Why I don’t like taking attendance at church

Many of you will have used apps like Jethro and Elvanto to manage your church or ministry group. As a software engineer, I’m naturally all-in on using technology to make your workflow more efficient. I will be the first to admit that many features of these apps are quite useful (e.g. I love being able to quickly check online to see what rosters I’m on this week). However, there’s one aspect of these apps that I actively refuse to participate in: tracking attendance.

Why? Because I don’t think there is any valid use for a centralised store of church attendance data. Decentralised is another matter. If you’re a small-group leader, it may help you to keep a reminder for yourself that someone was away this week so that you can call them and check they’re okay. What is not needed is for you to add that record to a centralised repository, where it will likely be stored long-term and be accessible to all the church staff.
In my opinion, no good comes of this.

It will be used by some “visionary” pastor to decide which tough sermons drove people away. It will be used as leverage to emotionally manipulate members with imperfect attendance. It will be used to prop up a pastor’s pride because the church is growing. It’s busybodies that need centralised attendance data, not pastors. Real pastoral ministry gets along fine without it. If you’re worried that people are “slipping through the cracks”, the solution is better delegation of pastoral care, not micromanaging people’s attendance habits.

There were surely people in Israel and Judah keeping a personal headcount of their own children. But David’s sin was in creating a centralised record of it all to support his ego (2 Samuel 24). May God keep us from repeating that mistake.