Earlier this week, I wrote a couple mini-rants in the comment sections of two ministry websites. The authors of the blogs weren’t the targets of my frustration. They actually brought up some good ideas. But the underlying issues got me going, so I jumped in.
Here’s what the blogs posted about, followed by what I wrote:
BLOG #1: MissionalChallenge.com
The post was Measuring Success In Your Church. In it, Dave DeVries cited Seth Godin’s concern that we tend to oversimplify the data we use when we’re trying to measure complex systems (false proxy, he calls it). Then the author of the blog asked, correctly, if we do the same thing in church leadership.
Are we measuring the wrong things when we count butts in the seats and bucks in the offering (my terms, not his) to determine a church’s success?
Thank you for this. I think you and Seth Godin are getting at something very important with the idea that we need to use a better set of criteria when we measure church success/failure.
But I’d like to see it taken one step further. Instead of finding better things to measure, I have a question. And it’s a serious one.
Where, exactly, is the biblical mandate that everything needs to be measured?
We need to count the offering and expenses. That’s just good stewardship, with plenty of biblical precedent. But the best things in life (art, beauty, love, salvation) are immeasurable – in both senses of the word.
There’s an old adage in science that you can’t observe or measure something without affecting its outcome. I wonder if we’re actually affecting the intended outcome of worship, evangelism, et al when we try to measure them.
Are we unintentionally devaluing the church when we try to measure the immeasurable?
BLOG #2: ToddRhoades.com
Todd’s post was True or False: If You’re Not Growing, Something’s Wrong. In it, he cited Brian Orme who also questioned whether butts in the seats (again, my term) are the correct way to measure church success.
OK, I’ll weigh in. This hits a sore spot for me, so I’ll try to be nice about it. Blunt, but nice.
First of all, thanks for asking the question.
Second, my answer is “False”. Butts-in-the-seats attendance is neither the only measure or the best measure of a church’s health or growth, any more than height is the only or best measure of a person’s health or growth. But numbers are the only measure we’ve used in the western church for several decades.
As the pastor of a small church, I have to say that the insistence on numerical growth is frustrating, and at times, demoralizing.
80% of us are small. Always have been. Always will be.
Telling us we’re failing because we’re small is like telling 80% of the world’s restaurants that they’re failing because they’re not the size of The Cheesecake Factory. It doesn’t help us get better. It just makes us want to give up.
Instead of telling 80% of us that we’re failing, let’s figure out how to help that 80% be great, healthy, small churches.
It is possible. I know. I pastor one.
My church is healthy, innovative and growing. It’s too complicated to go into the details of how we’re growing in this comment box, but I think we need to start seriously looking at other ways of appreciating health and growth in small churches.
Thanks for the chance to rant. I feel better now.
So, those were my mini-rants. How’d I do?
My comment section is below. Feel free to rant back. Whether you agree or disagree.
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