Numbers matter for one reason. Numbers represent people and people matter to God. Numbers don’t measure impact, relevance, or significance but they do represent people being influenced by the ministry you lead. There is a constant inner battle when it comes to numbers and ministry. We know they tell a story but they never tell the entire story of what God is doing. Numbers also lure us to find our identity and significance in them even though we know that will never honor the God who has called us to serve Him.
Numbers matter, but here are 3 laws I try to remember when it comes to numbers…
- Don’t exaggerate > I know it’s tempting to pad numbers but remember that at some point you will be accountable to the number to write down. Don’t celebrate something that’s not real. Make sure and never exaggerate the numbers because you will never be able to extract information from stretched data. Be honest so when you evaluate you know you are evaluating what is real and not what you wish was real.
- Don’t ignore > Many times when our ministry is growing or in decline we want to just close our ideas and claim we are spiritual because we don’t worry about the numbers. Forget worry, you should never allow numbers to make you worry. Ignoring numbers robs you of the ability to strategically plan ahead to guide momentum. You are not spiritual if you ignore numbers you just don’t have one important piece of information to guide the decisions you make.
- Don’t brag > Our hope and significance are not in our numbers but rather in the God who has called us to serve Him. Resist the temptation to allow numbers to be a centerpiece of how you talk about your ministry. The Bible tells us clearly if we want to boast then boast in the hope found in the cross! Brag about what God is doing to change lives not in the numbers of butts in seats.
As a former associate pastor, I have seen pastors do this all too much. It can be disheartening when we puff the numbers, and then others see that as growth and act on it. What happens is ministry leaders plan around those numbers, but when the time comes and the true attendance is much lower, huge discouragement can set in; discouragement that is worse than if they had the correct info in the first place. Good article!