A friend of mine who pastors a church of 120 in a town of 1,000 told me about a strange encounter he had with a mega church pastor about what constitutes a mega church. The mega pastor led a church of 10,000 in a town of 600,000 and told my friend that if your church was reaching at least 1% of the population of your town, you were a mega church. My friend asked the mega pastor how he would classify a church that was reaching 12% of the population of the town. The mega pastor was stunned. “Who is doing that?” he asked. “Our church is running 120 in a town of 1000!” responded my friend. To which the mega pastor replied, “Yes, but that’s different.”
In some ways, the mega pastor was right. Pastoring 120 people is different than pastoring 12,000 people. Leading in a fast growing suburb is different than leading in a rural community or complex downtown urban setting. So, in some ways, comparing the two ministry contexts is apples and oranges. They are different. But in other ways, the mega pastor was dead wrong. From the perspective of the people reached and actual impact on the community, reaching 12% of a small town is a much greater result then reaching 1% of a larger town, regardless of the magnitude of the raw numbers. This ‘percentage of impact’ number might be a great tool to help us equalize our understanding of the missional impact of a church and get away from the short sighted idea that the only thing that really matters is how many people gather in one place at one time.
The ‘percentage of impact’ number is simply the number of people attending the church compared to the number of people in the community. A church of 120 is a significant force in a community of 1,000. A church of 12,000 is impressive but much less of a force in a community of 600,000. To be equal in percentage of impact to the church of 120 in a town of 1,000, the mega church would need to be a church of 72,000.
Right or wrong, in the American church world, when everything is said and done, the more people you have listening to you each Sunday, the better and greater leader you are. This idea that quantity is always better is an American idea, not a Kingdom idea. America is a great nation, but American values do not always synch up well with Kingdom values. Kingdom is about impact and in the Kingdom, your percentage of impact number means more than how many you have in the room at the weekly worship gathering.
Other Kingdom measurements that apply regardless of the size of the gathering are metrics like: ratio of baptism to attendees, ratio of leaders being developed to attendees, ratio of weekly conversations with lost people per member, etc. These metrics actually tell you something about how well you church is tracking with the mission of Jesus to seek and save the lost.
When you set out to plant a church, make sure you measure things that matter. If you focus on actions and activities that increase your missional impact, you won’t have to worry about how many people show up to hear you speak. The crowd will increase, as you stay focused on the mission of Jesus.