People count. Numbers are important. But we need to be asking more than "How many?"
When talking about the health of a church, it’s very tempting to think in terms of numbers – that is, how many people turn up on a Sunday. Taking note of these numbers is a requirement for Anglican churches and goes towards important research on the decline and growth of the Church on a national level.
But when church planters talk about the vision they have for a church, it tends to transcend numbers. The vision is the transformation of communities as they seek to join in with God’s redemptive work in the world.
This is hard to see and tough to measure. Measuring the stuff of the Kingdom of God turns human calculation on its head: it’s less about output or results and more about input and impact. Measurement in the life of a church can result in crude estimates that don’t tell us very much about what is going on. Yet, when done well, measurement provides us with a better impression of what is going on, what might be cause for celebration, and what might need to change.
So, numbers matter, but we want to dig deeper and talk in terms of Kingdom impact. To do this, we need to think to ask the questions that current forms of measurement may not. How many people come for the first time, and come back the following week? How many come once and don’t return? How long does it take for someone to join a midweek group or serving team? How many people are giving financially? How many people have an individual prayer life, and how often do they pray? How many people are discipling another person?
Take a look at this Sample Church Survey from St Paul’s Shadwell to get an idea of the sort of questions that might be useful to ask your congregation.
The results of these questions like this – gleaned by way of databases, surveys, or face-to-face conversations – might indicate room for improvement: where signage needs to be made clearer; where information about serving or giving is absent; where stories about answered prayer need to be shared to encourage others.
So, dream big, determine what you are going to measure, and dig into your data!