Easter Sunday has come and gone, and if you had a big attendance day, you will most likely ride a high emotionally for a few days after. It’s common to break attendance, salvation, and baptism records on Easter, and there’s no substitute for the feeling of a full room. But each year it seems like there is more and more pressure for pastors to do Easter BIG! It’s true Easter is a great day statistically, but no matter how many people showed up it’s a great day because Jesus is alive!
[click_to_tweet tweet=”PASTOR: It’s true Easter is a great day statistically, but no matter how many people showed up it’s a great day because Jesus is alive! @jasonisaacs” quote=”PASTOR: It’s true Easter is a great day statistically, but no matter how many people showed up it’s a great day because Jesus is alive!”]
As you recover from Easter Weekend let me remind you of 2 things: #1 Your Easter attendance numbers don’t matter. #2 Your easter attendance numbers matter ALOT! Let me explain:
Why the Numbers Matter
You don’t have to look very far to find cynical voices who say, “If we worked this hard every Sunday….” or “It’s not about the numbers….” I understand their cynicism, but their sentiment is not true. The truth is, if you worked as hard every Sunday as you did for Easter you most likely would not match your Easter attendance because Easter has a built in cultural factor that you can’t reproduce. In general, people have a desire to attend church on Easter, and that accounts for 80% of your attendance boost (I made that stat up, but it sounds about right.) Let me give you two reasons why your Easter attendance numbers are important.
1. You Get To See the Potential of Your Churches Influence and Reach
Every church and story are slightly different, but most church’s attendance spike isn’t a large majority of first-time, “cold call,” guests, it’s a mixture of guests and your inconsistent attenders all showing up on the same day. Your church’s head count of people who claim that your church is their home church is probably 3x or 4x larger than your average attendance but instead of taking turns attending once a month they all decide to show up on Easter, so a church of 250 is actually a church of 350-400 when everyone attends. Celebrate the crowd that you count on Easter because it gives you a chance to cast the vision for the future possibility of your church. You can say to your leaders and volunteers, “With God’s help, hard work, and buy-in, every Sunday can feel like Easter Sunday in time.” Easter attendance can indicate whether or not you have raised the numerical ceiling since last year.
2. People Matter so Their Number Has to Matter
Do churches inflate their attendance reports? Yes! Do pastors feel too much self-worth from church attendance? Yep! But does every number matter, of course, it does. I had been praying with my friend Haley for her family to come to church with her for eight months, and last Easter I looked up and saw Haley with her whole family sitting together towards the back of the room. A big smile filled my face, knowing how much it meant to her to have them there. If my goal as a pastor is to count heads then I’m probably in an unhealthy place, but if my goal is to know their name and their story I am doing what God called me to do, so why should I apologize for celebrating more names and stories? I shouldn’t. The Bible says that heaven throws a party when ONE sinner repents, what do you think they do when 30 repent on Easter Sunday.
So numbers matter, names, and stories matter, attendance records matter because we are trying to build God’s church. Numbers tell a story, not the whole story, but they still tell a story.
If you have great attendance on Easter this year, don’t apologize, celebrate! I remember the first time our church had 300 in attendance on a Sunday morning. We had worked so hard to break that barrier that had challenged us for months, so on the week following our Sunday with 309 for the first time, I got jars and filled them with 300 M&Ms and gave them as gifts to all the staff and Elders. Celebrate!
Why the Numbers Don’t Matter
While attendance numbers can represent so many positive things, there is a dark side as well. Let me give you two reasons why Easter attendance numbers don’t matter.
1. Because You Were a Good Pastor Before Easter and You’re Still A Good Pastor Next Week When Half the Crowd Returns
I remember feeling so discouraged a few years ago when it felt like our church had stopped growing, and nothing we tried helped spur new momentum. I was talking to a pastoral coach of mine, whining a little bit, and I’ll never forget what he said to me, “Jason, are you telling me you’re a bad pastor because a family decides to go to the lake on the weekend instead come to church? Are you telling me you’re a bad pastor because you had 299 instead of 301?” Sadly, I had to admit the answer was yes. I had lost perspective.
For an extended period of time, we stopped counting our attendance numbers. I told our staff it didn’t matter how many showed up; it mattered who showed up, defining success based on what God was doing in individual lives. We’ve started counting again, but something is different this time, I care, but not like I used to. If you are driven and want to make a difference, you will have to wrestle this for the rest of your life, but do whatever it takes to not let attendance numbers define you.
I wrote a lot about this idea of discouragement based on attendance in my book “Toxic Soul: A Pastor’s Guide To Leading Without Losing Heart.” Don’t let numbers determine your emotional health. You can pick up your copy on Amazon.
2. Because God Loves You No Matter What
I just wanted to remind you that God loves you not because of what you do for him but because you are His. That’s all. Whether you had 10,000 this Easter or your church is flooded and you don’t get to meet together, God is crazy about you, and he doesn’t rate your performance the way you rate your performance. He loves Andy Stanley and Chris Hodges as much He loves you. Start believing that and it will change your life.