How Many Members Do You Have?

Every so often, someone will ask me, “How many members do you all have over there at Good Shepherd?”

The truth is, I don’t know.

That’s because membership is an inaccurate measure of church health. The typical church in United Methodism, for example, has about three times the number of members as it has in average Sunday attendance. So is a church with 1,000 members and 300 in average attendance a church of 1,000 or 300? It’s a church of 300. It might have 1,000 names on a piece of paper somewhere but only 300 living bodies involved in the church.

In fact, in our verbal and written communication at Good Shepherd, we rarely use the word “member.” That term can make church life sound like an exclusive club and leave non-members wondering, “Do I belong yet?”

Instead, we talk about “the people of Good Shepherd.” It is much more important to us that people belong here — meaning they are part of the active life of the church — than it is that they have joined here.

Which is why our average attendance is well above our actual membership.

Worship attendance and movement into group life & servant ministry are far more important statistics to determine the health and size of a church.

So if you ask me what our average attendance is for 2009 . . . I know that. If you ask me how many are showing up at First Serve or Pathfinder . . . I know that.

Because I’d rather see people in person than on paper any time.