Here are some quotes I’ve seen on church social media sites recently.
- “Celebrating over 300 baptisms this weekend!”
- “Grateful for the chance to bless more than 2,000 families with food boxes last month.”
- “Over 5,000 people call (church name) their home. All we’re missing is you!”
- “We planted 14 new churches in the last five years!”
- “Even with all the recent challenges, last year we grew from 500 to over 750.”
All of this is great news.
But mixed in with the great news is a big problem. Our numbers obsession.
Yes, we should celebrate every baptism, every food box, every church member, every church plant, and every growing church. But why do we feel the constant need to numerically quantify something that is already wonderful and life-transforming all on its own?
What about the church that “only” had 3 baptisms, “only” blessed 2 families, “only” call 50 people their home, and “only” stayed strong and vibrant without planting any churches or growing numerically as their hometown experienced a massive population decline?
(This is a follow-up to my previous article, Why Church Attendance Matters More To Your Denomination Than It Should To You.)
A New (Non-Numerical) Way To Celebrate
What if we flipped the script? What if those reports were re-written like this?
- “We’re celebrating everyone who was baptized this weekend!”
- “Grateful for the chance to bless the families of our neighborhood with food boxes last month.”
- “We love to call (church name) our home. All we’re missing is you!”
- “We love planting new churches!”
- “Through all the recent challenges, God has helped our church become stronger than ever this year!”
Would Christ be any less honored if we didn’t obsess over publicizing our church-growth numbers?
Would there be less to celebrate?
Of course not.
Some Upsides Of Deemphasizing The Numbers
Here are some positives that might happen as a result of deemphasizing numbers.
- We’d be celebrating the stories more than the numbers.
- There would be less sense of competing with other churches.
- Churches without comparative numbers wouldn’t feel like failures.
- Ego would be less likely to creep in.
- There would be less pressure to chase a bigger number next time.
I’m not saying we shouldn’t keep track of numbers. Accurate metrics can help us see objective reality in ways we might otherwise miss.
But obsessing over those numbers has more downsides than upsides.
Success is great.
Numerical increase is wonderful.
Goal-setting is motivational.
Celebrating positive achievement is important.
Thankfully, we can do all of that without making numbers the central focus.
And if we do so, we may find we get to keep all the upside while letting go of some of the unintended downside.
(Photo by Priscilla Du Preez | Unsplash)