Any church leader who has been in charge of any kind of programming that is consistently showing a lack of success has said it. “As long as we reach one person, everything was worth it.”
To be sure, there are times when that is the case. We read the parable of the Good Shepherd going to find the one lost sheep and we feel justified doing what we’ve got to do to make sure that one person knows they are loved by God. But let’s be honest: That’s not usually what we’re talking about.
What we’re usually talking about is someone trying to justify performance in the face of what they consider unreasonable expectations. Jan Edmiston taught me that these can be classified as “how much, how often, and how many.”
Rightfully so, we find these kinds of measurements to be somewhat antithetical to the purposes God has for the Church. If the job of church leaders is to maximize attendance or contributions, certain kinds of choices will be made; choices that, more often than not, make a person feel comfortable and more likely to show up and give.
Yet, rather than try to “change the scorecard” we say that scorecards don’t matter.
But they do matter. They matter quite a bit. The only way that the Good Shepherd knew that the one sheep was lost was because the shepherd counted.
The “Moneyball” phenomenon showed us that there are objective things that coaches can pay attention to that will ensure better and better results for their teams. What are those for the church?
Because – Can we just say? – with the state of the world and it’s need for Christ’s Grace and Peace, reaching just one person isn’t good enough.
I would love some answers on that last question, because I’ve been taken with Billy Beane and now Nate Silver, but I can’t seem to make it fit religion. Maybe different things the church does need to measure different things, and for different reasons. I keep weekly spreadsheets of youth group attendance and basically count every thing any student does, so that I can accurately show the congregation what our students are doing. We keep worship attendance. We track giving trends in special offerings (they’re on the uptick, surprisingly). We tabulate participation in mission and people served. What we need now is an artful rubric for interpreting what we are measuring.