Should Churches Compare Attendance Numbers?

I realize there is room for debate and even disagreement on this Friday discussion post. I decided when I began this series that I would not shy away from issues only because they may appear controversial. My criteria are really issues I’m wrestling with personally or have a special interest in the discussion. Today’s post fits that category. I put this off for a couple weeks before I posted it, because I’m not trying to encourage division in the church, but this is really something I’m wrestling through. I’d appreciate your input. (I think we can disagree on this issue and still be partners in Kingdom-building!)

Should churches be comparing numbers of attendance with other churches?

Recently, I’ve read controversy over the recent “fastest growing” and “largest” churches article published in Outreach Magazine. I admit, I read the article, and I was encouraged by it and the stories of some of the churches. To this point, I have chosen not to submit our numbers, even though we would easily qualify in the fastest growing category. (I share that now only to illustrate that this is not an issue of bitterness…one of the counter arguments I have heard people say.)

Recently, I tweeted that we had our largest non-Easter attendance and instantly people wanted to know the number. Most conversations with pastors start with a discussion of number. Keep in mind, I’ve posted before that the spirit of competition is not always a bad thing, even in the church. (Read those posts HERE and HERE.)

I’ve heard counting attendance numbers compared to 2 Samuel 24 where David wrongly counted the fighting men. At the same time, I’ve heard others counter that there is a whole book named “Numbers” and that most churches count their offering. (True that!)

So my question remains: Should churches be comparing numbers of attendance with other churches?

What’s the value? What’s the harm? Is it good or bad? What’s your opinion?

I’d love for you to add to the discussion.  

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Ron Edmondson
Ron Edmondson is a pastor and church leader passionate about planting churches, helping established churches thrive, and assisting pastors and those in ministry think through leadership, strategy and life. Ron has over 20 years business experience, mostly as a self-employed business owner, and he's been helping churches grow vocationally for over 10 years.