Most, if not all, of the interest in the Boston methodology stems from their great numerical growth. Few are particularly impressed by their works righteousness theology, rigidly authoritarian structure, or arrogant attitudes. The only merit and attractiveness in the system is the numerical growth. It is appropriate, therefore, to look objectively at some statistics concerning that growth.
One key indicator used by church growth statisticians is the staff-to-member ratio. As of October 1987 the Boston Church of Christ had approximately 3000 in Sunday morning attendance. The total membership numbered about 2500. The Boston full-time payroll includes the following people: 2 full-time elders, 5 evangelists, 42 missionaries (not in Boston), 54 interns or other leaders, and 6 office personnel. Not counting the office staff and missionaries, Boston's effective ministerial staff numbers 61. The ratio of staff to members then is 1 to 40. Most of these staff members are engaged in full-time evangelism. A church of 400 with an equivalent ratio would have 10 full-time evangelists.
The staff-to-baptism ratio at Boston is I to 16. This
means that on average each evangelist or intern converts one person every 3 weeks.
These ratios are much the same throughout the Boston daughter churches. In Chicago there are 23 evangelists and interns on payroll. With an estimated membership of 850, the staff-to-member ratio is 1 to 37. The staff-to-baptism ratio is 1 to 17.
The growth of the Boston Movement churches is no great mystery. It is a direct result of the large number of evangelists and interns who are evangelizing full-time. That manpower is made possible largely because the Boston Movement churches do not own facilities. The money which most churches spend on purchasing a church building is spent on supporting evangelists.
A few years ago, Boston boasted that they retained 95% of their converts. After 8 years in existence, however, the facts do not support those claims. Between June of 1979 and October of 1987 the Boston church baptized approximately 4200 persons. The most reliable indicator of Boston's membership is the Wednesday attendance. In the fall of 1987 the Wednesday attendance was at about 2700. This leaves a difference of 1500 or 35% of the baptisms that are not current members.
Of course an allowance should be made for those who left on mission teams or moved to different cities. We were not able to obtain that number from Boston. However, the number of those who left should be balanced by those who moved to Boston and placed
membership. For example, the Boston bulletins indicate that in 1986 over 120 individuals placed membership at the Boston church. Therefore, the 65% retention estimate is probably accurate.
Even a 65% retention rate is better than most churches are able to achieve. A hidden factor must also be considered. Boston makes new converts so quickly that the dropouts of yesterday are overshadowed by the converts of today. As the Boston growth rate slows, the true dropout rate will become clear.
END OF CHAPTER 14.