Why Church Stats Aren’t As Bad As You Think

How big is your church? 

The question the single-handedly created a whole new category, the “Pastor Numbers”. 

235 is supposed to round up to 300, right? 

It does in Pastor Numbers. 

If you read that and laughed, that’s awesome. While it’s a sad truth, at least we can laugh about it. If you read that and it makes you crazy, I understand…but don’t let it completely ruin the value of counting. 

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While deep down we know that pastoral ministry is about souls, not stats…but stats can still have some value in our soul seeking endeavor. 

Let’s agree on one thing, the goal of our life’s work is to introduce people to Jesus and teach them what he has taught us. That’s our ultimate objective. 

If you can agree with me on that, then measurements can help us move toward that. 

The Thermometer 

Just like a thermometer, measurements can help us diagnose what’s happening (both good and bad) in our church. It’s easy to be discouraged when less people show up this week then last, but if you are able to look back at the same month in past years you may see that previous years experienced the same trend, giving you a healthy dose of perspective.

It can also help to uncover which ministries are working and which are not any longer. Knowing how things are going helps you assess whether the investment in time, money and volunteer manpower is having the effect you planned. 

The Problem With Feelings

Sometimes your gut is right, sometimes it’s not (it may just be influenced by a one-off conversation). I remember a few season ago, we made a big change to how we advertised our small groups. Most of the long-standing group leaders complained that the new group's catalog was too confusing. Thankfully we reviewed our signup numbers and realized that while it might have felt more confusing to long-standing leaders, we actually had significantly increased the amount of people who signed up for groups. If we had gone only with our “gut” we would have ditched a completely successful marketing tool. 

Scoreboards Help With Momentum

Everyone wants to be on a winning team and it’s tough to know if you're winning if you don’t have a scoreboard. Imagine you are talking to your neighbor about your favorite sports team without talking about any sort of stat. What would you say? “My team is the best. They play hard. They practice on Wednesday nights and have games on Sunday mornings. Plus you should see their logo. It’s such a great team.” I don't know about you, but wouldn’t be that impressed. 

But if instead you said, “My team is the best. They have twice as many rushing yards as this time last year. Plus they have sold out the last 3 games.” If you invited your neighbor to join you at the next game, do you think they’d be more likely to join you? 

Numbers can be useless if all we use them for is vanity. But if you choose to harness them to your benefit they can be incredibly helpful. 

Bonus: If you’re looking for a simple (and free) way to start tracking some of your numbers check out It’s a simple customizable resource that will help you point to the numbers that matter. Just make sure you enter real numbers in there…not those pastor numbers. 

5 Steps To Get Your Team Excited About the Future

I would bet you have a preferred future. You can see a better future for your church, but getting your team to see the same thing you do can be hard. And when they get it, if they don’t see a plan to get there, their excitement can quickly turn to discouragement. 

They can feel like the team is “behind the eight ball,” like any move forward is blocked. 

Before you know it, a scarcity mentality can creep in. "Yeah, but we don’t have enough leaders to do that." "Yeah, but we don’t have enough money to get there." "Yeah, but we don’t have enough time to get that done."  

Why don’t the get it? 

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Most often, they haven’t had the chance to wrestle with the problem. 

I’m not talking about thinking about the problem. That can happen in an instant. You can point toward a change that needs to happen, and they can think about it in that moment and agree, but they haven’t wrestled. 

Even then, it can feel like there are too many problems that need to be solved (more than you know…everyone has an opinion). And if you don’t approach these problems in a strategic manner it can feel like your team is always pushing uphill. 

So, instead of getting stuck “behind the eight ball,” allow your team to focus on what’s most important and start building some momentum. Easy, early wins to get things moving forward.

Enter the “Eight Ball Challenge”, to help your team wrestle with the problem and make progress toward the future. All while building buy-in and excitement around what the future might hold. 

Step 1// Define the Canvas
It’s easy to see every problem in every area of the church. Take a moment to focus the team on an area, department or program that needs attention. 

Step 2// List All The Issues
Grab a whiteboard and start brainstorming. Ask the team to list every issue, small or large that needs to be addressed in the next few months. Let the list get as long as needed. Write everything down. Even if you think it’s only a personal opinion. 

