Not too long ago, I was at a big conference filled with thousands of Lead Pastors of churches of all sizes. While the conference had great speakers and good content, I left feeling defeated and discouraged. If I am honest, I left feeling hopeless.
The reason why I felt this way stemmed from the conversation after conversation I’ve had with other pastors there. They would ask me, “How are things going at your church?”
While that may seem like a nice or, at worst, a benign question to ask, pastors in my circles know that this question is code for, “Is your church getting bigger or smaller?”
That’s what it was all about. Numerical growth. Filling up the seats. It seemed like it was all anybody cared about. It was so pervasive at this conference that I overheard two pastors comparing their numeric growth over the last year. And, to top it all off, one of the pastors pulled out his computer to show the other pastor how his attendance chart was up and to the right.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I think God cares about numeric growth. I think God wants the church to reach as many people as possible.
I just don’t think that he cares about it the way we care about it.
And, I don’t say this because I never experienced it. In fact, just the opposite was true. In nearly every year of ministry, my growth charts have been up and to the right. In some years the churches I led saw 75%-100% growth.
I felt good about it. Until I didn’t. Until I realized that there was this constant pressure to grow bigger and faster than any other church. Until I realized that I no longer saw people as complex beings in need of connection, but rather as numbers, as someone to make my growth chart look better.
Soon, over time, I realized that I missed the point. I realized that I had been using the wrong scorecard for the success of the ministry.
Across the country, right now, pastors are beginning to realize the same. In a COVID-ridden world where numbers can no longer be measured like they once were, pastors have felt at a loss to know if they are being effective or not. Even churches who have rushed ahead to re-open their facilities so they can get the numbers back have been, at best, disappointed, with most churches seeing anywhere from 15-30% of their regular attendance.
But it’s also a great opportunity.
The reason it is a great opportunity is that it is forcing churches to evaluate what really matters. No longer can we go off of the old scorecard commonly referred to as the “3 B’s” (butts, buildings, and budgets). Instead, we must develop a new scorecard.
Or maybe, an old scorecard. Maybe it is God’s way of forcing the church to measure the things he actually cares about. Things like how we are caring for those in need. Things like racial injustice. Things like family relationships. Things like true, spiritual growth in people. Things like emotional and mental health. Things that don’t chart up and to the right on a bar graph that you can show to someone else, but things that actually change individuals, families, and communities.
So, pastors, what scorecard are you using? I think it’s time to change it!
About Jason Webb
Jason Webb is a Milwaukee-based pastor and public speaker. Currently, he is a Team Manager and Groups Director for Great Lakes Church in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Before this, Mr. Webb has established and led multiple churches and non-profit organizations, both domestically and internationally. Jason Webb is an experienced entrepreneur, movement leader, and an advocate for racial reconciliation.