Originally posted May 9, 2011, at Toolbox for Faith. Republished with permission of the author.
In a previous time, congregations measured success by the number of people who joined the congregation.
Today, I think a more helpful measure is individuals served in mission — the number of people touched by the ministry of a congregation during the course of a year.
Last week, a member shared an excerpt from “Welcoming newcomers to our congregation” by Keith Anderson from Seeds for the Parish.
“‘Not joining does not equal failure. The end result of welcoming is not necessarily membership. If someone only comes for one Sunday, then we have ministered to them in some way. If people are with us for a while and decide not to join, we feel we’ve contributed to their discernment process. If you make welcoming only about membership, it’s a set-up for disappointment. Not everyone will join, and there will never be enough new members. Make it about ministry instead, and decide how you will measure success.’
“For me, the term ‘ministry’ puts a different light on welcoming.”
I absolutely agree.
When we focus on membership, we are focusing on what people can do for us. When we focus on ministry, we focus on what God can do for the world.
As we go about sharing God’s love faithfully, the spill-over effect is that very often people join the congregation — either formally or informally.
Since our call is to be God’s heart and hands and voices in the world, not to “make members,” I think it is important that we remember that our success as a congregation is not measured by the number of people who join the congregation but by the ways in which we make Christ known to the world.
Find a link to John Wertz’s blog Toolbox for Faith at Lutheran Blogs.