I was looking at attendance numbers this morning, it wasn’t pretty.
I was reading a book about how to measure growth and was encouraged to pick October as the month to look at for the last couple of years. Here’s what I found. The average attendance for October 2008 was 52. The average attendance for the same month in 2009 was 72. That’s a HUGE increase! Especially if you think in percentages! And then I looked at the average attendance for October 2010. It was 53! So technically in one year we increased by 20 people or almost half of the previous year, but over a two year period it was an increase of only 1 person!
I think when you are in a small town and small church, you notice these swings from time to time and you can’t even point to any one specific thing as to why. Sure, some people moved, some switched to a church in the next bigger town, and some just quit on church. But that seems like quite a swing doesn’t it?
Here’s where one has to figure out what we can learn from the numbers but not get too caught up in them. If we haven’t done things right as a church and lost people as a result, then we need to fix that. If we can’t find anything we did wrong or need to improve, then maybe we just need to trust that God will continue to bring the people who need Jesus. We need to keep on keeping on and not let numbers discourage us too much or even excite us too much. If we got too involved in the numbers I sure would have been on an emotional rollercoaster.
Maybe we need to be a little more concerned about the number of people in our church who are getting to know their unchurched friends and neighbors and co-workers. Maybe we should celebrate the number of people who are inviting friends to church.
Numbers go up and numbers go down – and they are important because each one represents a person, a soul. But we need to learn which numbers to focus on, live and minister faithfully, and trust God for the results He will bring!