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ACP Update

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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.

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15 Responses to “ACP Update”


  1. Kevin Bussey
    on Oct 3rd, 2006
    @ 1:26 pm

    Art,

    I don’t think God gives a rip about who is the largest. I think he is concerned about who is making disciples.


  2. Hashman
    on Oct 3rd, 2006
    @ 2:20 pm

    I predict that you guys are going to win best “per capita” giving to the CP in your state.


  3. Paul
    on Oct 3rd, 2006
    @ 2:28 pm

    Art,

    We do the same thing with our Sunday School – allow people to choose their own “affiliation group” regardless of age. We even have one class (Pastor’s class) that has couples from their 20s all the way up to those in their 80s. It’s an interesting mix.

    BTW, Kent Choate (now pastor @ Broadway BC in Sand Springs, formerly the Family Minister for the BGCO) has recommended this sort of structure for some time as actually being more “family friendly.”


  4. Bowden McElroy
    on Oct 3rd, 2006
    @ 3:30 pm

    . We group by common interests, which is usually the age of our children.

    That has always been an issue for my wife and I. We were married so young and started a family right away so for years are friends were all 10 to 15 years older than us.

    Now, with children ranging in age from 15 to 25, some of our friends are 15 years younger (their oldest child is also 15) and some are already grandparents (their youngest child is 25).

    Our church has age graded Sunday school for adults but encourages people to go where they are comfortable. The age groupings are loose guidelines more than anything else.


  5. Dorcas Hawker
    on Oct 3rd, 2006
    @ 3:46 pm

    How do you get those with children to notice the singles is what I want to know? I end up spending time with the single 50 and up crowd because it seems the people my age are just focused on those with other kids. I’m all for common interests, but especially in the small church environment, a single person can end up being in the widow/retired group way too soon. Think I’m exaggerating? One of the ladies in my church once asked “so, I’ll see you at the widow’s luncheon on Monday?”

    Eep … talk about feeling way too old! So I’m all for common interests, as long as others aren’t excluded as a result.


  6. art rogers
    on Oct 3rd, 2006
    @ 4:18 pm

    Kevin, Amen!

    Hash, Great point. Hadn’t even thought of that.

    Paul, Good to know others are succeeding where we are heading. See you Thursday.

    Bowden, As always, thanks for the insightful words. See you Thursday, too.

    Dorcas, I wasn’t suggesting that this be the standard for behavior, but observing that it actually is the standard of our behavior. Of course we should not leave anyone behind, least of all you. However, you have, inadvertantly, proved my point. Why were you expected to be at the Widow’s Luncheon? Your life has something in common with the lady with whom you were speaking. You are not the same age, but you are both single women. We relate across age lines to those who share our lifestyle. Parents lives are about their kids and the parents of your kids’ peers are your peers.

    All of this to say, “Get thee a husband!”

    … if you really want one, that is. Sometimes they are more trouble than they are worth. At least that is what my wife mutters under her breath. ;)


  7. Tim Sweatman
    on Oct 3rd, 2006
    @ 4:32 pm

    Art,

    I wonder how long it will take for someone to use your church’s figures as “proof” that blogging pastors are destroying churches.


  8. Dorcas Hawker
    on Oct 3rd, 2006
    @ 5:01 pm

    Art – From your mouth to God’s ears. :)

    Actually I am confident I will be married at some point. I may tell the full story someday of how I am so sure. Suffice it to say God communicated clearly to me on this matter as may be paraphrased in this way: “I said yes. But you are to stop worrying about it, thinking about it, fretting about it, or wondering about it, and get on with the business of My kingdom.” Add a good dose of father tone of voice to that and you’ll get the message just about as clear as I did. (I am not referring to an audible voice but the communication of the Spirit to my soul).

    However, back to the point of your post. As I thought about my comment I realized that it is true that parents often talk about their kids, and though I am a children’s director, it still doesn’t hold my interest as much as it does other parents’. So I agree that except for the occasional feeling like I am already older than my years … I probably would rather go to the movies with the lady 20 years older than me than spend the day at the park watching other people’s kids play. Though I would enjoy that too on occasion just to chat with the moms.

    This probably translates into the church environment as well as you have indicated.


  9. Paul Burleson
    on Oct 3rd, 2006
    @ 5:37 pm

    Art,

    Kudos for character, integrity, honesty and everything else that is reflective of a real work of God. You are obviously thinking Kingdom living and real relationships which are both lost when our focus is on “how many” instead of “who”.


  10. GeneMBridges
    on Oct 4th, 2006
    @ 1:52 am

    This just seems mighty appropriate right now, esp. in light of Brother Kevin’s words:

    I’d quote the whole shebang, cause this gets long, but this will suffice:

    From Deut. 7:

    6″For you are a holy people to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.

    7″The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples,

    8but because the LORD loved you and kept the oath which He swore to your forefathers, the LORD brought you out by a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.

    9″Know therefore that the LORD your God, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps His covenant and His lovingkindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments;

    10but repays those who hate Him to their faces, to destroy them; He will not delay with him who hates Him, He will repay him to his face.

