By Clark Palmer
TIOGA, La. – Information matters. Numbers matter.
I want my doctor to get and record the right numbers on my blood pressure, temperature, cholesterol and more. I want my banker to get and record accurate numbers on my deposits and withdrawals. I want the right number in my checkbook or money management app. I want the scoreboard to be accurate so that I can know how my team is doing.
You get the idea. Numbers aren’t everything but they do matter.
Leaders on the associational and state level are helped by those numbers. Do we need to plant a new church in our community? Accurate numbers will help us see the real picture. Are there struggling churches who need to make some decisions about their future? Real numbers can help us move toward a wise path forward. Can we afford to start new programs and hire new leaders? And in what areas are they most needed? What about fair representation? The number of messengers to national and state conventions are based on reported numbers.
As the new moderator for our association looking for a sense of where we are, I discovered that I’m not sure where we are because a lot of the information seems to be missing. I’ve since discovered that one-third of our churches statewide, don’t fill out and return the ACP. I’m no math genius but one-third feels like a lot.
Pastors, consider doing two things. First, set up a simple system to record your worship attendance, monthly giving, and baptisms. Over the years, I’ve had to “up my game” on this. I put some simple systems in place and have never regretted it. I have a person who counts and tells me or texts me the number. When I get home from church, I open the file in my word processor and type in the date and number. If I miss a Sunday, I don’t panic. It’s the trends and averages that I’m interested in. Same with the monthly finance report. I keep a list of monthly offering totals. When budget time comes that’s a big help, I don’t have to go back and find the financial reports.
Another file is called baptisms and additions. When someone is baptized I enter the date, their name and age. When someone joins, I record all the information. Instead of scratching my head and wondering how many we baptized in the last twelve months, I just check the record. At the end of the church year, it is a simple matter to get the numbers to enter in the Annual Church Profile. When the 2021 ACP lands on your desk, you’ll be ready and confident rather than dismayed and discouraged.
Ideally, the profile should be filled out just after the associational year ends on Sept. 30. You can do it online. The info you need for that is generally in the packet you get from your association or you can call those folks for help. Back in the day there were approximately 10,000 pieces of information requested. Now it’s more like 20 and that includes your name and address which I feel like most of us can handle. If for some reason there is a question you don’t want to answer, leave it blank. But the information on baptism, attendance, and giving, can help identify trends and areas where adjustments are needed.
Here’s the thing. You don’t have to do any of this. You can do your thing and not take the time to record anything. You can say, “It’s none of their business.” You can say, “I don’t have an hour to spare for that.”
But I’d encourage you to know your numbers and share your numbers. We have co-laborers in the work who will be greatly helped by knowing how we are doing so that they can more effectively plan, lead, and encourage us.
Numbers are not everything. But they do matter. Unless the Lord returns, September 30, 2021 is coming. Let’s be ready.
Clark Palmer is pastor of Faith Baptist Church in Tioga and moderator of Cenla Baptist Association.