Every ministry must give attention to numbers. Why? Because data gives you a snap shot of where your successes and challenges are developing. You don’t have to be numbers-driven to be affected by numerical data. If your numbers go up, you feel confident. If numbers go down you start questioning the game plan. Very few ministries are impartial towards numbers. After all, coaches are judged by them, merchants succeed or fail by them, athletes are passed over or paid according to them, and pastors compliment or complain because of them. It is rare for a supervising pastor to say with a straight face that he does not care about numbers. Even when it is said, it is often out of a desire not to appear to be ruled by them or appear spiritually immature about them.
The sooner you come to terms with the fact that you are going to be judged, evaluated, complemented, compelled, compared, or competed with over numbers the sooner you can move towards a healthy respect for numbers or an immunity from number obsession.
Good data coupled with honest interpretation can result in greater effectiveness, so let me share seven positive and seven negative number points.
Positive points about ministry by the numbers.
- Numbers can provide a snapshot of our ministry.
- Numbers help determine where challenges are developing.
- Numbers help determine where successes are developing.
- Numbers can reveal the portion of the wall that needs attention.
- Numbers represent souls and souls are extremely important to God.
- Numbers allow us to measure with accuracy.
- Numbers call us to fervent prayer – either thanking God for his protection and favor or pleading with Him for it.
When are numbers negative?
- When you use them to compare your ministry to others.
- When you allow the enemy to depress you or suppress you with them.
- When you focus too much on them.
- When you allow them to determine your strategy or corrupt the vision God has given you.
- When you applaud them or yourself.
- When you beat yourself up over them.
- When you spend more time analyzing them than praying over them.
Your aim is towards balance and health. The secret is to notice without obsessing. Focus more on becoming a healthy ministry rather a bigger ministry. If you are healthy you will eventually grow. The theory of Student Ministry growth is expressed as A+H=EN>. If it is ALIVE and HEALTHY, it will EVENTUALLY and NATURALLY grow.
The responsibility for nurturing a youth group towards sustained health is just as much your responsibility is as keeping your body and mind fit for service. But patience is a continual struggle and steps towards allowing health and subsequent growth takes time. Therein lies the rub – how much time? Of course each ministry situation is different and to some degree health is dependent on the excitement, attraction and overall health of the church as a whole. Albert Einstein said “The only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once.” Be patient and remember that the best growth is gradual and steady and if it all happened at once you would struggle to assimilate students and families or meet their individual needs.
Numbers should be for our health and ministry benefit so keep them in perspective and remember that what you do is too vital, too important to be unduly distracted by a negative number game.
“So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria enjoyed peace being build up; and going on in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it continued to increase”. Acts 9:31
“Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work”. Ephesians 4:15-16