Friday, September 06, 2013

"It's all about the numbers?", How to get over fear of inviting people to church, and a parking lot community group--Mars Hill in a time of numeric decline
By Pastor Mark Driscoll
On September 12th, Outreach magazine will release its annual issue listing the 100 largest and fastest-growing churches in the nation. For the first time in a number of years, you won’t see Mars Hill Church listed.

... We will continue to count things at Mars Hill, such as how many people we have on Sundays, how many people are baptized every year, how many people are in Community Groups, how many elders we have to lovingly lead our people, how many people are giving financially, how many dollars we are bringing in and sending out, how many locations and services we have, etc. But, we will use that data internally for our church and not be publishing it much externally. [emphasis added]
by Pastor Matt Rogers

... This next stat is a tough pill to swallow: about 1 in 5 of us churchgoers invites anybody to church in the course of a year, per Rainer. We might have someone who could be totally up for it right in front of us, practically beckoning us to invite them, and instead we hesitate and hem and haw and sometimes don’t even get the words out of our mouths.
As of today, Mars Hill Albuquerque has a new Community Group in the parking lot. I hope to engage with this group every time I see them. I’ll let you know when we replicate.

In a comment from August 12, 2013 a Jeremiah Kendrick wrote the following:
Jeremiah Kendrick said...

Andrew; no I'm not alone in leaving Mars Hills was around 14,000 people a Sunday at the end of 2012 and now is around 11,600. Most of the pastors who left did leave over the corporation management style that took full effect about 18 months ago, moving for a 5 day work week at 10 to 12 hours a day, to 6 day work week at 12 to 18 hours a day. And when you question this as a pastor or member like I did and many ex-pastors you are told to resign and leave Mars Hill for not being in full submission to Mars Hill's 3 executive pastors, Mark Driscoll, Dave Bruskas and Sutton. Turner. Most of the ex-pastors are bond by non-disclosure agreements and will be sued by Mars Hill for ever thing they have if they talk about it in public. I pray for a heart change form the 3 executive pastors and for all the ex-pastors and ex-members forced out of Mars Hill to land in a Christ centered church.

... and then there's this update from Pastor Sutton Turner posted ... somewhere. 

Monthly Stewardship Update
Pastor Sutton Turner
From Pastor Sutton Turner:
Mars Hill Family,
Each month we provide a financial health update to give everyone at the church a basic awareness of how we’re doing in this critical area. Normally, this update comes in the form of a letter from me and Kerry Dodd (our Chief Financial Officer), as well as a quick update from Pastor Mark during a sermon.
This month looks a little different: guest preachers are in the pulpit and I just returned from Ethiopia to visit the twenty pastors that you’re supporting over there. It was an amazing trip. We hosted a national conference for hundreds of Christian pastors and their wives, and some traveled for days in order to attend from all corners of the country.
We printed 1,000 Bibles in Amharic and gave them away to the pastors as a gift. Until now, most have had to share and trade individual books of the Bible with other pastors they know, so full access to the Word of God is a significant gift to their ministry. Here’s a photo of the group:
I look forward to sharing more with you in the coming weeks. Thank you to all who have prayed for this journey! 
July Recap
All that to say, here is a summary of our July numbers—the first month of our new fiscal year:
  • Average weekly attendance: 11,151 (8,959 adults and 2,191 kids)  [emphasis added]
  • Contributing households: 3,394 (an estimated 32% of adults at Mars Hill Church gave during July)
  • Average giving per adult: $38.33 (higher than projected)
  • Total giving: $1.61M (target: $1.48M)
Bottom line: Good start to the fiscal year, with positive variances overall. 
Tacoma & Everett Fundraising
Tacoma and Everett continue to make progress raising money for their buildings. Tacoma has $132,000 left to raise, and Everett needs another $360,000. Both churches are praying to finish fundraising and full occupy their new buildings by January 1.  
Please Pray
Next week is filled with strategic meetings that will affect the course of our church in the next season:
  • Tuesday: the entire staff will gather together for training and fellowship.
  • Wednesday: the Executive Elders will meet with the Board of Advisors and Accountability to review last year and make plans for next. [WtH if you'd like to compare the Governance page in 2013 to what it was in 2012 go here and here]
  • Thursday & Friday: the Full Council of Elders (all of the pastors at Mars Hill) and our wives will gather in person for the first time since we expanded to multiple states.
Big week, please pray. Enjoy the remaining weeks of the Best Sermon Ever series, and get ready for The Ten Commandments, come September.

