Pastor’s Ponderings

Our worship attendance at Asbury is lower that it has been, and that’s certainly gotten my attention and my prayers!
I’ve appreciated Rebekah Simon-Peter’s reflections on how we measure a church’s health:

“We have a love/hate relationship with data. Even as big data shapes almost all our online experiences, we’re not so sure how we feel about data in the life of the church. Yes, we count worship services, offerings, worship attendance, small group ministries, baptisms and confirmations. But deep down inside, we resist measuring ourselves. I suspect it’s because we fear we don’t measure up.
I get it. Measuring ourselves is hard. I experience that every time I step on the scale. If my weight is high, I’m bummed. Paradoxically, my response is to want to eat more. On the other hand, if it’s low, I take it as license to indulge. I’m stuck either way. Data shmata.
Jesus said, “You shall know me by my fruits.” What fruits are we as a church producing? In the United Methodist Church, we proclaim that we are making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. There’s only one way to know if we are accomplishing our vision or not. We have to measure ourselves.
I know what you’re thinking: data shmata. Who cares about the numbers? You can’t measure what churches do. You can’t measure the growth of a soul or the impact of a sermon.
I say if we’re not willing to measure ourselves, we’re not serious about our vision.
For instance, can you imagine Michael Phelps practicing without a timer? Or Simone Biles executing moves without a judge? Is it even conceivable that Usain Bolt would, well, bolt, without clocking his speed? They count on that information to guide their performance.
There’s only one way to know if we’re actually making disciples or transforming the world, folks. And that’s to count. It starts with counting the right stuff.
Counting the right stuff
Imagine if Olympic athletes measured their effectiveness by the numbers of programs sold, seats filled, hotel rooms booked or hot dogs consumed. That would be ludicrous, wouldn’t it? Those figures have nothing to do with what’s going on in the field, on the court, in the pool or on the mats. Katie Ledecky measures her effectiveness by the numbers of medals won, records broken and milliseconds shaved off. She doesn’t care how many programs are sold. It’s irrelevant to her performance.
We need to adopt the same attitude. Too often we are dazzled by the irrelevant.
So what should we count?”

There’s more to this article (

For me, one of the most exciting parts about being a pastor in this era is asking these questions: In a time of shrinking worship attendance, what is our response? What should we count? And the critical question that we are asking is: why are we here? At Asbury we are here to discover God and find meaning, purpose and joy. We move forward on this journey towards God by being centered in Jesus Christ, growing in faith, celebrating community and serving others with love.

If you, like me, are energized by these questions and topics, join in on our next leadership meeting that is setting our goals for 2017: Thursday, November 3, 1-2pm in the Conference Room.

Rebekah Simon-Peter concludes her article with these insights:
“Instead of counting small groups, maybe we need to count what those small groups do. Like the number of prayers offered, kind things done, suicides averted, hospital rooms visited or courageous words spoken.
Or, instead of counting people who attend worship, maybe we need to count the number of people in and beyond the church who actually emulate Jesus. Like people who act courageously, live sacrificially, call us to a new humanity and put God’s will above all else.
No doubt, the UMC, like most religious groups, is headed toward a leaner future. Our current statistics show that. But that doesn’t mean our spiritual footprint need be smaller. Quite the opposite. Jesus turned the world upside down with a very small following. The truth is, I expect our impact can be greater than it’s ever been. But we have to truly embrace our vision, be clear about what it means, then design measures to connect us to it. Finally, we need to be willing to collect and crunch data that tells us how we’re actually doing.
Data shmata? No way. It’s time to love the numbers.”

What do you think of Rebekah’s approach? I always appreciate hearing from you: [email protected]

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