Bill Campbell

Thoughts of Life and Ministry

GOD AND THE ATTENDANCE BOARD

Most congregations I’m aware of today put great emphasis on their attendance board. To them the attendance board reflects the impact their congregation is making on their community. If the numbers are up, the congregation is doing well. If the numbers are down, weeping and gnashing of teeth is set in motion and can be heard throughout the congregation.

Additionally, the attendance board is predictably placed in a prominent spot. Congregations want everyone to see it. To view it carefully. For the attendance board will perhaps be a cause for current boasting and pride.  At other times it will set off an urgent alarm that calls for some immediate attention and remedial action. Something such as, another new church program to motivate church members and visitors to attend more regularly. Or, an effort to begin what I call the “blame game.” Penning the problem for declining attendance on someone such as the preacher or preachers.

In other words, concern with the attendance board enables congregations to incorrectly measure success or failure. Progress or retreat. Making headway or moving toward the cemetery. Knowing how many are present on any given Sunday is also joined to a concern with who’s there and who isn’t there.

It may sound like I’m making fun of the attendance board. Belittling it. Making it appear unnecessary. Making an urgent appeal to transport it to the junkyard. But that isn’t my position here at all. My concern is that we make more of the attendance board in a congregation’s success than we do anything else. It has become the reigning king. Yet, nowhere in the New Testament do I see any such over-emphasis and fanaticism.

A preacher of years past has made the following excellent statement: “Sometimes we are more concerned about the absence of the people than we are the presence of the Lord.” Was Vance Havner on target? Is what he’s saying true of your church? Does your church place the majority of its concern on the people who are there and who are not there? In the process, has your church overlooked the more most important reason for gathering: TO ENCOUNTER GOD IN THE PUBLIC WORSHIP TIME? HAS GOD BEEN INCLUDED ON YOUR ATTENDANCE BOARD?

Allow me to make a few observations at this juncture.

  • Could the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of congregations today be attributed to this wrong use of the attendance board? Have congregations given more attention to the people who are there than they have God?
  • Do congregations need to remove the attendance board from public view as a helpful means of getting the focus more on God than who is or who is not there?
  • Is it possible that our hearts have been positioned in the wrong place when we arrive at church gatherings? If the attendance board is our main concern and focus then this has happened.
  • Should we remove the attendance board, keep track of figures, but utilize the figures more in a wholistic way, as only one of many means of measuring a congregations success or failure? A congregations progress is not attached to the attendance board alone.

One church leader shared with me his concern and sense of guilt about using the attendance board as a lone measuring device. Thus, he indicated that when he counted attendance he would add the Father, Son and Holy Spirit to the number. Why? Because if God isn’t there, have we missed the major reason for why we’ve assembled and exist as a church body??

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July 4, 2013 Posted by | Celebration, Christ, Christian Life, Church, Church and Family, Church and Ministry, Church Growth, Church Health, Church Leadership, Church Unity, Coaching, Discipleship, God, Outreach, Relationships, Scripture, Spiritual Gifts, Spirituality, The Devil | Leave a comment

Overcoming The Holy Huddle

With few exceptions congregations enjoy informing me that they are a friendly fellowship. And I must add here that they are friendly with me about highlighting their friendliness. They even go so far as to engage in bragging about being friendly. Yet, their friendliness is really all about the crowd with whom they’ve become familiar. They enjoy their private activities, like being together often, and eventually evolve into the assumption that friendliness isn’t a quality that’s lacking among them.

What’s amazing to these inside folks, however, is when they learn the feelings of those who enter their church for the first time from the outside.  These individuals see and experience a totally different picture than what the insiders experience. In place of friendliness they are aware of what I wish to designate as the operation of a “holy huddle.” This “holy huddle” group seldom ever breaks the huddle long enough to welcome newcomers who walk inside one of their congregations services. That is, those who are outside the normal crowd that the insiders are used to seeing.

Another thing that often happens in established congregations is small interest groups. They do form. And they enjoy being together. In fact, they stay together. Hang together. They enjoy doing things in which common interests pervade. They erect their own programs, establish marginal mindsets, and structure comfortable zones in which they seek to maintain and control their turf. But an outsider, even a member of the same congregation, cannot join their elitist group. They won’t let them. And anyone who endeavors to crack into their group will be ignored. They will even go so far as to try and exclude those who attempt to challenge their “holy huddle.”

Allow me to openly say here that nothing is more damaging and divisive to having a healthy congregation than that of the existence of a “holy huddle” mentality. It’s wrecking many congregations in this day. How do I know? I’ve witnessed it. Have even heard church visitors who are extremely unhappy with it.

I’ve described the problem. Tried to describe it vividly and genuinely. But it’s not good to present a problem and offer no corrective. No solution. How can congregations break the “holy huddle” practice?

  • By highlighting the problem. This practice often continues to raise its ugly head today because no positive efforts are ever put forward to identify and describe its evil presence. It becomes a vicious growing snowball as it continues rushing downhill.
  • By each member committing himself or herself to being a solution to this existing problem. This will happen as he or she rufuses to become a contributing member to this “holy huddle” mentality.
  • By the effort to prevent any marginalized or private group or groups from forming and creating divisive cells within the larger church body.
  • By a faithful teaching and preaching of the Scriptures that attempts to focus on the dangers of such groups forming and disrupting a congregations unity.
  • By faithfully loving all of God’s creation, everyone He’s created, regardless of their ages, appearances or backgrounds. The human body has various members, but these members must work together rather than work against each other. This important lesson needs to be continually learned within the body of Christ.

The next step involves YOU. Will YOU be a contributor to the “holy huddle” clan? Or, will YOU choose to be the problem solver by faithfully and responsibly huddling with all God’s people in God’s great work in YOUR larger community and world??

July 3, 2013 Posted by | Celebration, Christ, Christian Life, Church, Church and Family, Church and Ministry, Church Growth, Church Health, Church Leadership, Church Unity, Coaching, Discipleship, God, Outreach, Prayer, Preaching, Relationships, Scripture, Service, Spiritual Gifts, Spirituality, The Devil | Leave a comment