3 reasons why it’s not a bad thing that we missed our goal on “high attendance day”

Our Better Together weekend at Poplar Springs Baptist Church was a tremendous success.  On Saturday morning, our Preschool Sunday School leaders provided childcare, and Children’s leaders provided breakfast for our Sunday School small groups who mobilized into service all around our community. We had as many as 12 adult small groups who got up early and went out serving on Saturday morning.  Every age group from preschool to senior adults were involved.  Here are just a few examples of some of the projects we accomplished:

  •  landscaping at the local fire department and providing food for the firemen.
  •  visiting elderly and physically struggling families, doing yard work for them and home improvement projects.
  •  visiting a local children’s home and organizing their clothes closet.
  •  visiting a family in need and covering their home with love by doing laundry, deep cleaning, painting, and organizing.
  •  putting together care baskets and delivering them to elderly shut ins and spending time with them.
  •  doing a huge yard sale and raising over $200 for missions.
  •  deep cleaning in the church sanctuary
  •  yard clean-ups (bushes trimmed, leaves blown, trees cut, buildings painted, etc)
  •  visiting a nursing home and sharing hope and quality time with residents

All day on Saturday I received feedback from people who were blessed by the service projects, and from people who were blessed to serve.  Here is an example from one message I received:

DUDE!!! I cant even describe how awesome today was for our small group. Life changing for us and the family we were helping. Our people serving and coming together was like nothing I’ve ever seen. Turnout was unbelievable, which was good because we needed all the help we could get. Can’t wait to show you the before/after pics. The impact we made is hard to measure with words… But we will sleep soundly and know that we literally changed someone’s life completely.

You can’t measure that kind of impact in the way we have traditionally measured success in church.

We served together on Saturday, and then worshiped and studied the Bible together on Sunday morning.  The energy in both worship services was amazing.  Here is an example of just one of the comments that was shared on social media Sunday afternoon:

I had the most awesome time of praise and worship today at PSBC ever. My soul just opened up and soaked it all in. Jarrett McNeely reminded me that we need to let Jesus rub off on us…amen. And Julie Putnam McNeely sang about The Blood and I thought I was gonna exlpode, then my Pastor spoke from Proverbs about bringing up a child in the way he should go and he won’t depart from it….it has been rough year and today just helped me put so much in prospective. Thank you PSBC for loving God and loving me…..

I think there were moments in both worship services when we all felt like we were about to explode.  The presence of God was overwhelming.  That kind of unity in heart and spirit is a work of God that man cannot manufacture.  We also had a wonderful morning in Sunday School, with more than 20 visiting families in attendance.  In the past 2 weeks our Sunday School average is 643, with 668 in Bible study yesterday.  Our attendance numbers are steadily climbing from week to week over yearly averages.  The energy and morale of our small groups has never been higher.   I believe we need to plan another weekend similar to this early in 2014.

But there was a moment before the second service when I felt deflated.  Clint and I usually meet in the sanctuary before the 2nd service.  Sunday we met and I asked about whether we had met the attendance goal.  Clint responded that we had fallen short.  We stood there for a moment letting that sink in, and then it was like we both looked at each other and realized that it didn’t matter.  We resolved to share the joy and excitement of the weekend with the congregation, and give God the glory for all the great things happening around us.  Why should anyone feel deflated or discouraged?  Clint did a wonderful job of celebrating God’s work and placing the number in context. “We are having church in here today” he said, “and we had church out there yesterday!” I could not agree more.

In light of these thoughts, here are 3 reasons why it’s not a bad thing that we missed our goal on “high attendance Sunday”:

  1. It provides us with an opportunity to rethink our scorecard for success.  I am not opposed to setting number goals.  I think they can be helpful.  But we can never make them the bottom line.  We are a spiritual family and we ought to measure success by spiritual standards.  Attendance numbers can be affected by lots of variables, and while they should not be ignored, they can’t become the bottom line for measuring spiritual health and growth.
  2. It creates a moment that we can learn from.  By every conceivable standard, we had a great weekend experience serving, worshiping, and being in small groups together…except one.  We set a number goal and fell short.  Perhaps we should seek God’s wisdom and pray for his leading in how we plan special emphasis weekends.  In the past we have set number goals, taken commitment cards, created incentives for meeting the number goal, and had success with that model.  This time we did it differently.  We set a number goal, but we planned other activities and created spotlight moments on service projects and included the worship service in our emphasis.  The service projects were a tremendous success, and the worship service full of energy.  Sunday School attendance was very high, even if it wasn’t at the goal level.  It’s my observation that we had a rich and meaningful weekend that will leave deep spiritual impressions in a variety of ways.  In light of the contrast however, we may be able to learn that there is a broader and better vision for special emphasis weekends than driving high Sunday School attendance alone.
  3. We are reminded to value people over programs.  We are not here to build a big Sunday School.  We are here to build healthy disciples.  The danger always exists as we create special attendance drives, that as people are invited they may feel used, or like a statistic. “Well, its ‘high attendance Sunday’ again and they’re inviting us back to church so they can have big numbers.”  Obviously that is not the point of what a high attendance Sunday is.  And I have confidence in our people to communicate more effectively than that as they make invitations.  But the bigger a deal we make of the goal number, the more pressure we create to live or die by it.  We must be a church that cares about what God cares about.  God wants us to grow, and wanting to grow is one of our core values.  Healthy things will naturally grow, especially healthy churches. Today however, I am considering the best ways to express that desire to grow, and what modes of growth really matter to God.  There is deep spiritual and real physical value to the things we accomplished TOGETHER this weekend.  Our people grew in ways that a number cannot express.  We didn’t meet the number goal, but I am thankful to God for what was accomplished.

You did a great job this weekend Poplar Springs.  You expressed in beautiful ways that we are Better Together.  There is not a single thing that I want you to feel deflated over.  Give God the glory for the great things He has done, and let’s pray together about what we might learn from our wonderful experience together.

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Categories: Keeps People Connected, Organized to Serve, Reaches Out to New People, Studies God's Word Together, Sunday School, Uncategorized, Wants to Grow | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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