So, how are we doing?
Each fall our church staff and volunteers fill out several forms, with line after line of questions, we also submit quite a few other reports, budgets, lists of nominated and elected officers, and all of this is compiled into our Charge Conference report. By the middle of January, we report even more numbers, on five or six more forms, for our official “End of Year” report. Many of these numbers are of not that interesting to the casual observer, but there are a few that are, and some of these are useful in “taking the temperature” of the church and help us to see where we are and in what direction we might be going. I have a few other numbers that I track monthly and the end of the year is a good time to look at that data as well.
Although we report church membership at both Charge Conference and in the End of Year report, it is difficult to draw too many conclusions from it. It is difficult, because our membership is more than three times our annual attendance. And that, in turn means that either we have a great many inactive members (which might be good if we can get them to attend more regularly) or, that we have many people on the membership rolls that shouldn’t be, or both. In any case, in 2016 membership at Christ Church was 362, in 2017 it was 356, and in 2018 we ended with 323. In the last year, we lost 18 members to death, 2 to transfer, and 14 were removed simply because we had lost all contact with them. We did, however, add one member to our rolls through transfer (Hi, Hayley!). So is declining membership bad? Maybe, but it’s hard to tell.
I guess the good news (if you can call it that) is that we don’t remove people every year, those who were removed haven’t attended for a long time, and our number of deaths was much larger than usual. So, although membership “declined” by 33 people, the impact on our congregation, although significant, is not as bad as the numbers might imply.
On the other hand, while our average Sunday attendance was 69 in 2017, it was 71 in June, and by the end of the year had risen to 78. Similarly, we saw an increase in Sunday school attendance, an increase in the number of people who were giving to the church, and a healthy increase in our stewardship pledges. Not only that, but we also saw an increase in participation in missions and outreach, an increase in the number of people we served in our community, and a small decrease in our total church expenses. In short, attendance is increasing, and we’re doing more, with less.
Another measure that is not yet reported to our district or Annual Conference, but is of growing usefulness, is our ability to engage with our community on social media. For the moment, the only number that I can report to you is our number of Facebook followers. In the last year, the number of people who have “liked” our Facebook page has increased by 27, from 172 to 199. That isn’t a lot, but it’s a positive increase and it at least hints at a growing engagement between our church and our community.
I understand I’ve only been here for half a year, but even if I were here longer, I know that I am not solely responsible for any of this. We are a church and a community, and we work together as a team. But as I have said before, what I see in our reports, and what I see in these, and other numbers, is good news. Clearly, we have work to do, but in many ways we are doing well, or at least doing better. Digging through the numbers and filling out reports is not anyone’s idea of fun, but I want to thank Dolores, Julie, and all our staff and volunteers that help us do it.
Because, in the end, when I read through our reports, I see every reason to be hopeful, even excited, about the direction that we are going, the future of Christ Church, our ministry here, and our outreach to our community and the world.
Don’t stop doing what you’re doing.
Keep up the good work.
Let’s build on what we have and make 2019 even better.