Talking about numbers, people

Back in November, after briefly discussing the issue of growth at our fall congregational meeting, we decided to do a little research.  We compiled data covering 25 years, recording annual averages of children, members, Sunday attendance, and regular attenders. 

Some of the findings of note:

The church has had over 50 children, 0-18 yrs old, for each of the past 25 years, currently 80.

Despite adding many new members, our current membership is only 8 more than it was in 2013 when average attendance was 30 less.

Our Sunday attendance is growing, but attendance has been this large before.

The largest growth has been in those considered “regular attenders,” up 85 from 2013.  Given the other numbers, this means that regular attenders attend a little less regularly than they once did. 

Being a sociology major in undergrad, I dig charts and patterns.  Being a pastor, I know that numbers represent people – individual lives, each with a unique story, journey, set of circumstances and commitments.    

Church staff, Leadership Team, and Ministry Council (which includes all Commission chairs) have been discussing this and how it relates with the open questions we have named regarding growth, leadership, and allocation of energy and resources.   Amidst the many sign ups this month, you’ve likely seen an invitation to join a group discussing these very things.

Some of my thoughts and questions:

Even though we are a congregation of 175 on any given Sunday, it’s probably more helpful to think of ourselves as a congregation of 300. 

How do we care for each other with the understanding that we don’t (and realistically can’t) know everyone? 

Maybe the first 80 names everyone should learn in the congregation are the names of each child.

Even though numeral growth isn’t the primary goal, how do we continue to welcome those who wish to become a part of us and, for those of us already here, adapt to new relational dynamics?     

With a lower than average attendance this past Sunday (148) and 304 regular attenders, that means over half of you missed the offertory in which members of women’s brunch yodeled in four-part harmony to the tune of “Praise God from whom” while members of men’s breakfast did interpretive dance.  Just kidding, that didn’t really happen.  Or did it?…  What I mean to say is: Just because something happens, or is announced, on a Sunday doesn’t mean everyone experiences it – sometimes more don’t than do. 

How can we continue to think creatively about where the Spirit is leading us?….  Strengthening small groups? Blessing some of our members to begin a new Mennonite church in Columbus?  Should we actually focus on doing less and de-cluttering our overly scheduled lives?

If you have thoughts on this, which I bet you do, you can join one of the Sunday morning groups discussing this: January 26 at 11:00 or February 2 at 11:15 (after Cookie Sunday, of course).