Counting the Right Things in Ministry: Church Numbers that Matter

Every church keeps attendance. Pastors and boards and denominations live by them. Is there a different scorecard to use for myself? For churches and leaders?

This was inspired by something Mike Cosper said a few years ago on his podcast The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill. A pastor asked him what to count if the emphasis on numbers was part of what led Mars Hill Church to hurt a lot of people. Cosper's answer was to count hospital visits and funerals. I've thought of that ever since.

Here are additional numbers that we can count.


  • Walks with Family. Set a goal and measure how many walks you take with your family. This is good for your physical health. It's good for your mental health because it gives you the chance to process and think. Lots of writers, preachers, teachers, and creative people take lots of walks. It's also really good for your relationship with your family. Unstructured walks regularly would be something to measure.
  • Fires with family and friends. This is related to the one above. Fires with family or friends are times to unwind and slow down. A mentally, emotionally, and physically healthy pastor is better than a worn-out stressed-out pastor.
  • Museums and Historical Sites. I count the number of museums and historical sites that I visit with my family. It is something that we enjoy and it keeps me focused on doing fun things with my kids while they are young. That way I don't use my day off just for my hobbies or tasks.
  • Workouts. Physical health is something that you can't fix in 6 weeks. By setting and goals and measuring how many workouts you do in a month, 6 months, or a year we prioritize being physically, emotionally, and mentally healthy. My goal is 200 works in a year. I went over that last year, but that comes out to 16 per month or 4 per week.
  • Dinners Hosted. One of the requirements of a pastor is that he be hospitable (Titus 1:8). You might want to measure how many dinners you've host in your home with people in your church and neighborhood.
  • Hospital Visits. I have known pastors and churches that hated hospital visits. These visits are not comfortable, but they are ways to minister to hurting people. People's physical pain usually carries with it spiritual challenges. Measure how often you go and see people in the hospital.
  • Home Visits. This is unstructured time to check on people and see how they're doing and pray for them is so valuable. I once heard about a pastor of a church with 1000+ in attendance who said he hadn't met with a single person from his church in 6 months. I don't know how you can shepherd somebody if you never sit down with them. Sometimes the conversations have nothing to do with spiritual things, but it helps you understand where people are at. There are times where I've had somebody on my way out the door stop and say "pastor, this is something I'm concerned about. Can you pray for me?" You don't get that without showing up.
  • Gospel Conversations. We should be about the business of evangelism. Measure how many times you share the gospel with somebody, you give away a track, or you give away an evangelistic book.
  • Invitations to church. Most of the people who come to our churches come because someone invites them. You don't get to control how many visitors come to your church, but you can control how often you invite visitors to your church.
  • Funerals done. You don't really get to control this one either, but these are times to minister to people and do gospel ministry. Someone asked me "Do you enjoy doing graveside services and funerals?" My answer was that I enjoy doing gospel ministry and helping people. I don't enjoy funerals, but I am in ministry to show up when people are hurting.
  • Funerals and Visitations attended. This is the number of times you go to a funeral or a visitation that you're not required to be at--not the funerals that you do or the visitations that you're presiding at. Ones you just go to because you love the people who are there and you want to be there for them. The etiquette around funerals and visitations seems to be changing, but I know people love to look up and see that I showed up. Those are times for them to introduce me to their families. I don't think people will remember words that I say, but they will remember the fact that I showed up. I know some people who remember the people that didn't show up for family funerals or visitations.
  • Notes Written. I write notes for birthdays, anniversaries, special occasions, important dates of grief, etc. I also just write notes to encourage or thank people. I try to put some special thought and energy into it. People keep those with them, or they post them in their homes to remember the verses and the encouragement that it gave them. You get to control how many notes you give out.
What else could we measure instead of attendance?


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