Why Your Church Needs to Stop Counting People

Our church stopped keeping attendance, and we were liberated from all of the anxiety that results from "managing" growth

“After several years of hard work, we finally discovered that there are more effective ways of measuring spiritual growth in a church. We began to listen to how people talked about and reflected upon their faith. We asked whether people could think critically about faith formation, make connections between the Bible and their lives and intuit how the Holy Spirit shaped their worldview.”


An old adage suggests that the best way to measure church growth is by assessing the “three big Bs”: bodies-in-pews, budgets and buildings.Baptists of all sorts, however, have called this perspective into question.

Kevin Ezell of the Southern Baptist Convention’s North American Mission Board stated that this adage is antiquated and may have to change.

“Success cannot be defined based on how many people a church keeps,” Ezell explained. “We must help [churches] redefine success based on how many people a church sends.”

John Buchanan, editor of The Christian Century, echoed this sentiment when he recently encouraged readers to “call a moratorium on counting [church] members” and “to witness to God’s love in Jesus Christ and to do everything we can to be Christ’s body in the world.”

Nearly four years ago, our church stopped keeping attendance, and we were instantly liberated from all of the anxiety that results from “managing” church as if it is a for-profit business.

At the same time, we started focusing on other factors to measure growth.

One factor included measuring spiritual growth instead. I was doing a dissertation on spiritual formation at the time, and I realized how difficult it was to determine whether people were growing spiritually.

As we reflected on this qualitative measurement, several questions were raised:

●     Do you count how many hours people pray and read their Bibles?

●     Do you count how many people worship, attend a discipleship group and participate in missions per month?

●     Do you quantify how many times people experience God in some form or fashion per quarter?

●     How do you define an “experience with God”?

All of those questions were good ones, but they still included the notion of counting numbers as a valid way to measure progress.

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