Numbers matter. Many people write, blog about this from time to time, but I think it’s true. Numbers matter. While some will argue that numbers shouldn’t matter in the church, the fact is they do. They matter because, like it or not, they are a measuring stick. They matter because they represent people who are lost, broken, hopeless, needy; being reached, saved, grown, challenged, encouraged, trained; doing Kingdom work, reaching others, sharing Hope & Truth, teaching, making an impact.
But this post is not really about why numbers matter. Rather it is about the accuracy of those numbers. Are we as church planters, pastors, ministers, leaders, so hung up on the numbers mentality that we forget why we count? I think pride can drive us to a little inaccuracy in our numbers if we aren’t careful. We can let numbers discourage us too. The enemy loves to point us to numbers. If they are good, he’ll tell us how great we are. If they are bad, he’ll tell us how unsuccessful we are. One way or the other he will get us, if we aren’t careful.
I used to get discouraged when I would hear numbers of churches that were growing faster than ours. It is a constant battle for pastors, I think. Yet I discovered something in talking to some church planters and pastors. Many of them are counting every head every hour. This gives a false impression on how many people you are impacting. You can feel like you are doing more than you are…and can be in danger of being satisfied…or you can get prideful about how many people you are reaching. Our tendancy will be to tell other pasgtors, leaders figures that aren’t really accurate. Maybe not on purpose. Maybe just out of convenience. It is simply easier to just count every head every time. Yet it can give us a false barometer that the enemy will use to discourage us, satisfy us or puff us up.
For example, I’ve heard some church planters who may be having two worship gatherings who say it just is easier to count each head. Therefore, they count many people twice: workers, workers’ kids, people who attend one hour and serve another, etc. When this happens an attendance that is actually 300 can easily turn into 500. Sounds much more impressive, huh? Looks good on the record or in a blog. But who am I kidding? Myself. I will think I am reaching and doing more than I actually am.
At The Ridge, we have always been meticulous (maybe to a fault) about accurate numbers. We have a system of counting that makes every effort to count each person once. We try to NOT count a volunteer more than once. We try to be very accurate in our kids areas too. In the second hour only those who are in there for the first time get counted. If a kid is in the worship gathering with their parents one hour and we have a pretty good idea that their parents are serving, they don’t get counted. If someone is in both worship gatherings (i.e. staff, musicians, tech, etc) they don’t get counted twice. It’s just something we have placed as a high value: being accurate, giving ourselves a good barometer.
Maybe most churches do this too. I don’t know. I also realize that when you reach a certain level of attendance and participation, it is increasingly difficult to be exact in out counting. I just know that I have talked to many a church planter who will not give themselves an accurate barometer…which in turn can give us a false sense of what’s going on. If we are honest, what it boils down to is really a pride issue. I know. I’ve been there.
The flip side of the numbers game is to compare with others and thus get discouraged. When our numbers may be plateauing or even declining, we should pray about what God is doing or wanting to do in the body of Christ. God told Gideon twice that he had way too many men to accomplish the victory He had in mind. Gideon didn’t try to inflate his numbers, God did that. God made that 300 seem like a lot more and thus was able to accomplish more with less in routing the enemy. So if your numbers are down, pray to see if there is any sin in you or the body. Refocus your direction toward the vision God has; take heart, pray, don’t listen to the lies of the enemy. Then, take those “Gideon Warriors” and follow the Lord in trust and obedience…and leave the victory up to Him.
Jesus taught and the crowd thinned out. People left because they didn’t want to hear it. Others because the sacrifice was too great. It happened to Jesus, it will happen to us too. Sometimes the crowd thins and sometimes…as in the case with Gideon…God thins the crowd, for His purposes.
Don’t worry about the numbers. Don’t kid yourself or others for pride’s sake. You and I are not fooling or impressing God with our numbers. Numbers are important. Monitor them…accurately. Just leave them up to God and stay faithful to the mission and vision He has given you. He’ll take care of the numbers.