Numbers, numbers, numbers. Our success in today’s world is often measured in numbers.
- McDonalds is fixated on the number of hamburgers they’ve sold.
- People are obsessed with the number on the scale.
- Large corporations strive unscrupulously for sales and profit numbers to increase.
- And sadly, some pastors measure their success solely based on the number of seats filled in the pews.
I’m a numbers girl and I love statistics and analyzing, so I’m not suggesting that some barometer for effectiveness isn’t warranted and helpful, but what we measure and how we use the information is critical.
You know the saying, “There is power in numbers”? Many people believe, “Numbers speak volumes”. We’ve been trained our entire lives that more is better and there is no easier method to assess ‘more’ than to calculate the numbers.
But sometimes, in that process, we miss the big picture and overlook victory.
Romans 5:6 tells us, “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.”
The bible doesn’t specify how many ungodly there were. Such a powerful verse and yet there was no numeric qualifier for the decision God made when sending Jesus to atone for our sins. The ungodly. One? A hundred? More? The number wasn’t the point and wasn’t important.
I imagine pastors have a particularly difficult time balancing the Call on their lives and the pressure, self-imposed or otherwise, to measure their success for the Kingdom in some tangible way.
As much as all Christians should desire to share the Word of God and the gift of eternal life, pastors have an even greater vested interest in this; it’s their ‘job’ after all. While not a pastor myself, I suspect they feel an overwhelming sense of responsibility to try and save as many souls as they can. Of course the truth is none of us, not even pastors, save anyone. And they know this. But part of their ‘job’ responsibility is to bring people to Christ, and there’s no way around that fact that whether it’s in the seats filled or the people led, numbers count.
But sometimes I wish they didn’t. And interestingly, what pastors may overlook or not realize, is the numbers don’t matter as much to the congregation members, as does the individual church and spiritual experience.
Do bigger congregation numbers correlate to more salvations? Sometimes, but not always.
Is there a connection between bigger numbers and increased tithing amounts? Sometimes, but not always.
Do bigger numbers mean the pastor is Godly and genuine? Sometimes, but not always.
The point? Bigger does not ALWAYS mean better!
What’s a pastor to do?
Refocus on what shepherding the flock means to God. Emulate Jesus and develop goals based on what ministry success should look like.
- Salvations will increase when the Word of God is preached from the Bible and from the heart. When lives are touched because the needs of hurting and broken people are understood and met, and when those seeking the truth receive it, transformation will happen.
- Tithing will increase when members feel vested in a congregation and pastor they value. When biblical truths are shared and lives are changed by the gospel.
- Attendance will increase when members feel connected. When the Word is shared with reverence, humility, and heart.
- Perhaps the church budget needs an overhaul? Time to address creative and responsible methods to manage the money you have, rather than just assuming more money will fix the problem.
- Has pride reared its head in your leadership staff? If so, extinguish it ASAP!
Success will come when the focus is on the process, rather than on the measurement.
I realize this can be a complicated matter and there may be a multitude of mitigating factors which have fueled the pastor’s focus on numbers. It’s true that we are often more effective when we start with the end in mind. However, I contend, that the end shouldn’t be the end-all! Ultimately a healthy, God lead, faith based ministry will bear fruit, and this shouldn’t just be measured in numbers.
I am reminded of a popular verse.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16.
No big numbers here, just one very, very important person.
Sometimes, it’s not in the numbers at all.
I share this with you as a recent assignment in my life coaching course really caused me to pause and evaluate my pastor and place of worship. Many of us are blessed with pastors who are already doing it right, but as Christians and congregation members, we have a responsibility to pay attention, evaluate, and participate in the process.
What can we do?
Is your Pastor meeting the needs of your congregation and doing a great job leading your church? Then tell him so!
Are there unmet needs? Distractions present? A feeling of ineffectiveness or going astray? Then tell him so!
Do your part. Step up and engage. Pray for your pastor. Support him by speaking truth in love. What do you see? How do you feel? Share your heart and encourage him at a foundational level, and together, let the numbers worry about themselves.
Blessings to you!