The Church – A Numbers Game

I’ve been involved with churches that were big, and involved with churches that were small. The first church I worked for averaged about 180 members on Sunday morning for their worship service. Compare that to the church I attended when I graduated from high school, and where my father currently serves as a minister, which now has about 700 members.

One of my best friends and fellow minister, Jason, works for a congregation in Alabama that has well over 2000 members. The church I attended for the longest time from about 1st grade till around 10th grade only had around 35 in attendance.

Seemingly, according to Mac Lynn’s 2006 book “Churches of Christ in the United States”, it seems as if the majority of the congregations in the United States have anywhere from 50 to 199 members. If you were to take an average, the churches of Christ average about 97-100 members per congregation.

I have to be honest, I hate numbers. I’ve hated numbers for a long time. It started with Algebra 1 in 9th grade. I had a horrible teacher who cared more about flirting with the athletes in the class instead of teaching us math. Ever since then, I gave up on numbers.

When I was in youth ministry, there was always a double standard for numbers. I needed to grow the amount of people in the youth group, but it was okay for the church to stay the same size. If we weren’t bringing in more teenagers to the youth group class, then I must be a lousy minister. That equation, sadly, is the equation that so many ministers must live up to.

Now I work for a church that is hovering with an average attendance of 160 or so. Of course, according to the studies of the church, this is an average, or better than average size for a congregation. Since I have moved here, I finally seem to have figured something out. No matter how large the church is in numbers, if you don’t have love, it means nothing.

Sure, 2000 members singing in harmony together during a worship service sounds wonderful, but so do 75 members.

You may have the best and most educated ministers in the few 1000+ member congregations, but the churches of 200 members have ministers who put a whole lot of time into their work as well.

Most importantly, I feel as if when we pressure people to become members, they run. And if they run, more than likely they are just running away completely, and not to another congregation. When we throw a membership card in their face as they walk in the door, they’re naturally going to think that we’re just like every other venue in their lives.

Get to know them. Talk with them. If they want to give you their contact info, they will based upon desire to get to know your church better.

Have cards for them to take that have contact info for your church, service times, activities, etc. If they give you permission to call them or email them, great! If not, let them make the next move.

If you have done all you can as a church, they will want to come back. If the church was not friendly, clean, inviting, prepared, organized, welcome…no amount of cards, visiting or free gifts will get them back into the church.

We don’t want the church to sound needy. When a church sounds needy by saying things such as “We really need you to be a member” or “Our church sure could use another servant”, it comes across as needy. Instead, offer to do something for them, instead of trying to sign them up for the Benevolence Committee on their first visit. See what you can do for them, or if they have any questions.

The truth of the matter is, God did wonders throughout the world with Jesus and his 12 disciples. If I’m doing the math correct, 12 < the average number of members in the Church today.

I hate numbers. I always have, and I always will. The only number that matters is that there is ONE God, ONE Savior, and ONE Hope. Let’s just do our best to show everyone who comes through that door, or everyone we come in contact with, or everyone we see on a daily basis, that Jesus Christ loves them and died for them.

Most importantly, we need to show each other love.  Do I exemplify that love all the time?  Not even close, but I’m trying, and I hope you will too.

Sure-fire Ways to Help Your Congregation Grow (whether you’re a minister there or not!)

10.  Be involved in at least one thing/ministry outside of normal scheduled worship/class times.

9.  Talk about your congregation in a positive way to your friends, co-workers, family, and anyone else who may not be a part of the congregation

8.  Pray for the Shepherd’s, the Ministry Staff, the administrative staff, the Deacons, and anyone else who serves in a leadership position.

7.  Stop being concerned about the actual numbers who are not there, but focus more energy on loving and serving those who are there.  It will be contagious.

6.  Live the Christian life wherever you go.  You never know when someone may notice and want to talk about it.

5.  Encourage as many members as you can to participate in a Small Group (if you have them), or form a discussion/small group outside of service times where you can meet together away from the building.

4.  Don’t reject any idea the first time you hear it, unless it is truly unscriptural.

3.  Be positive, no matter what.  If someone is negative to you, return the attitude with positivity

2.  Support as many mission efforts as possible.  These can be foreign or local.  Put God’s money to work.  Don’t be the 1 talent church.

1.  Get out of the way, and let God work.

Book Review: 10 Stupid Things That Keep Churches From Growing by Geoff Surratt

To be honest, I saw this book in a catalog from Group, and thought it was a humorous title, and picked it up thinking it may be more of a comical book than serious.  While the book tends to bring a gentle sense of humor with it,  the 10 chapters of this book are spot on.

Over the next few days, I think I would like to review each particular chapter in this book, and add my thoughts to the author’s thoughts.  This book was written from the perspective of a Pastor in a multi-site congregation in Charleston, South Carolina.  What I really liked about it was that it was not just from his perspective, but at the end of each chapter he asked a different Pastor/Minister to give his thoughts about that particular point.

Pastor’s contributing include Craig Groeschel, Pastor of, Mark Batterson of National Community Church in Washington D.C., and Perry Noble of New Spring Church in South Carolina, who you can link to on the right.  There are 7 others in the book as well, a different one for each chapter.

I’ll start the reviews of each chapter next week, but I thought I’d go ahead and give the chapter names so you could be thinking about them.  In order, they are:

1.  Trying to Do It All
2.  Establishing the Wrong Role for the Pastor’s Family
3.  Providing a Second-Rate Worship Experience
4.  Settling for Low Quality in Children’s Ministry
5.  Promoting Talent over Integrity
6.  Clinging to a Bad Location
7.  Copying Another Successful Church
8.  Favoring Discipline over Reconciliation
9.  Mixing Ministry and Business
10.  Letting Committees Steer the Ship

I’ll try to begin this review Sunday afternoon or Monday.  Till then, Roll Tide.