Leaders Count People Because People Count

Fifty years ago, many churches had signs posted within the building showing weekly numbers on them: worship service attendance, Sunday School attendance, offering total, and even how many people brought their Bibles. We live in a different age now.

Today, some frown upon “counting.” But I actually think it’s worth doing – and doing better than we’ve ever done before.

There’s an old but true cliché: We count people because people count. We count because we care about the souls of each person we count. We count because we want to be effective in what we are doing.

Among our churches, we need to ask if we are reaching people. We need to ask if we are discipling people. Are we reaching our goals or are we falling short? These are important questions to ask and important things to count.

My contention is that we need to keep a scorecard. The challenge is in deciding what we are going to measure and how are we going to measure it. I’m convinced that the things we’ve been counting for years on those church attendance boards are helpful to count – but they’re not all we should count.

The two I believe we must count include those core ones that most churches are already counting: conversions and baptisms. But there are other areas that matter as well. They matter deeply to me, too.

Namely, we need to find out how to count transformation. Are people being transformed and becoming agents of God’s mission? Are they sharing Christ with their neighbors? Getting converts is great, but are they learning to live and grow as believers and are they sharing Christ with others? We must begin tracking discipleship and missional living.

I talk about measuring these things in Transformational Church, the book I coauthored with Thom Rainer. We have to consider things like:

  • What percentage of people in the church are serving?
  • How many are serving inside and outside the church?
  • How many are in small groups?
  • How many are being trained into leadership in groups and in the church?

Here’s a key: Some of these things are self-reported in groups. That’s a very helpful way to keep up with how God is using your people, and it takes minimal effort to keep track of it. It trains your people to be observant and proactive about those around them – those they are called to disciple and train.

So yes, we should count, but we need to count the right things. Sunday by Sunday, pastors and church leaders should get a report on, for instance, the percentage of people who were in small groups, the number of people who are on mission and ministry – and so on.

Metrics can help us know where we are and where we need to change. We need to be careful not to be slavishly driven by numbers, but to use them as a tool. And to that end, check out Transformational Discipleship Assessment for maturity issues and also the Transformational Church Assessment Tool. These are helpful tools for counting well, using the best measurables, and bringing health and strength to individual Christians and your church as a whole.

Measure your church over long periods of time and notice the trends, but I suggest that you keep track of the short-term numbers, too. There needs to be a regular keeping of data so that we can see our progress week to week.

As we learn more and more about our churches, we need to shore up some of the areas we discover are weak. But don’t downplay your church’s strengths. If the strength of your church is vibrant worship, for example, go with it.

Doing metrics and counting numbers actually can bless our churches and the communities around them. Learn to love the numbers that can better help you love the people they represent.

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Ed Stetzer

Ed Stetzer

Ed Stetzer, Ph.D., holds the Billy Graham Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College and serves as Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism. He has planted, revitalized, and pastored churches, trained pastors and church planters on six continents, holds two masters degrees and two doctorates, and has written dozens of articles and books. Previously, he served as Executive Director of LifeWay Research. Stetzer is a contributing editor for Christianity Today, a columnist for Outreach Magazine, and is frequently cited or interviewed in news outlets such as USAToday and CNN. He serves as interim pastor of Moody Church in Chicago.

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Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I like it Mac and do agree with your opinions on the matter. Thanks much
— winston
comment_post_ID); ?> In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
— Russ Wright
comment_post_ID); ?> "While I understand the intent behind this phrase" Expound please. What do you understand to be the intent behind that phrase?
— Ken

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