Now that 2014 is over, many of us may wonder how it went and how the church did. Honestly, it’s hard to tell because so much of what we do can’t be measured.
How much more spiritual are we?
How much deeper did we go in our faith?
How many people grew in their faith?
How well did we bear witness to others?
Those are the kinds of questions that are really important and they are the hardest (if not impossible) to measure. But there are things that we can measure. What is easiest to measure is “nickels and noses.” We can count how many people were here and we know how much money is in the bank.
Our finance committee can tell you that in terms of dollars, we are in good shape. In large part, thanks to a few incredibly generous estate gifts, our financial situation is solid. Last year we repaved our lower parking lot and this year we air-conditioned the sanctuary and the fellowship hall, and despite these large expenses, we still have more dollars than we started with. Even so, we are not yet where we should be. As good stewards, our goal should be to live within our means and support our ministry with our gifts and offerings. While there are some months that we are able to do that, and we are seeing some Improvement, there are many months that we rely upon those estate gifts to keep things running. Overall, while there is room for improvement, I think we have every reason to be very pleased with our current financial situation.
Counting noses, or attendance, is a trickier thing to do. At first glance, this year looks a lot like last year. In 2013 our average worship attendance was 86.78 and in 2014 it was very nearly identical at 86.48. But that average misses a lot that happened. If you look at the year on a graph, you would immediately notice that our attendance during the first three months of the year was terrible. By far, it was the worst attendance we’ve had in five years. But then most of us would remember that this past winter was one of the snowiest we’ve had in decades and we had snowstorms on Saturday or Sunday for two or three weeks in each of those three months. The good news is that over the next nine months we brought the average back up. In fact, if we ignore the first three months of the year, our average attendance was 90.4.
But even that misses a part of our story. Most of us remember that last November we changed our worship schedule, re-launched our non-traditional worship service, and moved Sunday school between the two services. It was a big change.
It was feared, by some, that re-launching the second service would cause a decrease in attendance at our traditional worship. It’s hard to say whether that’s true or not. Overall, attendance at our traditional service was lower than it was last year (73 vs. 78), but that fall is consistent with the fall that we have been watching since 2011. On the other hand, if you ignore those first three snowy months, that number is almost exactly the same.
Because we only had the Coffee House worship service for two months of 2013, and because the children’s Sunday school used to be counted as a part of the old Contemporary worship service, we don’t have much to compare to this year’s numbers. What we can say, however is that the Coffee House launched with an attendance around 16, has gradually but steadily increased, and is lately averaging around 20. On any given Sunday the Coffee House represents between 25-30 percent of our total attendance.
When we combine the attendance for the two worship services (being careful not to double count anyone who attended both), we find that eight months of this year our attendance was higher than in 2013. That is definitely good news.
The really good news is what has happened in our Sunday school. Before we changed our schedule, our average Sunday school attendance was 17.7, but this year rose to 28.7. This is more than impressive. Most churches are seeing a decline in Sunday school attendance and in fact, some churches are giving up on Sunday school completely. In that world, for us to see such an increase in attendance is nothing short of amazing.
Counting our “nickels and noses” gives us mixed news. Clearly, we still have work to do. But overall, I think that the news is promising and we can find plenty of reason to hope.
(Next Month – “Much More than Nickels and Noses”)