Why We Need to Ask More Numerical Questions about Our Church

by Chuck Lawless

I’m well aware that it’s easy to get focused on numbers when evaluating church growth. Too many church leaders report “butts in the seats” and “bucks in the plate” more than anything else—without really evaluating even those numbers. For example, we might report a significant attendance increase without pointing out that most of that growth came from transfer growth rather than conversion growth.

On the other hand, numbers do matter. I do want to know if my church is reaching non-believers and making disciples—after all, Jesus told us to make disciples of all the world (Matt 28:18-20)—and checking numbers is one means to evaluate how we’re doing in that process.

My concern in this post, though, is that we often ask only the attendance growth numbers without regard for other numbers that matter, too. It’s not that we give too much attention to numbers; it’s that we give too little attention to them.

For example, here are a few other numbers I would also want to know:

  • How many believers in my church daily practice the spiritual disciplines of Bible intake and prayer?
  • How many Christian couples pray together daily?
  • How many parents are intentionally discipling their children beyond bringing them to church?
  • How many believers can name non-believers (or even one) with whom they are intentionally developing a relationship, loving them and working toward sharing Christ with them?
  • How many church members have been trained to give their personal testimony?
  • What percentage of members have shared the gospel with someone in the past year?
  • How many members have, with the help of other believers, identified their spiritual gifts?
  • How many attendees are actively engaged in a small group in the church?
  • What percentage of our church members have served at least short-term on the mission field?
  • How many members have we sent out in the last five years to do church planting/pastoring/missionary service either in North America or around the world?
  • How many members are actively working on scripture memorization?
  • What percentage of members are involved in a mentor/mentee relationship with another believer?
  • How many members would say, “If I’m honest, I have never truly been discipled”?

I realize this list is not exhaustive, but I trust you get my point. What other numbers would you add to this list as you evaluate your church? What numbers in this list had you not considered?