Wednesday, April 29, 2009

"Is Your Church A Scoreboard?"

“If we only concentrate on the numbers, we’ll miss what is really happening.” -Organic Community by Joseph R. Myers

This is the fourth in a series by Michael Fleming

Prior Posts in this Series:

Is Your Church an Object?

Is Your Church a Clone?

Is Your Church a Body?

Many of us have been raised on an unhealthy dose of results-oriented, bottom-line measurement. The mechanical order approach to measurement is developing a program with a proposal that has a mission statement, a vision, values, and goals. It explains where we are headed and how to get there. This approach to measurement ushers all the attention to an end point. That end point acts as an invitation to do whatever it takes to reach it. Then, along the journey when the inevitable highs and lows related to the end point takes place, we think too highly of the highs and fall into panic and depression during the lows; both of which affect our decision-making. Decisions are then made out of these emotions rather than the life of the community in the present.

For example, Chris was placed in a position called “pastor of small groups.” His goal was to put everyone into a small group. His measurements for success were: number of active groups, number of people meeting per month, number of new groups birthed, how many leaders attended leader meetings, etc. He even drafted criteria to determine if a group was considered “active” or not. As the journey progressed, there were times where the reports weren’t looking so promising in relation to the plan. So, what did Chris do? He experimented with anything that had the promise of bringing up the numbers. His decisions weren’t based upon the life inside of the community; they were based upon his plan. Then, when he couldn’t steer the community into his master plan, he got fired by his superiors in favor of finding someone that could “take the small group program to the next level.” Of course, by “level” they meant attendance.

Because Chris and those around him used mechanical measurement, his effectiveness was not measured by what happened in the life of the people he was involved with. Rather, it was measured by how many people participated. They measured what they perceived to be important and this held dynamic power over the journey and the results of the life of the community.

This happens all over the place. So, don’t be fooled by numbers, catchy slogans and good intentions. Numbers can measure inanimate objects, but they cannot measure life and relationship. You can put a numerical value on the inanimate materials of a house, but you cannot put a numerical value on the life that was experienced inside of the house. That can only be measured by a story. Stories are what emerge from life, not numbers. How many times have you watched a sporting event where the final score doesn’t really tell the story of the game? It happens all the time. Try looking at the final score of a game you didn’t watch and telling someone the details of what happened in the game. You can't do it.

Story is the universal measurement of life. Numbers can be manipulated to say almost anything. A true story cannot. They measure the journey to explain the end. They measure the life of a community. They show us whether what we are hoping for is taking place.

Myers, Joseph R. "Organic Community"

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