Numbers surround us every day. . .interest rates, mortgage rates, the price of gas, college tuition, bus fares , train schedules, speed limits, sporting event scores, dress size, time, temperature, weight, house number, phone number, television/radio stations, credit card numbers. The list could go on forever with numbers we encounter every day.
The Presbyterian Church (USA) collects numbers, too. Each January, every Clerk of Session submits two statistical reports to the denomination. When all the information is combined, we have a picture of the church from a numerical point of view.
As of December 31, 2008 we were one of 10,751 Presbyterian Church (USA) churches. 50% of those churches had a membership of less than 100 people. We had 221. The average Christian Education enrollment (for all educational activities) was 115. Our enrollment was 94. The average worship attendance was 111. Our average was 67. The average contribution per member (money given to the regular budget) was $1109. Our average was $556. Of the 13,462 active pastors, only 7,295 served in local congregations and one-quarter of those were associate pastors.
I share these numbers because they are interesting and because they give us the opportunity to look at ourselves and ask questions. What is the ratio of our worship attendance to our membership? Is our worship style effective for younger generations or for immigrant populations in the area? What factors in the congregation and/or the community affect our membership gains, losses and giving patterns? What can we do to increase membership and giving? How do the changes in membership affect Christian Education programs? What factors influence our investment policy and mission giving?
It is easy to focus on decline and to remember the large numbers we once had. But I challenge you, as we begin a new program year, to focus on the potential we have. Bob Foltz-Morrison reminded us at our August Session retreat that the church began with 11 ordinary men who were commanded by Jesus, as he ascended into heaven, to go into all the world to teach and to baptize. As of mid-August, we are 218 active members. We, too, are called to go into all the world to teach and to baptize. Together we can do all things. Numbers are just numbers. Itís what we do with them that makes a difference. In Godís name, letís make a difference this year.
See you in church!
Ethelyn L. Fulton, Clerk of Session
Past messages from the Clerk of Session: