Reporting House Church Attendance

A few years ago, a well-known elderly pastor visited our church. He wanted to understand the difference between small groups in traditional churches and our house churches. To him, the difference was slight; house church meetings just emphasized sharing more. After several minutes of deep thought he slapped his knee and exclaimed, “Traditional churches attract people through preaching and various programs and assign them to small groups, but house churches reach out to non-believers and send them to Sunday services. The roles are reversed, right?”

Right! Small groups are subgroups that take care of existing members whereas house churches are autonomous churches actively reaching out to non-believers.

For years, attendance in our house churches has exceeded that of Sunday worship services because there were quite a few people who were willing to attend house church meetings but hesitant to come to Sunday worship services. They felt uncomfortable sitting in worship services or meeting pastors. However, most of them eventually attended the Bible study I lead, accepted Christ, and started coming on Sundays.

The situation has changed now: house church attendance is less than that of Sunday worship. The average total attendance of house church meetings during the last 3 weeks is 97% that of Sunday worship. This drop may have to do with the way the total number is tabulated. There is a chart on the wall near the fellowship hall with house church names and spaces where house church attendance is recorded. When the numbers are not written, we now assume that there was no house church meeting that week. Previously, for a blank spot, the recent average attendance of the house church was used to get the grand total. Each week, around 15 house churches do not report attendance. Some of them probably had meetings but neglected to write down their attendance on the chart. But there is no way of knowing this unless it is reported.

We value accurate statistics because a correct evaluation of our ministry demands it. Both the current and old systems for getting total house church attendance are flawed. The current system tends to underestimate the total number by not counting the attendance of house churches that had meetings but neglected to report it. The old system tended to inflate the total by using a recent weekly average even when a house church did not actually meet that week. We prefer to underestimate rather than overestimate.

I urge shepherds to be faithful in reporting attendance. I also urge you to have regular meetings even if the meeting consists of only you and your spouse. In that case, report the attendance as 2. You may attend other house church meetings when no one is expected to come, but you are still required to report attendance. Report it as if you had your own house church meeting. When attendance is not reported on the chart, it will be assumed that there was no meeting. If a house church does not meet for 4 weeks without reason, the shepherd may be asked to resign.

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