That’s not a very pretty phrase. In fact, for many, it seems cold.
If church becomes a numbers game, then people become “just a number,” and when people are just a number, we’ve failed to emulate the ministry of Jesus.
But if we fail to count anybody, we allow people to slip through the cracks and therefore fail to emulate the ministry of Jesus.
So how do you count people in a way that makes each person count? You balance the stats and the stories.
In other words, who was there on Sunday is just as important as how many were there.
How many people showed up Sunday is not nearly as important as how many people moved. How many people gave their lives to Jesus, submitted to baptism, joined a small group, and got involved in a ministry for the first time? How many people became more submissive to Jesus?
In ministry leadership circles, pastors often ask each other about how things are going. And often, what they’re really hoping to know is, “how many people are you running in your weekend service?” I usually know the answer because we’ve counted people, since people count. But I try not to give them mere numbers as answers.
Instead, I try to tell a story.
A young man stepped up to give his life to Jesus and he’s different now.
A couple was spiritually disconnected and they’re worshipping side-by-side now.
An alcoholic feels accepted without judgment.
The statistics we take help us measure what we’re doing right and wrong, whether we’re moving people forward spiritually, and whether we’re effective.
But it is the stories that tell us whether we’re actually doing the right things, whether we are speaking the truth in love, and whether we are really there for people.
I like stats, spreadsheets, and line charts, but they don’t melt my heart. Stories do.
So here’s the challenge for pastors and church leaders…
- Count how many people attend so you can gauge how effectively your church is inviting others.
- Count how many people are making decisions to follow Jesus.
- Count how many people are plugged into groups, serving in a ministry, or going out on mission trips.
All of that is important, but also…
- Collect the stories of people whose lives have been changed forever by the gospel.
It’s the stories that matter most for eternity!