Pastors and churches have a strange relationship with numbers. By that, I don’t mean math in general (although I would personally plead guilty to that!) but the idea of measuring things in the church. What business people call metrics, pastors call numbers. And we have no idea how to feel about them. Sometimes it’s just downright painful to listen to pastors work their way through a tortured and insincere rendition of the old “obviously, numbers aren’t everything” cliche. We all know that if the same pastor heard the offering just doubled, he would get a little more comfortable with numbers! It’s a strange tension – living and dying by Sunday’s attendance is a crushing form of idolatry but totally ignoring numbers is irresponsible leadership.
In planting Restoration City, we decided to navigate the tension by making an unapologetically big deal of numbers. We measure things. For example, I know how many people have been to each service, what our offering is, how many kids go to RCCKids, how many people serve those kids and a bunch of other things. Without good information, we can’t make good decisions.
But here’s the key for us at Restoration City when it comes to numbers: What we celebrate matters more than what we measure. So much of the awkwardness around the numbers conversation doesn’t come from the fact that we measure things, it comes from the fact that we celebrate the wrong things. If all a church ever celebrates is it’s attendance and offering, the congregation will get the message – what the leadership really cares about is butts in seats and dollars in offering plates. Celebration is a powerful communicator of culture and values.
For us at Restoration City, there are three numbers we celebrate: baptisms, community group participation and membership. We measure a lot of things but celebrate those because we think they are the three most important indicators of our success as a church. In other words, if those numbers are healthy and moving in the right direction, everything else should fall in place.
Here’s why we picked those three numbers:
- Baptism is the best way for us to measure life change through salvation and the beginning of a discipleship process. Counting decisions for Christ is inexact and often inflated. Baptism is a far more reliable and helpful number for us.
- Community Group attendance is the best way for us to measure a person’s commitment to Restoration City. When someone takes the step of joining a Community Group, they are more or less committed to us as a church. They’re moving through our discipleship process and developing the relationships that will make RCC a spiritual home.
- Membership is the best way for us to measure that a person is fully participating in the life of the church. All of our members agree to a fairly specific membership covenant. When someone is willing to make all of those commitments, we know they are fully engaged in the mission and culture of Restoration City.
When we look at our first weeks as a church, we realize just how much we have to celebrate.
- We have baptized 9 people since this summer.
- We currently have 80 people in Community Groups.
- We have 41 active members.
When we remember those numbers come from God’s grace, not our merit, our celebration turns into worship, praise and gratitude. As we enter into a week of thanksgiving, I hope you will join me in thanking God for all He has done through Restoration City.