February 23, 2012

The metrics that really matter...

...are the ones that don't get recorded.

 If you are familiar with the inner-workings of the United Methodist Church you might have have heard something about Vital Congregations. There has been a lot of debate and rumblings about the value of this effort - basically each week, congregations are asked to submit a report listing a few key numbers - worship attendance, professions of faith, number of people participating in small groups and missions, total offering, and total given to mission and ministry support.

 What struck me yesterday morning is that the really important numbers are the ones that don't get (and often can't be) recorded. The number of people in worship matters, but what would be a more interesting number to know is the number of people not in worship. It's easy to celebrate the fact that 92 people were in worship last Sunday; it's a little more sobering to remember that there were 3,395 other people living in a 3-mile radius of the church who were not in worship; or that there was room in the sanctuary for at least 48 more people to be in worship with us. In a similar fashion, what would it mean to measure the number of members not involved in a small group and not engaged in mission last week, which begs the follow-up question, why weren't they actively engaged in some form of ministry?

 Is it possible that giving too much attention to the easy numbers of "who's in" might just reinforce our problem of not remembering "who's still out" there, and isn't that where our attention really needs to be - focused on the one lost sheep and not the 99 who are already accounted for?

 Is the world still our parish, or has the parish become our world?