Numbers don’t lie. Well… actually, It depends on how you look at them.
In the church world, weekend attendance is an important number. It sets the parameters for your church’s 3 “Is.” Income, influence, and impact.
More people in attendance means potentially more income. It also means that you’re having more influence on the thinking, opinions, and formation of individuals/families. Finally, the more people that attend your church the more impact you can have on the community that surrounds you. It’s not brain surgery, rocket science or any other idiom that makes sense for something that is not hard to understand. Also, it’s not wrong for pastors to admit that they would like more people to attend their churches. I actually think you should be suspect of a leader who doesn’t want to see their church grow and reach more people. Growing churches are a good thing.
I work at what is considered to be a “bigger” Canadian church. We serve just under 1500 people on a weekend. That’s a lot of people. There are other churches across Canada who serve more people than we do and I think that that is amazing. In a post-Christian context like Canada, the very fact that churches are growing at all is a miracle. At this point however, our church’s leadership could tap itself on the back, say that we’re doing a spectacular job and just go on with our day sipping on Shirley Temples and getting ready for the easter season.
But what if we looked at the numbers from a different perspective?
There are approximately 300,000 people who call Saskatoon and the surrounding areas home. Let’s be EXTREMELY generous and say that 10% of people within YXE who identified as “Christ followers” attend churches across the city for weekend services… That’s 30,000 people. That then leaves 270,000 who are either un-churched or de-churched (this is a whole other post) who are not part of a church community.
As good as serving 1500 is, we can do better. I suspect every church can do better. Whatever context your church finds itself in; whether you’re in a rural, suburban or urban setting, the likelihood is that no matter how “small” or “big” your church is, relative to the population of your village, town or city… You can do better. Just do the math:
Take your church’s overall weekend attendance, divide it by your village, town or city’s population and… Voilà! You get the percentage of people from your community who are being affected in a SIGNIFICANT way by your income, influence, and impact. Now, I guess you could make the case that in 2020, regular church attendance is more of an every 2 to 3 week deal for most people/families. So, be generous with yourself and double, even triple your percentage number. I bet you can still do better relative to the total population that is around you.
If you’re pastoring a “smaller” church; don’t play the “we’re too small to do anything” pity party. The opportunities you have to get into people’s lives and have an impact on your community are astounding. Quit looking at the “bigger” church’s grass and wishing it was yours. The only reason it’s greener is that there is more manure over there. Thank God for what you have and be faithful to share Jesus with the community he’s put you in. Ask him for creativity, out of the box thinking, funding and love for every single human that lives around you.
If you’re pastoring in a “bigger” church… You’ve still got A-LOT of work to do. You’re doing a good job, but you can do better. There are thousands of people in your town/city who have no clue that Jesus loves them and that he’s pursuing them for relationship. You have resources and staffing that other churches can only dream of. How are you leveraging all that God has blessed you with? Are you utilizing significant amounts of resources to equip your people to reach the post-Christian community just outside of your doors?
Numbers don’t have to define us, but they can and should be used to motivate us. Jesus also dealt with math equations when it came to this very subject. He said this:
Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”? -Matt 9:35-38
Plentiful harvest – few workers = Still a lot of work to do.
We can do better. let’s ALL get to work.