Step 3// Vote
Ask your team to vote on their top 5 issues. Give them a marker and tell them they have five votes. They can put them all on one issue if they think it’s most important or they can spread them around to up to five issues they think are most important to solve right now. Once everyone has completed their vote, tally the results and highlight the top 5 issues that need to be addressed. Those are going to be the most important focus for the next few months. (Team leader gets veto power and can replace any of the top issues if they see fit)

Step 4// Discuss the Who/What/When
For each of the top 5 issues, discuss WHAT needs to happen to resolve that issue. WHO on the team can run point? How can everyone on the team help address the issue? And WHEN they think it can be resolved. 

Step 5// Review Regularly
Then, as a part of your regular meeting rhythm, review these top 5 issues and their progress. You don’t have to spend a bunch of time on the details, but regularly putting them in front of the team will help drive progress (no one likes to see a project stall…that’s just embarrassing). 


If your team can recognize the most important issues and be able to visualize their resolve, that breeds excitement. Everyone is a part of the solution and the entire team gets excited about the progress. Every early win adds fuel to the fire. 

Soon enough, no one will feel like “behind the eight ball” and problems don’t seem as big because the team begins to believe they have the power and tools to tackle them. 

Go for it, take that eight ball and throw it in the trash. Don’t let it ever get in the way again. 

When Pastor vs Manager Collide

Ever met a pastor that just saw people as pawns?

It’s an easy trap to get sucked into. 

We have a vision for the future, and board or a boss watching us. We want to deliver, but delivery takes manpower. Volunteer manpower. 

So, we get sucked into viewing everyone we meet as someone who can help us meet our goal. Eventually, we burn people out and everyone feels like they are just being used. 
There is a solution though and it’s directly related to the expectation you put on yourself. 

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It took me a long time to learn this lesson. For years, I would push toward a goal. If the person in front of me wasn’t helping me accomplish those goals, they didn’t get much attention.  

It was almost 12 years ago now. We had cut our department’s paid staff essentially in half but still needed to push forward. We put our heads down, grew our existing ministry and added a new ministry from the ground up. Not to mention the fact that we were no longer planning week to week, but had a 6+ month runway. We got things done…but I realize now I was focused on the wrong thing. I had created a massive org chart in my head. One for a ministry 3-4 times our size and all I was focused on was putting people in my org chart. We got things accomplished, but I was forgetting one important piece. I wasn’t just a manager, I was a pastor too. 

It wasn’t until years later that I realized that I had to make a purposeful change in my thinking. And it was one that made me just as likely to accomplish my goals, but was a lot more fun. 

Whenever I meet with someone, I remind myself that I have two equally important objectives. 

  1. Manager - move toward our goals

    It is our job to manage our church or department. I’m assuming you have goals and every day you are working hard to accomplish those goals. That may be growing your weekend attendance, starting a new ministry or investing in an existing one. This is important. It means that you have to always pay attention, always be sharing your vision and your plan, and pay attention to who’s eyes light up. 

    As leaders, we must stay focused on our goal. We must lead the way and engage people in the journey. 

    We must lead our church in the direction we believe God is leading us. That means staying focused, saying "no" to good things, and only putting effort into the right things. 

    But, at the very same time, we must remember that we have a unique opportunity to help our people discover their best contribution to the kingdom of God. 
  2. Pastor - help everyone discover their best contribution

    We have a responsibility to our church and to the Church. The person sitting across the table from us has a calling, a life’s work that’s equally important to our life work. Our role gives us a unique opportunity to help people discover their own contribution. Remember that even if that doesn’t end up happening within your church, it still is having an impact on our world. 

    Just last week, I had a friend in my office asking this exact question. What was next on their journey? Let me tell you, there is nothing quite as fun and helping someone unpack that question in their life. And sometimes you get lucky. Sometimes their passion lines up with what you are trying to accomplish. Either way, when you help someone unpack their calling, it’s a win-win. 

Before people can get excited about your vision, they have to feel like they have something to contribute. It’s our job to help them find it. 

And let me tell you, I've got a lot more accomplished now then I ever did when I only focused on my own goals.