|Metrics vs. Emotions|
|Written by Tom Ehrich, Church Wellness|
If you want a lively argument, ask a group to name a “top ten” list of players in a sport, top ten movies, top ten songs.|
What makes it lively is the subjective analysis.
People will employ statistics to prove a point. But in the end, people turn to their tastes, preferences, and memories, and thereby tap some deep emotions.
This same tension between metrics and emotions makes it difficult for churches to be coolly analytical about their performance or prospects. If I am getting my needs met, do I even notice a persistent slide in attendance? Conversely, if I resent new and younger people, do I take any satisfaction in upward trends? If ten other churches draw crowds by offering basic Bible study but I prefer to teach systematic theology, am I deterred by slim response?
As a consultant, I have shown seminar attendees methods that work, but I could tell from their eyes that they planned to stick with lesser ways.
Churches aren’t alone in ignoring or downplaying metrics. Automakers stuck with failed business plans until bankruptcy loomed.
Even so, I think churches have an unusually difficult time embracing the concept of “outcome-based decision-making,” which says, Keep doing what works, and change or jettison what doesn’t work. It’s our emotions speaking.
Some members want to go back to when “thing were better” or import ideas from a former church, without any regard to context or resources or demand. Some don’t mind dwindling results as long as they can continue seeing their friends on Sunday. Some want their congregation to fail, because that would let them into leadership.
In such cases, actual numbers don’t stand a chance against the subjective or emotional.
But that could be changing. The situation at many mainline churches might be so dire that better methods, more responsive offerings, and attention to outcomes can rise to the surface.
I hope so.
I’m all for the subjective. (Don’t tell me stats prove Honus Wagner was a better shortstop than Ozzie Smith!) But I see too many churches flying blind because they won’t pay attention to outcomes.
Tom Ehrich is a writer, church consultant, and Episcopal priest based in New York. He is the publisher of On a Journey, and the founder of the Church Wellness Project www.churchwellness.com.