Do Attendance Numbers Really Matter?


Face it, so much of our measurement of success in ministry is based on numbers.  How many in attendance?  How many decisions for Christ?  How many Bibles distributed?  Financial supporters and grantors want to know the head count when they are agreeing to offer fiscal backing.  It’s frightfully easy to let these statistics be our sole focus in determining whether we have achieved our ministry goals.

However, that mindset is probably one of the greatest dysfunctions of our busy post-postmodern culture.  The activity of God is surely not measured by our busyness.  Two recent examples of events with low attendance that our ministry held can be a beneficial illustration for you:

  1. A recent RECESS respite event we had 2 more volunteers than we did children.  While our director of children’s programming puzzled over why so few were registered, she still pushed forward with the event, knowing for the few signed up that break was critical.  After the event had concluded, not only were the families served gushingly grateful for the refreshment of that break, there were even greater stories from the volunteers.  I heard from the program director a great joy that the workers had the opportunity to love on the kids attending with less distraction and more generosity.  She also raved that it gave the volunteers a chance to become more cohesive, like a family because they got to know one another better and share their passion for this work.  On a typical night, they would all be too busy just trying to manage the children to be able to connect in such a way.  The volunteers also professed their delight with those unexpected opportunities as well.
  2. This year we had the lowest registration of all time for our Mother’s Day Spa Event.  This is typically a labor intensive affair requiring great planning and exhaustive contact of volunteers.  Yet, it is one that I have never been willing to give up on because the mothers so desperately need this pampering and TLC.  A generous, loving benefactor opened up her palatial lake home for the refreshment of these women.  Oddly, attendance was at rock bottom.  Unwilling to abandon her commitment to these women, the benefactor determined to make this a remarkable experience for those who did attend.  The intimacy shared with the seven women who came was incredible.  Each of them had the opportunity to eat fancy cuisine in a gorgeous setting as they watched sail boat races in the distance.  Each took their turn at a relaxing Swedish massage in one room and a reflexology foot massage in another room.  The homeowner’s art studio was opened for the women to do a variety of crafts from beading, to monogramming a plate, to painting a recipe box.  Afterwards, a faith focused talk on “The High Calling of Special Needs Parents” was presented as we cruised lovely Lac La Belle on our hostess’ pontoon boat.  And the women departed with a small gift to enjoy at home.  All of this lavish love was poured without hurry because the numbers were low.  The women had a unique opportunity to connect and build new friendships because there were fewer in attendance.  Ironically, only one of these women was a repeat attendee to the event.  It certainly will live on as an event where the movement and power of God were most evident.

Have you ever cancelled or postponed events because of low registration?  I can confess that I am guilty of that.  I have had the mindset that fewer attendees registered meant that the occasion was “not worth it”.  How foolish!

One of my favorite inspirations is humble Mother Teresa of Calcutta.  She was the queen of doing “small things with great love” and tenderly loving “just one” as if she were waiting on Christ himself.  How well we execute the mission God has sent us on when we imitate such a method of ministry!

What have you done when you have low registration at an event?  We would love to hear!

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