Church planters are commonly asked, “How many are you running?” Supporting churches want to be informed of your progress, and preacher friends are curious about your results. Even though there are many measurements of success, the easiest to measure is your Sunday morning attendance. It can be an awkward moment to report to those interested in your success while trying to properly answer the question. If your attendance is very good, you don’t want to sound as if you are bragging; and if the attendance is low, you may be embarrassed to answer. Either way, it can be awkward explaining the progress of your new church.
A preacher friend gave a surprising answer when asked how many he was running. He responded, “We are running two thousand, but we are only catching two hundred.” He made the statement trying to be humorous, but there is more truth to his response than first meets the eye. If a church is running two hundred there will be many more that do not attend on a given Sunday. The actual number of people associated with the church will be much higher than two hundred. The contact list may be two thousand.
A church with a Sunday morning attendance of thirty people will probably have a contact list of two hundred people or perhaps even more. On any given Sunday there will be people who are sick, vacationing, working, or backslidden. It seems the excuses to miss church continue to increase each year. But the Sunday morning attendance will always be in proportion to the total number of contacts in your database. The larger the number of contacts, the greater the weekly attendance.
New church planters always have two counts for Sunday. The first number is the actual number in attendance, and the second is the number they would have had if everyone showed up. Eventually a pastor must accept the fact that everyone who should be there will not always be there. If everyone came to church that could and should be there, our buildings could not hold all the people.
Building a church requires that a base of contacts be accumulated, and it is imperative that the list of prospects continually increase. The larger the number on the list, the greater the possibility that more people will be saved, and eventually that more people will be discipled.
These contacts will include new converts, faithful members, one time attendees, backsliders, and nominal Christians. No one should be taken off the list unless he dies, moves from the area, or joins another church. There will be people at all levels of commitment and involvement. The core of the church is crucial to make the church strong, but the rest of the list is essential to help the church grow. Effort should be made to keep contact with all of these people, and at the same time endeavor to add new contacts to the list. The entire list should receive emails, postcards, phone calls, and personal visits.
There is a principle to be learned about church building. The more you are running (chasing), the more you will be catching. I wish this was not the case, but this is the reality of the ministry. It is important to continue to build your contact list, and as you watch it grow, you will have more people you are chasing; but you will also have more people you are catching. Failing to continue building this list of contacts will result in decreasing church attendance. It is important that we get out there and find more prospects and build our list of contacts.
Ask yourself, “How many am I running?”