The Numbers Game

I have always been aware of numbers. Go to any gathering of ministers and the conversation always turns toward how many we have in our programs. Kent Hughes has a great resource I have valued for years, “Liberating Your Ministry from Success Syndrome.” While I understand the need for measurement, the question is, “what is the best way to do that?”

“Numbers. They’re the currency of ministry. The crowd has become the definition of ministry success.” — Thom Schultz

As an example on a local level, how many people attended your last Bible study or event? And how did you feel about that number? Probably one of two ways:

  1. Yea! More people showed up; we must be doing it right!
  2. Sigh…Not as many people as we wanted or expected came. What are we doing wrong?

Sound familiar? You invested a lot of time, energy, and emotion to create the opportunity for people to connect and grow in their faith. You prayed. You asked God for wisdom, guidance, and strength. You were excited for the vision he gave you and your ministry team.

Then, only 5 people showed up, or only 50, or only 200 instead of the 250 you had last time. The numbers fell short. You felt disappointed, discouraged, and perhaps even defeated.

That’s how numbers become the currency of ministry: high equals good, low equals bad. Most leaders don’t realize how often they measure success by crowd size instead of life transformation (changed lives).

How would Jesus measure success? “When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father” (John 15:8). People are easy to count. Spiritual fruit is not. So after your next event, will you count quantity, or will you invest the time to measure quality? If the number was small, how where the people in the small group impacted?

In order to measure quality, count change, the true currency of ministry. If only one person showed up for your Bible study, would you be willing to laugh, cry, and share as God transforms that person’s life? One solitary life? Isn’t it time we got excited over a few who get it, a couple whose lives are changed, instead of the number of chairs we filled?

Practically: Ask the people impacted by your ministry leadership to share their stories. Make a file or ministry database filled with short testimonies to document how people’s lives were transformed through your ministry. Maybe start a Facebook page or blog to create opportunities for people to share.

Remember, the number in the crowd does not equal the success of your ministry. Even though Jesus had large crowds follow him, the people weren’t amazed because of the numbers. They were amazed at HIM. Measure the fruit of change in your ministry, and you’ll be amazed at Jesus, too!

[print_link] [email_link] [Thanks Linda Crawford and Group’s Women’s Ministry Leader]

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