Ministry & Numbers

Over the last several months, I’ve been in conversations with our congregational leaders and staff about numbers. Numbers of members, of visitors, of attendance in worship, of volunteers, of faith formation programs, of pledges, of staff hours, of meetings, and of course, budget numbers. Gathering and analyzing the numbers, which contribute to our shared ministry, sometimes leads to observations of areas of ministry that are not as nourishing as I and/or your congregational leaders expect or hope for. When I focus on the numbers too narrowly, I get caught up in thinking we need more, a ministry of excess is certainly what would help the expanse of numbers grow, right? I am often in conversations with leaders listening to the need for more people to do various tasks, to serve the shared ministry in some way, and yet our worship numbers are wonderful!

I recently read a blog post by Carey Nieuwhof: “5 Ways Church Attendance Tracking Messes with Your Soul”, which gave me a great reminder that my focus of the numbers had taken from my view. “If people become a means to an end, eventually you won’t have many people” writes Nieuwhof. This is a true and painful statement for many ministries. So often, people leave churches because they have been used up in service to a specific end and no longer find participating in congregational life nourishing for their spiritual journey.

As Unitarian Universalists, our covenant to walk together on our spiritual journey, and to be a church governed and resourced of ourselves, extends an invitation to be committed beyond a Sunday morning consumer. Our covenantal faith requires us to see people as part of our interdependent web of existence, companions on our spiritual journey, created and nourished by a wondrous Love. Our congregation has experienced a consistent steady increase in various categories of numbers over our first five years of shared ministry together. So, in this month of August, as we begin our sixth year together, I’m left thinking about how our numbers can make a difference, rather than how to change the numbers.

See you in church ~Rev. Misty-Dawn Shelly

Link to article here.

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