Numbers can be overwhelming. I’ve seen churches keep numbers and measure all kinds of things. First time guests, returning guests, empty parking stalls during services, kids attendance, student attendance, short-term mission trip participation, first time givers, on and on the list goes…literally. None of these (or other categories not listed) are necessarily bad things to measure. In fact in totality they can help you gain understanding as to which direction things are moving at your church. The thing is, there are a lot of things you could measure, a lot of things you could pay attention to. But what are the most important things to pay attention to? I know some people will disagree with me, but based on my experience working with churches around the country, and being a guy that’s in the trenches day to day at a local church, the 5 most important numbers to keep a pulse on are the following.
You can measure first time guests and the number of people who say yes to following Jesus (and you should); but the most important number to measure in all of that is baptisms, because the other two numbers are wrapped up in the number of people being baptized at your church. And after all, this is the whole point of the church to help people follow Jesus, and a public declaration of that intent is a huge part of that process.
The number of unique volunteers you have serving at your church tells you two really important things. First it tells you who is with you. Who is bought into the vision of where you believe Jesus is uniquely leading your church. After all in today’s’ world it’s a lot easier to give some money than it is to give time. These are all-in people. It also helps you identify and develop potential leaders in your church, because volunteering is discipleship. You can’t follow Jesus without learning to live an others oriented life!
Simply put life-change happens best in groups…in the context of friendships, because after all what we are being discipled to when we follow Jesus, is friendship with Jesus. This is where people “work out” their belief system and begin to change their thinking. This number gives you an indicator of the number of people who are being discipled and moving towards what Jesus wants them to become.
You cannot follow Jesus without giving and serving. Giving is an indicator of the level of buy-in people have in the direction you’re moving as a church. Healthy churches have a strategy to help their people become more generous. Not because they want something from them, but because they want something for them. They want them to look and live like Jesus. They aren’t simply teaching or telling their people to give, there is a holistic strategy to help them move towards becoming generous like Jesus.
You knew this one was coming didn’t you? It may be simple but attendance numbers matter. Numbers count because people count. Every number has a name and every name has a story. The goal of the Gospel movement, called the Church, that Jesus started was not that it would get smaller and less influential, but rather that it would become a movement that would go to the ends of the Earth!