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the numbers trap

It’s a lesson every pastor should learn early in ministry … don’t get sucked into the numbers trap. As a pastor, it’s easy (even tempting) to measure ministry effectiveness by the numbers: attendance, giving, percentages of involvement, etc. We feel good when the numbers are up and begin to question our sanity when the numbers go down.

Perhaps it’s because numbers are ever-present and even unavoidable. We live in a numbers-driven society … the stock market, gas prices, speed limits. Baseball managers are hired and fired based upon winning percentages. Politicians are elected by counting ballots. We celebrate birthdays and anniversaries … the numbers of years we’ve lived or been married.

When it comes to church life, numbers can drive you crazy. LifePoint had our highest attendance average in October; November has been about 25% lower. At the same time, our weekly offerings have been greater in November than in October. Try to figure that one out!

We had a LifePoint Cafe tonight featuring two really good artists and yet we had a low turnout. Even though the quality of music was outstanding it was hard to shake the disappointment of low numbers. That’s what numbers can do to you — take a good event and taint it.

How do we overcome the numbers trap? I’m not sure … it might be a part of the human condition, or at least our western expression of it. At a deeper level, we need to draw our affirmation from the steady love of God rather than the fickle nature of numbers.

Stay tuned … I’ll let you know how I’m doing 🙂

Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • Brian B. Carter, MS, LAc says:

    Ya, it’s not just in ministry- in my freelance business and now in the company I’m at, looking at numbers can give you the wrong idea- there are always ups and downs, and many reasons for them… I just take them with a grain of salt- you can’t ignore them and not question what’s going on, but you also don’t know what big spike might be coming down the pike… plus by the way I’ve noticed in San Diego that whenever the temperature drops noticeably, people stay home. Weather wimps!

  • ken hensley says:

    And a weather dip in San Diego may mean that it’s dropped to 65 degrees. Thanks for the comment!