Last week I wrote that we were going to be reporting accurate numbers as a part of our Annual Church Profile. As a follow up, I thought I would let you know what we actually did.
Our “Membership Roll” was at 1,597 people and we have pulled out of that number folks who no longer live in our area, and folks who have not attended in more than a year. Before you think that we have been too harsh, I assure you, that we were very gracious in attempting to give people the benefit of the doubt. We also culled our Sunday School Enrollment.
We have not trashed anyone’s information, but have saved it and are going to encourage Sunday School classes to contact these people. If they are attending another church, great. If they are not, then we want to encourage them to rejoin our fellowship or another fellowship that will minister to them. If we can’t find them, then we can’t.
Here are the numbers:
Membership – reported previously … 1,597; really … 255.
Sunday School Enrollment – prior to cull … 435; now … 286.
I noticed a few things about these numbers.
1) We now run 90% of our reported membership in worship attendance Sunday Morning. Several times in the last few months we were over 100% in attendance.
2) Everyone in church can easily see where the strengths and weaknesses in Sunday School really are now that we are looking at accurate numbers.
3) We have some enrolled in Bible Study who are not yet members of the church – and because we examined these numbers, we have realized it and identified them as people to whom we need to pursue in ministry.
4) Our church does not have age graded Sunday School beyond the Children’s Ministry, yet the ACP asks for age graded numbers. We ran a filter on our church management software to get the exact numbers per age group. Two things strike me about this. First, we need to know our demographics to see how we are relating to different age groups within our culture. This is a broad level evaluation. We know this is just a broad evaluation because of the second observation, made by our church pianist, who is a Sunday School teacher. As people, we don’t group by age unless our structure makes us do it. We group by common interests, which is usually the age of our children. Some start out early with kids and some start later. Whatever age the kids are, those parents, though different ages themselves, tend to group together if you let them. We let them.
5) We were reporting a number more than 6 times who we actually were. I feel good about reporting an accurate number. Moreover, everyone involved is able to sort through actual numbers for really helpful information. I hope that more and more churches will report increasingly accurate reflection of themselves. If everyone else in the SBC is like we were, then the SBC is nothing like it says it is.
I am sure that the problem of accurate reporting is not just an SBC issue. If the truth be told, I am confident that we really are the largest Protestant denomination – by far. If all the others are going to pad their numbers, though, and we don’t, it is an apples and oranges comparison. As a result, the SBC and its member churches feel compelled to judge and be judged by the same scales, and tend toward inaccurate numbers.
My real question is: “Why are we so worried about such a comparison?”
Does it matter if we call ourselves the “Largest Protestant Denomination?” Would it hurt so bad if someone else claimed the title? Why?
Obviously, it doesn’t really concern me. This is the “Triumphalism” of which I repented in Memphis. If others are doing well, then I rejoice. If our sister Baptist Church down the street reaches 400 souls this year and explodes in growth and ministry, I rejoice. If the Lutheran church next door does so, I still rejoice. I am not Lutheran, but I am a Christian. Christ and His Kingdom first, personal kingdoms last. Right? Wrong. Personal kingdoms not at all.
It seems that we are more concerned with fiefdoms (or little “k” kingdoms) rather than the Kingdom of Jesus Christ.
Speaking of which, a post on fiefdoms next.