I tend to judge things based on numbers. No, I am not a mathematician, quite the opposite! Yet I judge success on how many attend, how much people give (I don’t know specifics just the total count), and how many new faces I see.
I grew up in an extremely small conservative church where faces did not change much. We were very inward focused and everyone knew each others business! When families were struggling this was a good thing because we really did care for one another and met each others needs. However, we were content to stay there, safe and sound and not reach out. It was almost as if we were scared someone might come along and want to become a member of our nice safe little church.
Now I find myself wanting more, more, more! And I find myself becoming easily discouraged and taking great responsibility upon myself when I don’t see growth constantly. I find great comfort in large numbers around me. I like the buzz. I participate in the small, I love the small groups I am part of, and I adore the small staff I get to be part of. But what drives me is numbers.
Jesus participated in a variety of relationships in the Bible. He invested heavily in a few, and focused a great deal of time on His inner circle. But, when they went out and held meetings, or He stood on a hillside and taught, man there were multitudes!
Now, I am not suggesting that we would ever have the impact or attraction that He had, but is it wrong to want to minister to as many people as possible?
I love to design services that draw people in. Services that create a thirst to know more about the Lord. But that is not all there is to it, I cannot leave it there as a leader.
Our ministry has had spurts of growth, but, then had to scramble to grow up the new members and attendees. We have been feeding them through membership class at a steady rate for the past decade. “Come on, come on and take our membership class. Hurry up, sign the covenant…Next!” You get the idea!
We recently completely changed the format of our Membership class. We now spend more time teaching them and then send them out to pray about and carefully consider all that we ask them to be committed to. Then we ask them to come back and sign the membership covenant. Often they don’t come back to sign it. This worries me.
I cannot argue with the fact that this change has eliminated huge amounts of time following up with new members who are not fulfilling the covenant with the church. Covenants are serious, and it is never about ‘how many’ you can get signed up. Even though I believe this is the right way to approach any covenant, cautiously, it is difficult to see numbers fall off.
In a similar way we ‘upped’ the team requirements of our upfront team members. This has likewise eliminated many problems we used to face because there is now clear understanding of expectations of each team member. We allow them to guest a few times to try it out, as well as giving us a chance to work with them and see what they bring to the team.
Each number represents a life. A life that Christ died for. It is not wrong to seek to bring in as many as possible. But it cannot just stop when we reach a quota or hit a magic number. These are precious lives, lives that God has entrusted us with. So as leaders I encourage you not to stop at acquiring more, but to be committed to fully walk them to maturity, no matter how long it takes. Numbers are easy, true covenant commitments take time.