The decline in church attendance among young adults and nonbelievers should motivate churches to care about their membership numbers. But oftentimes churches fail to realize that God wants quality and quantity, says a faith columnist.
Jaime H. Wilson of Faith Matters explains that now more than ever, church leaders and members alike need to focus on increasing their size.
"As a faith community, we need to be more concerned about the numbers, not as a means to pad our church rolls but as a way to reach people," wrote Wilson.
In late 2013, the Pew Research Center, reported that three-in-ten U.S. adults say they seldom or never attend worship services, which is a 25 percent increase from 2003. But in order to get people in church, Wilson said churches should be aware of their monthly visitors and how many professions of faith are made as well as how many individuals are involved within their adult, youth and children's ministries.
These numbers, or lack thereof, can indicate how effective the congregation is in communicating the Gospel and what areas they need to improve on.
"I believe introverted churches are the main reason numbers are decreasing across the nation. We have forgotten the call to go and tell others. The main mission of our church isn't to maintain our current population but to reach others and bring them into the body of the church," said Wilson.
She also explained that while stagnant churches tend to settle for low numbers, they are quick to accuse growing churches of increasing their size in an unhealthy way.
"It's easy to look across town at a thriving congregation and question its recent popularity. The main accusation is that the church in question utilizes a nefarious method to attract others into its congregation," she noted.
"The excuses range from the misuse of theology to pandering to the wants of a particular demographic. It's the church du jour, we say, just wait until all the excitement dies down."
While numbers can indicate the spiritual health of a church, Wilson said Christians should focus on reaching as many people as possible as quick as they can while still caring for the quality of fellow worshipers.
"In a spirit of uncompromising truth, we can turn our focus to the unchurched population around us. We can pay forward the love that the Almighty has shown us," she wrote. "Then we can watch our church attendance grow not only in quantity, but also in rich, lasting relationships."
To put in perspective the importance of counting membership numbers, Wilson noted that a congregation of 50 could increase their size in a month if each person spoke to another about their faith.
"By the end of the month, 1,550 people would have heard a message of faith. Let's say just 25 percent are personally changed by that message. In just a month's time, 387 people would have understood some element of their need for faith. In a community desperate for that message, we can't afford to look past those numbers," Wilson stressed.