Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Success or Failure?

Churches - ministers and congregations - get very hung up with numbers. Constant bombardment with news of decline is depressing and people are always on the look out for a reverse in fortune. "Successful church" is a term which is used to describe those who buck the trend and numerically increase. However, for those not in a "successful" church, such talk can make people both squirm and be envious simultaneously.

We usually get about 15-20 at our Sunday night gathering on campus, and (surprisingly) about the same at our meditative prayer on a Monday. Is this success? How could I measure it? It feels like a good response, I'd love to see more, but how can I know? Is a small group well-engaged with a subject better than a large mass of more passive consumers? Are there any meters I can look at that could tell me of success in ministry?

When I was a parish priest in Coventry, we grew in 8 years from 38 to 46 average Sunday attendance. Hardly spectacular, but at least the graph went up. Those figures hide the fact that at least 18 of the original 38 died in that period, and 4 more moved away. That means we gained over 20 new people. Maybe some churches that look like they are declining are actually bringing in lots of new people; they just aren't currently keeping up with their losses.

Appearances can be deceptive.


LankyAnglican said...

I think there's a great value in groups of 10-25 people.
We regularly have 15-20 people at our Sunday evening service, and I sometimes want to get more! Then I remember how many people go to the average evensong service.
I also think the 15-20 mark is a good managable number. You don't need to amplify voices for example.

Hannah said...

Does it depend on your viewpoint?

I was talking with our reader at Church this morning and she was telling me she was encouraged because 3 new couple have come along to our (already large) church recently while I was more encouraged by two people who have come to faith and are growing as Christian's and getting stuck in.

Bums on seats is not always an indicator of the kingdom being built and extended through people entering a life changing relationship with the saviour.

Just a thought.

Mike Peatman said...

I agree, Hannah. I think there's a big difference between recruiting for church and evangelism.

Emma said...

Success. I nearly always come away from Inspire with something to think about or to ponder on, am regularly uplifted and often significantly challenged. I'd say that was pretty successful whether we get a large gathering or not.