“A Note on How We Keep Score”

Today’s post is a cut-and-paste job. At last night’s meeting of Claremont Presbyterian Church’s session, the Clerk, Charles Kerchner, appended to following “homily” to his standard report of membership and worship statistics and correspondence. I was so impressed with it that I thought I would share it here, with permission. My hope is that Charles’ framing of this “scorekeeping” question will help you and your church think through it as well.

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Recording our membership, communion, milestones, and attendance are the traditional ways our congregation keeps track of itself. In some ways it’s our scorecard. But as a reflection of who we are and what kind of church we aspire to be, they are badly outdated indicators..

So, this fall, I will be inviting a discussion about what we ought to be counting, metrics that better reflects our New Beginnings commitments.

It is not as if the decline in attendance in worship is a trivial matter. That decline, the parallel decline in pledging, and the aging congregation present serious challenges to the continued existence of Claremont Presbyterian Church. However, just looking at these data don’t help us very much.

The church attendance figures are a bit like raising the question of climate change. And as Rev.Sapio’s sermon from last Sunday illustrates, just presenting climate change as a problem does not provide us with a concrete issue we can address. I’m going to suggest that we try to identify those issues we can address and keep track of how we do. And I’m going to suggest that we start with the five areas that our New Beginnings small groups reported as aspirations for our future:

1. Reaching in: increasing the depth of spiritual practice and knowledge among our members and those who wish to join us.

2. Reaching out: consciously working to know people outside our congregation, understand their lives and needs, and attract new, young and old members to our congregation.

3. Building stronger relationships with the congregations and other organizations that use our facilities, especially the GPIB congregation and the Children’s Center.

4. Direct outreach, particularly to the homeless and hungry.

5. Building a firm financial base for the future and the capacity to undertake new missions.

It’s reasonable for Session to ask, for us all to ask, “If these are our aspirations for the future, how do we measure how well we’re doing in getting there?”

Over the next few months, I will be asking us to take some time to think about what we ought to count to hold ourselves accountable.

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