    11″Therefore, you shall keep the commandment and the statutes and the judgments which I am commanding you today, to do them.

    Promises of God
    12″Then it shall come about, because you listen to these judgments and keep and do them, that the LORD your God will keep with you His covenant and His lovingkindness which He swore to your forefathers.

    13″He will love you and bless you and multiply you; He will also bless the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your ground, your grain and your new wine and your oil, the increase of your herd and the young of your flock, in the land which He swore to your forefathers to give you.

    14″You shall be blessed above all peoples; there will be no male or female barren among you or among your cattle.

    15″The LORD will remove from you all sickness; and He will not put on you any of the harmful diseases of Egypt which you have known, but He will lay them on all who hate you.

    16″You shall consume all the peoples whom the LORD your God will deliver to you; your eye shall not pity them, nor shall you serve their gods, for that would be a snare to you.

    17″If you should say in your heart, ‘These nations are greater than I; how can I dispossess them?’

    18you shall not be afraid of them; you shall well remember what the LORD your God did to Pharaoh and to all Egypt:

    19the great trials which your eyes saw and the signs and the wonders and the mighty hand and the outstretched arm by which the LORD your God brought you out. So shall the LORD your God do to all the peoples of whom you are afraid.

    20″Moreover, the LORD your God will send the hornet against them, until those who are left and hide themselves from you perish.

    21″You shall not dread them, for the LORD your God is in your midst, a great and awesome God.

    You wrote: 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.

    When our church’s report accurately, they’ll be able to more accurately see their attendance figures. As I stated before, I know of churches where this has been done that have found that they have a membership of 200 or so, but 300 on Sundays. Compare this to the same church if it has 1500 members but 300 in attendance. So, now, the church has gone from “dismal failure” to “Wow! God is actually working here!” That’s one huge reason I’ve been beating this drum for so long. Which would be more encouraging for the SBC?

    A. 16.4 million members, 7 million in attendance any given Sunday.
    B. 6.5 million members, 7 million in attendance any given Sunday.

    Emphasizing large numbers and failing to cull out rolls actually hides the work of God from the people who most need to see, among other things we’ve already discussed. The SBC is always crying for revival. Well….

    Also, we believe in a regenerate church membership. Attendance is by no means the only measure of regeneracy. However, it does give you a good idea of the status of your people in a given local church with respect the credibility of their testimony. This in turn affects the church’s witness to the community. Yes, you’ve “lost” 1600 or so members, but look at what you’ve gained.

    I have to ask, though, were any of them dead? I’ve heard tell that this does happen when rolls are culled. Did it happen to y’all?


  11. art rogers
    on Oct 4th, 2006
    @ 11:44 am

    Gene,

    Thanks for not disappointing us with a short post! ;)

    The answer is “no.” We did not have dead members on the roll, unless they were truly lost to us and we didn’t know they were dead or not.

    Art


  12. scripturesearcher
    on Oct 4th, 2006
    @ 10:37 pm

    Allow me to join those previous commentators (above) and salute you for your honesty and courage.

    God will continue to bless and use you and your people as you continue to obey His Word.

    I pray that others will be wise enough to follow your example.

    Persevere!


  13. IMBLITS
    on Oct 5th, 2006
    @ 8:09 am

    I have not been able to read much lately. Did you explain , if or how, you contacted those that were being changed from regular member status?


  14. Alvin Reid alvinreid.com
    on Oct 5th, 2006
    @ 9:13 am

    Hey Art:
    By the way I once taught at your alma mater for a few years and loved it. Now to the post…
    First, I am member of a young church, about 15 years old. We average about 1200 in worship, around 1000 in SS, and have about 1000 members. Not bad.
    Second, as a young pastor I culled the rolls as much as I could and not get killed. I still got killed somewhat later, but at least not for that lol. We found lots of (hopefully) saints already in heaven still members.
    Third, if we could get some integrity to the membership we could advance the gospel by involving everyone. I suppose of course we can do that now, but I have lately been saying we don’t really have 5000 NAMB missionaries, we actually have 16 million. That is not to take away anything from the wonderful service of NAMB commissioned missionaries–Michelle and I were HMB missionaries years ago. But it is to get into the minds of the SBC that every SBC believer IS a missionary and SHOULD be missional. But when I say we have 16 million that rings pretty hollow doesn’t it?
    Finally, we are extremely utilitarian. Might does not make right nor does bigger always mean better. We need not swing the pendulum too far the other way (Acts records some pretty impressive numbers positively), but we could use some balance.


  15. art rogers
    on Oct 5th, 2006
    @ 10:19 am

    imblits,

    Believe it or not, we knew that most of them were already out of touch. We couldn’t mail to them – we had lost track. Also, some of our SS officers had begun calling many on the rolls. We actually had some hostile responses to “members” who felt that their “church” was bugging them. The truth is that they had abandoned this church years ago, and their response evidenced that.

    Alvin,

    When were you there?

    As to the numbers, I agree that we simply need balance. I am not for kicking folks out for a brief absence – I am for keeping track of the flock we actually have.

    All of us missional? AMEN!

    Art

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