Is It Just A Numbers Game?

Is It Just A Numbers Game?
By: Gary D. Erickson


There are 2,500,000 rivets in the Eiffel Tower.

The number of possible ways of playing just the first four moves on each side of a game of chess is 318,979,564,000.

The world’s population increases by 140 people per minute as each minute 1 00 people die and 240 are born.

Twenty-five million of the 162 million telephones in the U.S. have unlisted numbers.

We are inundated with an endless stream of statistics, surveys, graphs, and studies in today’s media. With the advent of computer and mass communication we have been caught up in a hurricane of information of every sort. Our heads spin from this swirl of numerical data. With so many figures coming of us it is impossible to assess it all. Some reports seem believable, others conflicting.

Modern management runs on stats. George Barna, in his book Frog In a Kettle, says ‘How fast an organization acquires data, and how efficiently it is used, will partly determine whether the organization survives. New technologies must be embraced and utilized by the church, and treated as a friend, not a foe.”

The Bible is replete with demographics and statistics, counting and recording numbers of people in families and groups in both the Old and New Testament. Even a book is entitled “Numbers.” There is no biblical support for the idea that we should not count people in our churches and record the data. This was a very common biblical practice.


Arguments Against Reporting Sunday School Attendance

1. Reporting discourages the church. If a congregation’s faith and vitality fluctuate with the attendance report, the pastor and people could be putting too much emphasis on numbers. Numbers mean something, but they don’t mean everything!

2. 1 am intimidated when publishing my attendance. Both large and small churches may avoid publishing their attendance, uncomfortable in being numerically surpassed by another church or in not living up to the expectations they feel imposed upon them. When numbers are down, it is always a temptation not to report. Peer pressure affects pastors too!

3. God punished David for counting the Israelites (11 Samuel 24). This is a unique exception against a heavy backdrop of biblical counting and recording. David’s disobedience illustrates that numbers can mean too much and can be misused, causing self-reliance, pride and arrogance.

4. It is no one’s business what I’m doing. This may be true in a selfish sense, but reporting is sharing! We need to ask ourselves, “If everyone was just like me, what kind of church would this church be?’ An independent, isolationist attitude flies in the face of the whole purpose for organization. Large churches can inspire smaller churches.


Why Should I Report My Attendance?

1. Reporting adds a cohesiveness to the fellowship. Many pastors have told me the first thing they look at in their district paper is the Sunday School report. This report connects pastors, churches, and cities, contributing to a wholeness and cooperation. Both pastor and saint know what they are a part of in seeing the fellowship’s progress and personality.

2. It helps monitor growth. All growth projects should be evaluated for success or failure; this is determined only by counting people and comparing records. Sharing local church information helps monitor overall growth, especially in conducting national projects.

3. It’s just good business (Romans 12:1 1). All successful churches keep financial records in a business-like manner. People are more important than dollars, and keeping track of them is vital. Does anyone want to be excluded from the count as a nobody?

4. It alerts others to church fluctuations. When reading a report, I find myself looking first of churches (lose in size to my church. When they grow, I feel challenged to do more; when they are down, I am motivated to pray for them. Our motivation should be the salvation of lost souls, yet cooperatively sharing our joy of success is gratifying.

The Sunday School Division of the United Pentecostal Church accepts many facets of responsibility, one of which is counting and recording attendance numbers. This information is vital to the assessment of growth as an organization. Pastors, sectional Sunday school directors, district directors, and national leaders should be commended for their hard work.

No, counting people is not a numbers game; it is vital to assessing methods. The gospel message doesn’t change, but our methods do.