I like to count -- the number of children in Sunday school, the number of people who attend a picnic, the increase/decrease in attendance -- all kinds of criteria. I read a post today called People Matter - So we count by Mark Waltz.
Mark states (and pardon me if I have this wrong) that there are two categories of measurements -- hard and soft. Hard measurements are the kinds of things that I mentioned in the first paragraph -- counting. Soft measurements are harder to quantify, but they give one a feeling of the success of a project -- feedback, stories.
A few examples:
- I can tell you that 122 people from inside and outside our church received our recent Lenten Devotional via email (hard measurement). I can also tell you that one person emailed me that a particular devotional was so meaningful to her that she read it to her Sunday school class (soft measurement).
- I can tell you that 46 people prayed for a total of 64 hours during our recent prayer vigil. The palandromic nature of those two numbers means nothing, I guess, but it gives me chills. Anyway, it's a hard measurement. I can also tell you that more people have made positive comments about that one project than any other one project, if I had to guess ( I didn't count them -- even I'm not that statistically centered).
- We have had an increase in attendance in our worship services over the past year (hard measurement). To me, the services seem -- I don't know -- just "more." Last week's Easter service was the best I've ever seen at our church.
How do we measure success? If you are a salesman, then success is measured on a very real, numeric scale. You have a sales quota, and you are measured against that quota.
Church life isn't like that. We can't measure everything "by the numbers." The number do create a picture, but only part of the picture. The soft measurements are another set of brushstokes in the painting. We really need both, don't we? How else do we do it? What else adds color and detail to the picture?
Aren't there times when we don't even know if something is "successful?" I'm sure that you've wondered if something you said or something you did actually touched anyone at all? Or if it made a difference in the life of the one person you were trying to reach? I don't teach children's Sunday school (very often), but I imagine that Sunday school teachers often feel that way. Oh, and don't even get me started about talking to Middle Schoolers.
Sometimes we can't measure success. We just have to leave it in God's hands.
But, I'll still keep counting. Mainly because I like to.
Photo: One (count it) bird outside the window at lunch today.