What Were Your Numbers This Weekend?

As I have coached and worked with pastors across the country I am continually met with hesitancy when it comes to that simple question. There are a lot of pastors who want to stop talking about their Sunday morning attendance numbers. Congregants are coming less frequently, and this is skewing overall numbers vs. what has been recorded in the past. It looks like this: someone who came 48 weeks a year only comes 38 weeks. Looking at a macro of weekly attendance that is a 20% drop. If you do that across the board, it can look like you actually have a down year when in reality it could be just a cultural trend. (You can read some of those here: Link to Thom Rainer & Carey Nieuwhof articles.)

Or it could be indicative of something much more. . .

Pastors now are wanting to be counted at other metrics: baptisms, salvations, groups, serving, and discipleship. Some are even looking at how the bad numbers in their communities are changing (violent crime, educational gap, poverty rates, etc.). This is great and highly encouraged. We should’ve been doing this all along.

Here is an example of two pastors:

Pastor 1: “We don’t measure Sunday AM numbers, we measure disciples, baptisms, salvations. We intentionally discipled 12 people last year, baptized 11, and saw 17 people make a decision to follow Jesus.”

Pastor 2: “Same here! And we had the same exact metrics as Pastor 1. 12, 11, 17.”

Second Chair Solutions: “Wow! That’s amazing (and a weird coincidence). I celebrate those numbers! Just for context, what are your Sunday AM numbers?”

Pastor 1: “150 Sunday AM”

Second Chair Solutions: “That’s awesome! You are really on mission!”

Pastor 2: “1,700 Sunday AM”

Second Chair Solutions: “We need to talk.”

Numbers do not lie, but they can hide things very well.

Your micro must support your macro. Your systems, numbers, output, etc. must support your larger vision. Honestly, in that example; Pastor 1 is seeing some amazing things happen. Though they probably won’t be invited to speak at any conferences anytime soon, their metrics are still remarkable. While I do not have anything against Pastor 2, there is something off in their numbers in comparison to The Great Commission. There could be a lot going on in that pastor’s church. They could have just walked through a season of transition. Maybe there was some supernatural growth over the last two years and they are just getting to a point of stasis. That is why it is important to ask the questions.

Your numbers do not define you; but they do offer more clarity into what is happening in your organization.

So, I am still going to ask you about your numbers. Because that number tells me so many hidden things; along with allowing me to ask my next questions.

Your weekly attendance tells me:

  • The leadership ratio for your church
  • A ball park on your yearly budget
  • Your barriers of growth in depth and numbers
  • The percentage of reach into your community
  • Your evangelism focus

But it also allows me to ask these follow up questions:

  • How have the changes in attendance affected your staff, budgets, etc.?
  • How is your soul in this season?
  • What is working in your church?
  • What is not working in your church?
  • What is your long-term focus and how are you getting there?

We want to shy away from “what are your numbers” because of the implications and the questions behind the question. Let’s not do that. This is a judgment free zone. Let’s face the truth and reality of the situation; pivot, and move forward in faith. . . together.

So how are your numbers?

Tim Kirkpatrick is Managing Partner at Second Chair Solutions. An organization built and designed to help pastors and leaders get from where they are to where they want to be. For free resources and consultation visit Second Chair Solutions.