The following is my report to the Presbytery on April 27.
– David Dawson
The packet at the April Presbytery meeting normally includes several statistical reports.
It has been said that stewardship is more than money (time, talent, care of the earth), but it is never less than money. The same is true of statistics like those included in the packet…a church is more than numbers, but it is never less than numbers.
These numbers in these statistical reports are not pure. You cannot take them at face value. There is always a “yes, but…” in their interpretation. And, there are always stories behind the numbers…and these stories are more important than the numbers.
But, to ignore these numbers is foolhardy. I encourage you to copy these sheets for the next session meeting and spend some time reflecting on them. For example, the worship attendance at virtually every church is lower today than it was sometime in the past 10 years. What does that mean?
If you are concerned about that, be careful not to play the blame game. Especially be careful to not blame the pastor or the session or the music program, etc. (Firing the coach doesn’t fix anything unless you change the losing culture of the team.)
We have had in the past year more than the usual number of pastors leaving our churches under pressure. But, I can say without fear of contradiction that there are issues in those church that will have to be addressed or there will be continued decline.
So, again, I encourage you to copy these sheets for your session, not for the purpose of micro-analysis, or blaming someone, but as a way to step back and look at the big picture. If your session thinks that business as usual will work, then you might as well plan for the funeral now.
For example, if people are leaving your church, are you asking them why? Or do you simply make assumptions? “It must be the pastor’s sermons…it must be because they don’t like the music…it must be because someone insulted them…” Well, ask them!! Don’t send a letter…talk with them. Then discuss it at the session meeting with appropriate confidentiality.
There are a lot of folks in the churches of this Presbytery who are taking a hard look at what is happening in their church. They would welcome you as partners in this conversation.
Our missionary God is not absent from Mercer and Lawrence counties, but we better find out what He is really doing and join in.
Numbers don’t tell the whole story, but they can be a wake-up call.