Does your congregation have enough people around on any given Sunday? When you meet for worship, are you satisfied with the crowd? Many of our congregations would answer “no” to those questions. There are lots of places where the sanctuary could easily seat more people, where the coffee hour could accommodate more sippers and snackers, where the Sunday School classrooms could easily echo with more little voices.

What are you doing about it? Sometimes the answer is that we are unlocking the doors on Sunday morning and making sure the sign in the front of the church has the right time of worship. Maybe we put a funny slogan on the sign to attract attention. Maybe we tie balloons to the sign so that people know we are still open. Maybe we make sure to post on facebook every week about something interesting. All good ideas. All pretty passive.

When I have listened and read about the new church project that is being funded by the presbytery on the south side of Chicago (Next Ministries) I have been struck by the fact that there is nothing passive about it. Michael Miller, the pastor leading the effort, is receiving coaching from experienced church planters. One of the benchmarks they are having him use measures the contacts he and others are making every month, with a total goal to be met by the time the church launches in the fall. By that launch date they are to make 18,000 positive contacts. That is, 18,000 different people in the target area should have a positive experience of Michael or of the advertising about the church. They are to have 1,800 connectional contacts. These are people who know Michael’s name or the name of the church and whose names he knows. They are to have 600 relational contacts. These are people about whom Michael and others know something. They would be able to say, “Congratulations on your graduation” or “I hope the surgery went well.” Finally they are to have 200 ministry contacts. They want to have 200 people there on the day they launch worship. They have plans for community events throughout the summer to help them meet their goal.

Those are ambitious goals. Here is what has struck me about these benchmarks. EVERY CHURCH COULD SET BENCHMARK GOALS LIKE THIS. What if your congregation set a goal right now for how many new people you would like to have in worship on World Communion Sunday? What if you usually have 25 people in worship and you hope to have 35? That would be 10 ministry contacts. In order to get that, you would need 900 positive contacts; 90 connectional contacts; 30 relational contacts. All of these would be with people who do not already know your church. You can do the math for your own church.

How do you react to such a proposal? Does it make you tired just to think about it? All of that effort for 10 more people? There used to be a day when unlocking the doors and making sure people knew what time we worship was enough. Those days are gone. It takes great effort to sustain and grow a congregation these days. Are you ready to roll up your sleeves?


Susan D. Krummel (Sue)
Executive Presbyter, Presbytery of Chicago