As a church planter, numbers can often be a consuming topic. Without numbers, or "butts in the seats" as some say, you cannot launch a church plant. Therefore it is a constant prayer of mine, as well as those in our church plant Bible study, that God would bring those into our midst who need to be there.
So far so good...
Why else do we need "butts in the seats"? Is it simply to begin our church plant or even sustain existing churches? According to numerous conversations I have had, the answer is "no." Numbers are important not simply to begin, or sustain, a church but also to ensure budget is met. Without people willfully and freely giving financially to the work of the church, local congregations will struggle. In other words, "butts in the seats" is also a money matter.
When you notice the trajectory toward end-of-the-year giving is likely going to fall wholly short of expectations, "butts in the seat" can evolve into a new meaning. On the one hand, to observe numerical growth can suggest that God is adding to his kingdom. Most, if not all, pastors I know desire a sort of Pentecost experience (i.e., thousands coming to faith under the preaching of the word). But when that does not occur, and the pastor begins to notice the congregation shrinking, worry can set in, especially if one's budget is already a concern.
"Money talks," as the saying goes. And when times are tough financially, there is a potential danger for people to turn into dollar signs. More people means more money. How do we avoid this? How do we avoid allowing money to take a position in our lives where it should not? People should not morph into dollar signs. Yes, we trust God, but due to the weakness of our faith sometimes it is hard (Matt. 6:25-34). (By the way, presently I am not struggling with this, but I know other ministers who have or are).
What do you think? Reverends Pruitt and Fluhrer: do you have any suggestions?