David Ripley, President

David Ripley, President

Vision Statement #8

Double the number of churches in our mission territory, double attendance.”

 

For the next few Mission notes we will explore the potentially best way to grow the church.  Untapped in so many ways!

In the Books

Over three decades ago when I first started pastoral ministry the conference where I was serving leaned hard on pastors to increase their churches book membership. After all, when higher levels of the church measured the success of a conference, this is the number they used to gauge success.

The conference printed a regular list of each pastor with the number of new names on the membership records posted boldly for all to see. Those at the top of the list with many baptisms were praised, and rewarded with gifts and prizes. Those towards the bottom of the list with zeros, ones, or twos were chastised and at times threatened.

With this emphasis, the numbers did rise, even if the morale of the many pastors fell. It felt like pastors were in competition against each other.

attendance downThere was a direct result of this emphasis. When I did the research for my dissertation a few years ago, I found that the percentage between book membership and actual attendance was dropping in North America. One researcher shared that this was over 70% in the 1960’s.

This meant that if you had 100 members on the books, only 70 were attending.

Later research showed this ratio had dropped to 50% around the turn of the century. Today it is less than 45%.

What we find is that if you emphasize membership, pastors and churches will rise to the challenge and as long as the membership continues to grow on the church books they feel “successful.”

The problem is that just having names on the clerk’s records will not keep people connected to Jesus and will not engage people in God’s mission for the church. Having them in the books doesn’t mean they’ll be in the pews and active for Jesus.

In the Pews

lightstock_157270_full_user_39147891 copyA much better measure and emphasis for us to place before our pastors and churches is attendance.

The greater the attendance at worship the greater the opportunities for people to connect with Jesus and to become involved in His Mission.

Now attendance is not a perfect measure of church health. I wish there was a way to measure how many active disciples there are in each church! To do this properly we would need to measure the hearts of the people which is only something God can do.

That leaves us with attendance, even with its short comings, as perhaps our best gauge of how a church is growing. Presence in worship gives people an opportunity to connect to Jesus. Out of a relationship with our Savior, He invites us to join His salvation mission as active disciples.

If a church only seeks greater attendance without intentionally pointing people to Jesus and fruitful witness, they may find that people are coming to church primarily to connect with other people. This is good, but they must also unite with Jesus’ salvation purposes.

Our churches are the action units that are to equip people for active witness in their communities; each member actually engaged in the Great Commission of Matthew 28.

More to Come

We have much more to explore as we join God’s call to double attendance. Next time let’s explore ways that a church may grow its attendance, and eventually we need to investigate how to invite and involve those who join our church family as vibrant disciples of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.

Stay tuned! Let us discover together!

David

 

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Learn More: This article is part of a series focused on making the new Man-Sask Mission & Vision practical and applicable.

– Where did this Mission & Vision come from?
– How will it make a difference?
– How will it impact you?

Check out previous articles in the series here