So it would appear that based on the update posted by Pastor Sutton Turner and Kerry Dodd that Jeremiah Kendrick's mention of numeric decline has at least some plausibility to it.  Numeric decline could explain the new emphasis in how it's-not-about-the-numbers-even-though-we-still-plan-to-keep-growing-because-living-things-grow stuff that we've seen shared before. 

Driscoll has shared that Mars Hill will not be sharing numbers quite so much externally.  A new fiscal year kicked off recently at Mars Hill and new sites are in waiting but it may be that commenter Jeremiah Kendrick was right in pointing out that in terms of numbers Mars Hill has faced a decline.  It wouldn't be the first or last time numbers have fluctuated.  It's worth proposing that when three posts in a row have Driscoll on numbers, another guy on how laity should get over a fear of inviting people to church, and a campus pastor writes a personal story of hanging with Native Americans a common thread may be that if growth is going to return people need a direct, personal, and communal incentive beyond the expansion of a Mars Hill that has in the last few years come across more and more as a corporate brand, not least when it waded into trademark and logo issues back in 2011. 

1.6 million sure seems like a good sum of money but, let's remember, Mark Driscoll has said about Mars Hill "We're not a wealthy church".  Because Driscoll has said that numbers matter and there are people who count things it might be worth noting that the single most read post at Wenatchee The Hatchet is currently this one, in which Driscoll's claim "We're not a wealthy church." apparently made available at one point on The City as an internal message was set alongside the externally released FY2012 annual report to see how not-wealthy they were in FY2012.  If you'd like to go look directly at the report yourself, go here.

As for the Ten Commandments sermon series kicking off in September, Lutherans will want to take their heart medications where applicable, most likely.  :)

POSTSCRIPT: 09-7-2013

for those who read the FY2012 annual report you'll have noticed the average attendance was listed as a number closer to ... (btw each dot represents one person and 2796 were the blue dots representing new people) ...

Presented in its original size.
Subtle, yes?  13,173 as a simple font might have been, you know, simpler.

So the 14k number Kendrick listed may have been a bit on the high side.  People who can confirm that the number was closer to 14k than 13k are welcome to provide some documentation. 

POSTSCRIPT 2: 09-07-2013
These figures were from the May 2012 update Mark Driscoll gave last year.

April vs March 2012
             Adults that gave  weekly giving per A.  Giving Households  Weekly attendance
April     42%                    $29.13                         5,490                       14,059
March   41%                    $32.79                         4,838                       13,125


Anonymous said...

Does Mars Hill have membership?

Do they require or encourage tithing?

Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

Anonymous said...

Interesting post at Gospel Coalition website on 11 Sep in response to a Re:Surgence post by MH executive campus pastor. The risk of putting untrained men into vocational leadership positions in Christ's body.

Anonymous said...

For the two years that we were in leadership positions at one of the MH campuses, it was common to double count Sunday attendees and their children. One campus pastor admitted that there was pressure from Ballard to turn in inflated numbers each tuesday for the previous week's worship. This was talked about once in a campus leadership meeting and then NEVER allowed to be brought up again since it had been previously discussed and settled.

Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

1) could you link to the GC piece? it'd be much appreciated. :)

2) If you don't want to say which campus I'll totally understand. :) For newer campuses the pressure could be particularly high, couldn't it?

Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

From Mark Driscoll's good news/bad news update from June 3, 2013

"I love to dream big, and I’ve got no shortage of vision for Mars Hill. At full maturity, I am asking Jesus to allow us to be a church of 50,000 people. We want to plant more churches in urban locations—old urban, like Seattle and Portland, and new urban, like Bellevue and Orange County—and we want to develop these churches into regional hubs that can plant more churches in the surrounding areas."

Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

I've heard from a couple of sources that they had wondered if MH attendance numbers were inflated in some way but they weren't sure if it was actually the case or how it would be verified. Even if we factor in for the possibility that MH has inflated its numbers for years the trend in the last 12 months has been a decline. Whether they will rebound, let alone reach Mark Driscoll's big dream of 50,000 remains to be seen.

Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

Well, even with his jocular tone in mind, there's still some assurance that so long as weekly attendance is above 10k Mars Hill still qualifies as a gigachurch. Observe:

"Admittedly, I simply used the big idea from my latest book, Who Do You Think You Are? (shameless book plug now coming from self-promoting gigachurch pastor). As is usually the case, about half the sermon was made up on the spot, including the comedy."

Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

It's not all about numbers at the top for the guys who run everything, but apparently for other levels of staff employment size does really matter.