Church Planting Mistakes – Do Numbers Matter?

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Hypothesis It’s a mistake to say that numbers don’t matter in a church plant

Why Do We Think Numbers Are Important?

  • At any point in the life of a church plant or established church how you deal with the issue numbers is important.
  • What data do you need to measure the growth of your church? What are you looking for? Is it just increased numbers or are there ways to measure things like community, discipleship and relationship to Jesus?
  • Is it a form of self protection to say that numbers don’t matter as a church planter/leader? It’s the question you are most likely to be asked, particularly in the early days, ‘how many are you gathering?’ Its very easy to exaggerate or give an inflated answer to protect ourselves but just as easy to say that we are not focussing on the numbers which may also be a form of self protection.
  • It is possible to get too caught up just in the numbers and there are times when numbers are a secondary issue. For example if you’ve moved to a new city, new country or into a new cultural community then prioritising family life and making sure this is working needs to come first.
  • If a church plant isn’t growing it does need to be addressed because you can’t sustain long term with 10 people.
  • However its important to be asking the right questions at the right time and in the right context. What are we building? What is the priority right now? How are we settling? Are we building relationships in the community? Etc etc.
  • Sometimes it’s more about the increase than about actual size. If you are the only Christian family in the whole town you are planting in and you add one person this is huge!
  • Think about how we answer the question of numbers. What are we measuring? Is it the number coming each Sunday or to midweek meetings? Is it the numbers of committed believers? Does it include the unbelieving contacts who regularly attend events? Are we measuring influence?
  • If a church is brilliant and doing brilliant things it’s natural to expect that numbers would also be increasing.

Should We Be Setting Targets?

  • Setting number targets and timescales is not always a helpful thing to do. It can be hugely demoralising if we don’t hit the targets.
  • Equally not having any idea of targets or aims is not helpful. There are things which can only be done well when we know how many people we have, how many new people there are, e.g. good communication.
  • You have to learn if setting goals is helpful for you and your team. Another area where it can be helpful is to be able to say ‘when we reach this number it will mean that we are able to do this next thing……another midweek group, open a community event, hold a Sunday meeting, etc.
  • Numbers can be a measure of how well things are working and what areas need change. Is the way that you are doing things effective in the context you are in? What things are viable and what are not?

Recognising the State Of Your Heart

  • How you deal with numbers can be a measure of the state of your own heart and this is important.
  • It is important not to define yourself by the numbers alone. Numbers are not always a measure of how good a leader you are.
  • Be aware of what faithfulness look like in your context. Are you being faithful with what God has given you? This includes, people, gifting, family, finances etc etc.
  • Be aware of what your own capabilities and leadership capacity are. These can sometimes be natural limiting factors to the size a plant will grow. There are also sometimes other limiting factors which may be playing a part.
  • Be aware what season or stage of life your plant is in. E.g. when you are laying foundations as a family and church community.
  • Sometimes when you are in the early days, particularly if you have moved to a new place it is necessary to give time to just falling in love with the place.