Numbers

6 Lessons, Blessings & Cautions from 2 Years of Blogging

Last month, the second anniversary of NewSmallChurch.com passed by without notice. No, I don’t feel sad that none one sent me a card. Hallmark is still working on a set of “Your blog is two years old today!” cards.

I just didn’t remember it myself. I’m not big on anniversaries.

But we have passed that two-year mark, so I decided to take a moment to reflect on what’s happened in the last two years, and what I’ve learned from it.

Truthfully, it’s almost hard to remember what my life and ministry was like before I started this. Writing, blogging, travelling and speaking has taken up such a chunk of my time that it’s completely changed my schedule. I’ve met so many great people that I would no know today without this.

But mostly, the last two years have re-affirmed the premise of this blog and The Grasshopper Myth – that playing the numbers game in ministry is a dangerous thing.

Yes, reaching more people is better than reaching fewer people. This blog and my book have reached ten times more people in these two years than I expected to reach in my lifetime, and I’m profoundly grateful for that. After all, we write, preach, teach and pastor to touch people’s lives. It’s appropriate that we want those efforts to have a positive impact on as many people as possible.

But readership and attendance numbers can only tell us so much. And some of what we think they’re telling us is false.

23 Non-Numerical Signs of a Healthy Church

“If we don’t use numbers to determine if a church is healthy, what criteria should we use?”

I get that question a lot. Mostly from other pastors.

And no, they’re not being facetious when they ask it. They truly don’t know the answer.

Isn’t that… I don’t know… a little disturbing to anyone? Have we really become so obsessed with numbers that many, maybe most pastors really don’t know how to tell what a healthy church looks like, outside of crunching the numbers?

The truth is, I’m not opposed to taking church attendance or tracking our numbers. I’m in favor of them. Numbers can help us see things objectively that we might otherwise be blind to. But just like lack of numbers can blind us to some truths, an obsession with numbers can blind us to other truths.

The Growing Disconnect Between Spiritual Hunger and Church Attendance

Doing church together is an essential aspect of what it means to be a Christian. But church attendance rates keep dropping in most of the developed world.

Why? I often hear it’s because people aren’t as spiritually-minded as they used to be. After all, if it’s not their fault, then some of it might be our fault. And that can’t be.

But the evidence doesn’t support that. In fact, it suggests that people’s spiritual hunger may be growing, not shrinking. Spiritually-themed books, movies, TV shows and blogs are having a major resurgence. Alternative spirituality is booming.

Spiritual hunger isn’t a cultural thing. That God-shaped hole is hard-wired into every one of us. Church attendance isn’t down because people have stopped caring about spiritual things. It’s because we haven’t done such a great job at showing them how church attendance will help them answer that longing.

Don’t Try To Be Successful – Try To Do Good Work

I’ve always tried to live my life and do ministry by this rule: Don’t try to be successful. Try to do good work. Not people-pleasing work, God-honoring work Not self-promoting work, Christ-magnifying work Not numbers-driven work, Spirit-led work The one time in my ministry that I abandoned this principle and did things for the numbers, I …

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Why I Stopped Taking Attendance at My Church for a While

Numbers matter. Because people matter. If we keep track of them correctly, the right numbers can give us a lot of helpful information about a church and its ministries. For many years, I kept track of church attendance numbers very carefully. As the church grew, I calculated growth patterns, percentages, demographics, you name it. I found that counting …

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For Every Minister Who Struggles With Your Prayer Life

We all struggle with the age-old question, “Is God pleased with me and what I’m doing?” Because prayer is hard, many of us use cheap substitutes to answer that question.

Instead of wrestling with the difficult aspects of our relationship with Jesus, many pastors rely on the newest church leadership methods and systems to answer the “is God pleased with me?” question.

It’s quicker and easier to measure our success through numbers and metrics than it is to struggle with our insecurities through prayer. But quicker and easier aren’t better.

Mark Driscoll and the Dangerous Pursuit of Big Ministry

Mark Driscoll’s sins aren’t any worse than mine. They’re just drawn on a bigger canvas, in broader strokes, with more vivid colors, under a brighter spotlight. (In case you think “sin” is too harsh a term, Driscoll himself referred to his recent behavior as “my sin during this season”.)

That makes him an easy target for some. But that’s not what I want to do. I’m using Driscoll’s current troubles as the basis for this post for one reason only. I hope this scandal will sound a warning for all of us. Pursuing big ministry for the sake of bigness is a dangerous game. A game with no winners, only losers.

3 Sundays, 3 Stories – Here’s What One Healthy Small Church Looks Like

Small Churches have down seasons and up seasons. And those seasons can switch very fast. Monday morning fast. The church I pastor has been experiencing an up season for a while now – several years, in fact. I wish I could say it’s because of my flawless leadership skills, but if you’ve read The Grasshopper Myth, you …

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