “wrong-chitis,” but he had taken some medicine and now he has “right-chitis!”

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could just take a pill and everything wrong in our lives would become right? Now that would be a magic pill.

The reality we know is that to turn something wrong into something right takes more than a little medicine, we need a lot of hard work and the power of the Holy Spirit to make it right. And even then opposition may be so strong that the right struggles to come out on top.

Spiritual work is hard work. Satan is more than happy to let us go about being good neighbors and nice people as long as we don’t introduce Jesus. Once we decide to go about doing real spiritual work Satan will work overtime to stop it. So we need to pray and we need to trust the Lord. Endure hard times, persevere through the difficulties. The kingdom is worth it. The gospel is worth it. Remember this Ralph Waldo Emerson quote, “God will not have His work made manifest by cowards.”

Vermont/Peru Recap

Flying across the Andes Mountains in Peru.

Over the past 2 weeks I have been from one extreme to the other. We started off in Vermont for a week and then I ended up in Peru for a week.There are so many differences between these 2 places and yet there are also similarities.

1.Language – In Vermont everybody spoke some version of English. I say some version because we met people who had lived their whole lives in New England and some who had moved there from the deep south. What a variety! But at least our team could communicate with everyone we met. In Peru of course the language is Spanish and then some other dialects unique to the various tribes of Peru. I got to use my high school Spanish a little but was very thankful for so many translators who helped us get around and share the gospel.

2. Climate – Vermont is wonderful in the summer! With highs in the low to mid 80’s and lows at night dropping to the 50’s we had perfect weather while we were there. Even the hotter days were bearable in the home we stayed in that didn’t have air conditioning. Where we were in Peru was near the equator where the weather stays the same almost all year. It was nice and warm, in the 80’s with nice nights in the 70’s.

3. Christianity – Peru has a lot of Christian history and influence with many churches. But many of the churches in Peru struggle with moving from being the mission to doing the mission. As we met with churches and groups of pastors our mandate was to encourage them to reach out to the community around them and the communities and world around them. While the cities often have many churches, the small villages do not. In this way it is similar to Vermont where less than 3% of the people attend evangelical churches. New England as a whole has a rich Christian history with 2 Great Awakenings happening across the area in the 18th and 19th centuries. But now that area is 5 generations removed from attending church and no longer sees the church as an integral part of life.

Julie painting the ceiling in the cafe at Northeastern Baptist College in Bennington, VT.

Javier and Billy climbed high to paint the walls in a church in Tarapoto, Peru.

4. Our Ministry – We painted – in Vermont at the Northeastern Baptist College and in Peru at a local church. And we encouraged – in Vermont we fed church planters, pastors and their families at an annual lake picnic and in Peru at meetings with local pastors, church leaders, churches and mission teams.

Our team provided lunch for the church planters, pastors and families in Vermont at this event organized by church planting specialist Lyandon Warren.

Our team partnered with the local community to dig a water well.

 

 

And we dug a well in Peru – Now that was a challenge as part of our team spend 3 days in this remote village that had not had clean water in 4 years.

 

5. Beautiful Scenery – Whether we were in the Green Mountains of Vermont or the Andes Mountains of Peru we saw some of the most inspiring sights of God’s creation. 

Digging the water well opened the door to do children’s ministry in this small village. We shared the story of Jesus and the woman at the well. What we need is Living Water, not just clean water.

Our Vermont team had lunch with Brandton Wood, a church planter in Maine as we talked about working together on a mission effort in 2019.

6. Beautiful people – We met some wonderful people in Vermont and Peru and we cherish the friendships and impact they made on us. I pray we were able to point them toward Christ and/or encourage them in their work but I know they did that for us.

Mission Central Podcast – Embrace Your New Life in Christ

We’ve got to embrace our new identity as believers. Stop lying, tell the truth. Don’t be controlled by anger, deal with conflict. Don’t steal, work to be generous. Don’t be rotten mouthed, be an edifier, an encourager. Don’t grieve the Spirit, be kind, compassionate, and forgiving.

Mission Central Podcast

Here are some key points from this episode:

  • Relationships thrive on truth.
  • We need to resolve anger, not indulge anger.
  • We reject the acts that grieve the Spirit.

“Mission Central” is available on iTunes, search podcasts for Mission Central.
You can subscribe to receive each new addition in your inbox.

Mission Central Podcast – Your New Life in Christ

These next 2 episodes were recorded while I was preaching in Finland at my friend Shaun’s church, so please forgive the audio. The focus is on the life of believer. We must live as believers, not as unbelievers. That is not who you are anymore. Your identity is in Christ.

Mission Central Podcast

Here are some key points from this episode:

  • Don’t live as if you are still without Christ.
  • You are not that person so embrace your new identity in Christ.

“Mission Central” is available on iTunes, search podcasts for Mission Central.
You can subscribe to receive each new addition in your inbox.

Mission Central Podcast – What is the Role of the Pastor?

In this final installment looking at the role of the pastor we examine the God designed responsibility of the pastor. Growing churches call a pastor to administer and lead the church so the members are free to do ministry. Dying churches call a pastor to do the ministry while the people administer the church.

Mission Central Podcast

Here are some key points from this episode:

  • The pastor equips the members to do the work of ministry.
  • Pastors are not exempt from the work of the ministry.
  • Members in ministry results in growth for the church.
  • Pray for your pastor.

“Mission Central” is available on iTunes, search podcasts for Mission Central.
You can subscribe to receive each new addition in your inbox.