We are celebrating our Easter number this week. It was an incredible day.
Whenever we talk about celebrating an attendance number, I hear the same questions—why celebrate a number? Do numbers really matter? Isn’t it about glorifying God—whatever the number?
Well, yes, it is about glorifying God—regardless of the number.
In fact, our staff set a number we thought we might reach—a stretch goal—made preparations towards reaching that number, worked hard, prayed continually and led the church to do the same. But then we consistently reminded each other that we would celebrate whoever God brought to us Easter weekend.
And, God blessed us beyond what we imagined.
But, why is the number important? Why count people in the first place?
Here are a few reasons:
1. Measure of effectiveness. Who builds a house without first counting the costs (Luke 14:28)? We needed a number of how many possibly could show up in order to plan effectively. What if you were planning a meal for six people and 15 people actually came? Would you have enough food prepared? Probably not.
So, we needed a number. But, there was far too much preparation that went into planning the day not to actually count to see where we were most effective. What worked? What didn’t? How could we improve next time? We couldn’t answer those questions well unless we counted.
2. Numbers represent people. We know that near 90 percent of our community is considered “unchurched.” They don’t attend church anywhere regularly. Those are real numbers, representing real people. Numbers matter, because setting goals pushes us to be more assertive in reaching unchurched people. If we believe in our mission “leading people to Jesus”—which we do—then why would we not do everything within our abilities to help it become a reality? In fact, to know the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it — would be a sin. (James 4:17) We know we need to be on mission, Jesus told us that, and setting a numerical goal is one way that helps us accomplish that mission even better. So, we count.
3. Substance of celebration. When people participate in a goal there will always be a natural tendency to want to know “How did we do?” For example, if you set a goal to lose 10 pounds, you might track along the way just how you are doing. And, you don’t celebrate until you make progress towards the goal. The only way to tell how we did towards our goal of attendance is to count.
Again, you should celebrate regardless of the number of people who attend, because God is actually in charge of attendance. We do preparations, but He draws people to Himself—Scripture is clear about that—but if you are going to work hard—and expect people to ever want to work hard again—you have to celebrate the hard work. In my experience, planning to celebrate actually motivates people more towards the goal. Which goes back to the other two reasons.
That’s just a few of the reasons that come to mind of why we count people. I’m sure there are others. By the way, throughout the Bible God’s people counted. They got into problems when the motive was to honor man, rather than out of obedience to God. We must guard our hearts in this area.
One way I do this is continually reminding myself, as I stated earlier, that we will celebrate regardless—and that God is in charge of attendance. And, by asking myself, am I going to be content with our efforts if we don’t reach our goal? And, yes, God has and will test our motivation.
Do you have any reasons for counting that you would add?
Ron Edmondson is a church planter and pastor with a heart for strategy, leadership and marketing, especially geared toward developing churches and growing and improving the kingdom of God.
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