The Myth of Numbers in ministry

A good friend of mine asked me how I felt about quantitative/numerical goals in ministry. Here was my response. You may not agree with me, but feel free to read it.

“That is very interesting question. And honestly I am against, for the most part, quantitative goals in ministry. If we believe that the Holy Spirit is the true leader of our ministry then who are we to quantify what he is doing or will do. (Very general and spiritualized I know). We are called to submit to him and be faithful and follow his leadership in our ministry. When we focus too much on quantitative goals we begin to define success in strictly in terms of numbers. We begin to say things like, “This isn’t working because we don’t see “tangible results”. This also causes us to give up on things too quickly. For instance, let’s say we don’t reach our crafted goals for the year. What happens? We either get frustrated because our “numbers” aren’t being reached which makes us more likely to abandon something too quickly. We fail to realize that God may choose not to grow something or at least not for a long time. Depending too much on numbers causes us to “scrap” ministries and start over because they aren’t “working” (or least our numbers aren’t being met).

I do not mind using numbers in certain situations. For example, if our church collected X amount of money last year and that helps us compile a budget for the following year (or at least gives us an idea to plan for) then so be it. Also, they can be used in hindsight to celebrate God i.e, , “Look what God has done by bringing this many people to Christ or this many people seeing significant life change.”

I think the reason our loyalty to numbers is so high is because ministry has become driven by pragmatics and tangible earthly goals. We think that God works like we do. We think that God’s economy is like ours. Instead of fully understanding that God’s ways are far greater, we sometimes think that God’s only way of blessing our ministry is through numerical growth.

Personally, I find it hard for people not to allow numerical goals to control and drive a ministry. I don’t see how people can say “we aren’t about numbers” “we just use them to challenge ourselves” and not let them a have significant role in making decisions for the future, whether they realize it or not. God has called us to faithfully serve, not prognosticate. He can handle all that. Let’s faithfully serve and do the things that God has commanded us to do. Preach the Word, make disciples, love those around us, take the Gospel to the ends of the earth, and leave the results up to him. Hope this is helpful in some way. Thanks for the question and give me the opportunity to think through it.”


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