It has been suggested to me that I start keeping numbers of who we are in contact with and who comes to our group, so that when I next meet with the steering group who guide my project (and who are responsible for the report which might influence future funding) we have something concrete to go by.
We all know that numbers do not make a church, and even in established churches, Sunday attendance doesn’t give the whole picture. The national church is beginning to use a different measure. However, numbers can help us work out if what we are doing is, at least, connecting with people.
Starting with the overall reach, I estimate that we are in regular or semi-regular contact with 93 adults.
At our Sunday Gatherings, we have had 27 different adults through the door (excluding my daughter’s dedication service when 30 adults were there). Out of those, 16 adults and 12 children are what I would call regulars. Out of the regulars, this gives a theoretical maximum of 28 people including children on Sundays. And here’s a fairly meaningless stat that I like: this means that since we arrived here in 2010, we have had 933% growth(!), or 100% growth since we started the Sunday gathering with the initial core team in May 2012. Those outside our core team who have become regulars at our Sunday Gatherings have come due to an existing friendship with us or a member of our core team.
At the Little Bundles mums group, we have had 16 different mums through the door. Attendees change gradually as kids get older, mums go back to work, and as new babies are born. At the moment we get between 2 and 7 to a session, which is ample for our front room.
Our Friday Mums Bible Study group has a consistent attendance of six mums, whilst our children’s worker and I lead activities for the toddlers.
Book Club is fairly consistent too, with eleven active members and one who used to come. Monday Night Football has 21 active members (although they don’t all come every week, resulting in games of 6-8 a side). Our Curry and Questions group, which sprung from relationships formed at football, started with four of us and now has six who have come, and two who would have made it last time but for being on holiday.
At rough count, I estimate 30 adults on the development who we have contact with who aren’t members of the above groups. This contact comes through the Northamptonshire Country Centre, the Residents Association, the school, and other friendships which have formed through the community, or mutual friends or something like that.
So, there you go, make of them what you will. I maintain the key to being a part of the community is getting involved in what is going on, and in being friendly, open, hospitable, and welcoming to those around. And undoubtedly this contributes to church growth too. It is important that relationship-building remains something we all do in the community, even as the number of Sunday regulars gets larger.
I’m aware that the above figures give no indication of how many are interested in exploring faith, or of spiritual growth for the regulars. The latter issue is something we hope to be doing week by week and we are looking at ways of helping those new to the faith explore more deeply too. Whilst we are still small and not, by any means established, we are moving in the right direction, which is encouraging. But we are still a long way from being self-sustainable, and perpetual problems such as resourcing the activities we hope to provide, and location, remain.