Attending the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s most recent mid council leader gathering in St. Louis earlier this month, it was clear that the church is busy birthing something new. But like new wine in old wineskins, what we are becoming likely won’t fit our familiar categories. Nowhere is this more apparent than in our choice of what to measure. For example, Betty who faithfully volunteers at the church’s breakfast program for the homeless doesn’t get counted as attending because she has to work a Sunday morning shift. Lilly officially attends worship every week – coming in just as the sermon wraps up so she can make a meal of the coffee hour. Thanks to his mother who holds up one end of the congregation, 60-year-old Bill is still on the rolls of the church where he was confirmed – even though he has visited fewer than a dozen times as an adult. Jose isn’t on the rolls as a church member, but he ushers nearly every week. He says it would kill his mom if he officially left the Catholic Church. Our LGBTQ members, officers and pastors have ostensibly been the source of much church fighting for the past 30 years, but you would never know it from our statistics where they are almost invisible. Our multi-race members are similarly either pigeonholed into a portion of their identity or not counted. (See last week’s featured commentary for more on racial identity.)
Or look at how we measure congregations. Jan Hus Presbyterian Church on the Upper East Side of NYC has a small budget, almost no endowment, maybe a dozen members officially on the rolls and has a similar number for Sunday worship – but the church serves 5,000 people in the neighborhood each month. Other churches have fine facilities, large endowments, big numbers in worship on Sunday morning and guard an empty fortress during the week. These are just a few examples of how the PC(USA)’s current statistical measures fail to capture the 21st-century reality of working for Christ through the church…
To read the rest of this article, please click here: What the PC(USA) measures matters
Arthur Fullerton is a Ruling Elder at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Albany, NY, past chair of Board of Trustees, current chair of the Budget Committee, and Moderator-Elect of Albany Presbytery. He consults with nonprofits about fundraising and organizational leadership.
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