4 Principles for a Healthy View on Church Numbers

Church leaders have a strange relationship with numbers. 

  • Maybe it’s because our formal education didn’t emphasize it much. 
  • Perhaps it’s because we have read the numbers in Exodus too many times and the cubits fried our numerical circuitry. 
  • Maybe it’s because our church boards consist of business leaders who are super comfortable with numbers. 

Whatever the reason, as church leaders, we tend to go to two extremes regarding numbers.

At one extreme, we are obsessed with numbers like weekend attendance, offering, and per capita giving. By obsessed, we mean that the numbers impact our emotional health. If attendance and offerings are reasonable, we are happy. If they are low, we are depressed.

On the other extreme, we ignore the numbers. Here, church leaders emphasize the lack of control over outcomes and then justify not counting. This, too, is an emotional response.

We understand these extremes because we have served in the trenches of church leadership. We have felt the highs and lows of the number game, so our goal at Intentional Churches is to help leaders embrace a proper understanding of church numbers (metrics).  

Here are some guiding principles for improved emotional health around counting in your church:

1. Metrics are hints

When working with a church, we look at four to six metrics TOGETHER. These metrics do not paint the whole picture, but they give us clues as to what MAY BE happening. We then explore numbers in the context of the church’s story and strategy. This paints the whole picture.

2. Metrics are strategic action helpers

Your church has activity around action all of the time. Metrics help you assess whether your actions and activities are moving people towards your God-given mission and vision. They aid you in learning, discovering when to celebrate, and improving your ministry work.

3. Metrics can help your team move towards alignment

When your team talks about numbers, it forces you to clarify definitions. Investing in defining what you are counting and why brings alignment, which helps your team go faster. Ambiguity around terms like discipleship, outreach, and vision (and others) results in frustrating meetings–meetings filled with theological, anecdotal, and philosophical debate. 

4. Metrics force you to ask better questions

This is the best outcome of looking at numbers. Here are a few to add to your team’s planning cycles. 

  • What were we looking to accomplish here?  
  • What is God trying to do in and through us?  
  • What have we accomplished and need to celebrate?  
  • What should we do more? What should we not do again?
  • What are we learning?

ChurchOS has helped hundreds of church leaders get more emotionally healthy around numbers and dashboards. Our Activator Training equips you to use metrics to serve you, your team, and your church’s mission.


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