I love to count things. There are 36 window panes on the big, picture window in front of me at the library. There are 17 cars in the parking lot that I am looking down upon. There were 99 tiles on the ceiling in my 9th grade math class. There are currently 43 books on the shelf to my right, and the last six are not in alphabetical order.
Every Sunday, in church, I count how many people are there. Usually I do this during offering, or joys and sorrows, or sometimes (if my mind is drifting) during the sermon. I remember the number. Usually I jot it down on my order of service after I leave the sanctuary. Sometimes I just remember what it was. I’m sure it’s usually off by 2 or 3 people, but not more than that.
I also really, really like charts and graphs. Numbers can be hard for me, but charts and graphs just make so much sense. Hard, clean facts. Sometime after our minister left I gathered up a bunch of old orders of service (ok, so I’m something of a pack rat – sue me) and found ones that I had jotted down attendance on. I got 10 of them. Then each Sunday I would take down how many people were at church on a given week. I put these all into a Google Spreadsheet. I made a graph. I’ve chosen to share that graph with you.
I purposely cut off the numbers on the Y axis. They don’t matter. What matters is the actual graph. The purple line is from when we had a full time minister. 10 random weeks, spanning somewhere from December to mid April. I removed any holiday services from my calculations. The green line is 10 random lay led services. I figured that summer was not a good time for calculations, so these are all from May, September, and October. The short blue line is 5 services we had that were led by ministers though not by our minister.
Yes, professional ministry does matter. Even if it just matters to those few extra people, it matters. I didn’t pick numbers that I thought would make a good graph or prove my point. I put all the numbers I had into an online randomizer and took them in whatever order they gave them to me.
My point is this. Full time ministry did not hurt our church. Lay led services may be, or maybe they just need to get their footing, but the congregation likes having professional ministry. I think that little blue line is really telling – people show up when we are going to have a minister in the pulpit, even just for one Sunday. That means something, folks. Let’s let numbers do the talking.