From the Pastor's Desk
Greetings in the name of Jesus! I am asked on occasion how our church is doing. Most times it is asked by people who have a genuine interest and love for the Bakerstown United Methodist Church. It is a complicated question that depends on what a person really wants to know.
There are many things to consider in wanting to know the health of a church. The spiritual growth of a congregation is difficult to quantify. While we do know how many people are participating in our group studies and prayer chain, we do not know the number of others deeply involved in daily prayer and Bible reading. In terms of service, we can look at people involved in the church’s ministries. If we are interested in the church’s witness, we can see the addition of the “Drive Through Dinners” in the past year as a way we have increased our church’s outreach, visibility, and witness in our community. The financial health of the church can be gauged in a lot of ways. The easiest is to answer the question, “Are we bringing in enough income to cover our obligations?” Thankfully, the answer to that question is yes!
For years one of the easiest ways of knowing how a congregation was doing was to look at the attendance numbers. While it is not the only way of looking at a church’s health, it was often viewed as the most important. It was also one of the easiest. I can come to church, look around, and see for myself how many people are there. Personal observation could be a little misleading without looking at the average Sunday worship attendance for a quarter or a year.
Covid-19 has brought a change to church attendance. Since March of 2020, some have stayed away from our sanctuary for personal safety reasons. Others are not worshipping because of personal convictions regarding policy of how the pandemic has been addressed. There are people who have gotten out of the habit of coming to church, have lost interest, or have increased travel as restrictions have loosened. If you measure attendance only by the number of people in the sanctuary on Sunday mornings, our church along with most others are not doing very well.
There is another dynamic in this metric that must be considered. It is the number of persons who are viewing our services online. This is a little more difficult to accurately define. Internet views do not always tell you the length that a person watches or the number of people watching in that single view. For instance, I know of some individuals as well as family units who worship online. We have a very nice number of people worshiping with us online, which means we must take that into consideration when we look at church attendance. While worshipping in person is important, online worship is also valuable.
There are lots of things to consider when we look at the health of a congregation. It is complicated but thanks be to God we have a vibrant church! Let us continue to grow in our faithfulness to Christ!