In the most recent issue of Rev magazine, church growth dude Charles Arn spun out some interesting ratios featuring the word “should“:
5:100 – Your church, according to Arn, should average 5 visitors for every 100 in attendance.
1:4 – 1 of every 4 visitors should be a regular attendee within a year of his/her first visit.
1:7 – Every one of your members should have at least 7 friends in the church.
7:100 – Your church should have 7 groups for every 100 members-plus-regular-attenders
6:10 – For every 10 members-plus-reg-attenders, your church should have 6 role/task positions
Arn suggests that these ratios are a pretty reliable measure of a healthy church, no matter what size the congregation is. Though these figures are rooted in social science and organizational dynamics, these numbers resonate with me. (Amazing, because I’m not generally a fan of numbers.)
In recent years, Bill and I have spent too much time being church visitors. Frankly, it is almost always a miserable experience. We have visited churches that were horribly unwelcoming. They might as well have put a security guard at the door and called the building a clubhouse at the 19th hole.
We have visited churches that appeared to be friendly, only to discover that there was no room for us in the social constellation of the church, another way of saying the place was terribly cliquey and self-congratulatory. Other church leaders informed us that there would be a place for us to serve, and that place was the nursery. (Which is OK, because God loves babies, but it’s not OK, because they never really wanted to know who we were, but only wanted us to plug a hole in their schedule.)
And we’ve visited churches that offer us a bunch of spiritual coworkers, but are too busy to nurture discipleship-type friendships.
The church isn’t called to have the relational dynamics of an elementary-school playground, high school cafeteria, or a Michael Scott-managed office.
I think Arn is right.
Beyond Arn’s number crunching, I believe Scripture calls us to be counter-cultural in some socially-profound, agape love ways. I am contending in prayer for this, in my own life and in the life of the church. It is not an ideal. It is in our DNA as members of the bride.