Dashboard pros and cons

Dan Dick raises some questions about the United Methodist Church’s move to adopt conference dashboards.

Having MORE people, small groups, projects, pastors, ministries, and money seems, on the surface, to be a good thing.  However, there is an implicit given that must be taken into consideration, and that is a presumed quality.  The presumption that our future growth will all be high quality denies our current reality: if we’re not doing very well with what we already have, it is highly unlikely we will do better with more.

This is a common refrain for Dan. The post is not just critique, though. He offers his positive vision as well. Read it here.

I am wary of us adopting, even for good reason, a stance that suggests more people is not a good thing. That strikes me as putting at risk our belief that all people need to be saved and can be saved. As always, though, Dan raises interesting and compelling arguments.


6 thoughts on “Dashboard pros and cons

  1. The challenge as I see it (and that Dan details more eloquently than I can) is that for a church with a mission to “make disciples” we do a lousy job and all the cheerleading, number crunching and kool-aid drinking isn’t going to change that fact.

    If I had my druthers, the UMC Call to Action would be the Council of Bishops calling the entire church to its knees, praying for the Holy Spirit to initiate a spirit of revival, to guide and direct our paths and to give us the courage and conviction to live out the risk taking love of Jesus in our communities. We need to be about changing lives, not following a corporate model that will only lead to despair.

  2. The question is how we think about numbers. Are numbers good because they are absolutes or because they represent people? Dashboards seem to focus on the first frame of mind but I think the second is more valuable.

    Rev. James Howell, one of my mentors, is fond of saying that he’d much rather have 251 people in worship than 250 because that one person matters. How do we build a dashboard that thinks about numbers that way?

  3. @Wayne – I agree with your prayer and fasting idea.

    @JB – I like Howell’s saying. I’m not sure, though, why that perspective cannot be used with dashboards.

    1. It’s not impossible. But I don’t think that’s how the dashboards are currently used. I think it would take an intentional effort to help people see the numbers with that perspective as opposed to simply viewing the largest number as the winner (or loser, with some metrics).

  4. I looked at Dan’s post before coming here and was intrigued by the note that a church with 500 members had 70 engaged in some sort of ministry while another church with only 40 members had 35 members engaged in ministry. Which was the more vital, more alive church?

    I remember a airplane trip I took many years ago and I struck up a conversation with the person next to me. The gist of the conversation was about how many people were involved in the “business” of a local church. The size of the church is critical in this case because you might have one person doing three different tasks (trustee, lay leader, Sunday school teacher). A small church will, by nature and necessity, have several people doing several tasks. But if you expand the membership to, say 100, but still have a limited number of people doing the tasks, what does that say about the life of a church.

    It would appear to me that we are only looking at a number that has digested, pastuerized (there’s a pun there if someone wants to work on it) and homogenized. What we have to do is look at what makes up those numbers.

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