Good News – by the Numbers

We opened Annual Conference this year with our Conference Statistician (and Connectional Ministries Director) Lori Carden, giving us some dismal, rather frightening statistics. Then the next day Adam Hamilton opened his address by saying that if the general church continues on its present path of an aging and shrinking membership, the United Methodist Church will no longer be a viable entity in just five decades. Bad news indeed.

But now the good news: North Alabama has been engaged in a process of visible accountability for congregations and pastors (the Conference Dashboard), has instituted the evaluation process and renewal programs of Natural Church Development in all our congregations, and has cast a new spirit of setting goals for growth.

And here’s even better news: It’s working! In the last two years we have reversed the trend that has afflicted us for the last twenty years. We are showing measurable growth in our numbers for Professions of Faith and for Baptisms. This is because effective pastors and congregations throughout our Conference are making reaching a new generation of Christians into a top priority.

Here are the numbers that Lori has assembled:

Year

Prof. Faith

Baptisms

2009

2703

2549

2008

2945

2600

2007

2544

2485

2006

2621

2566

2005

2532

2413

2004

2480

2581

2003

2583

2569

2002

2485

2581

2001

2719

2750

2000

2773

2958

Average

2638.5

2605.2

The ten year average for POF is 2638. We have surpassed the ten year average over the past two years. Among most Conferences, the goal is simply to slow the decline. North Alabama has dared to pray for more. And it is deeply gratifying to see visible evidence of the Holy Spirit moving among us. Behind every one of these numbers is a family reached, a person saved, a soul that is welcomed and included into the family of faith. And behind every number is a congregation and a pastor who is not threatened by our Wesleyan ethos of accountability and growth but is excited that we are focused on “the main thing” – salvation of the world in Jesus Christ.

“You only count what is important and whatever you count becomes important,” says one of our slogans. By counting every week the new life that God gives us, we are making that new life the engine that is driving our church life. Not content to care for the needs of who is already there, our churches are reaching out to those who are not.

It’s good news by the numbers which is Good News indeed.

William H. Willimon

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One thought on “Good News – by the Numbers

  1. I agree that measuring numbers focuses all involved to improve those numbers. However, the problem is when the numbers are not based on biblical or Wesleyan objectives. I did not grow up Methodist but became exposed in college thru a Methodist/Presbyterian college center. I am an elder in the Presbyterian church ( a life time commission). I really appreciate the Methodist church organization but recently find it so offensive that bringing people to METHODISM is more important than bringing people to Christ. The dashboard's numbers of people serving and people served are so much more important than membership. Attendance is a pretty basic indicator of people involved and most likely serving. The dashboard numbers have no reality to what may be happening in the local congregation on serving others. Where is the number that reflects the kind of stewards we are to be?? Producing numbers for Methodism is not producing numbers for Christ. The conference is so intent on meeting numbers that the great commission has taken a back seat and resources are being wasted.Despite the focus on numbers, our congregation is taking a recent hit on attendance (active membership & stewardship) because the conference is focusing on these numbers.In the business world I endorse the setting of goals and the corresponding measurements. But I also understand limited resources and the need to apply them in the most optimum manner.In this case serving others and bringing them to Christ and not Methodism.

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