The Score

For this final installment in the three part series of Perspectives in which I’ve been drawing reference to the first article I wrote in 2012 and an evaluation of its stated hopes that “we win” in 2012, I’ll share with you the “score.”  Last week, I shared with you “the intangibles,” and as a sports fan, I would repeat my mother’s familiar dictum that “it’s not if you win or lose, it’s how you’ve played the game.”  But, our Bishops would add that it is important to “win” in the measurables as well.  As I mentioned in that original article, it is something we are reluctant to do because it seems to boil down the spiritual value of a community to crass numbers and trends.  I hope not to convey a “cold rationalism” in my deduction of whether we have “won or lost” in the areas of membership, attendance, finances, and community impact, and I’m quite sure God smiles as glowingly on the tiny 5 member church struggling to keep the lights on as the giant megachuch which seems to “run the town.”  However, a summary of our “score” helps us understand what kind of “game we’re in” and what we need to do to improve—because the game’s not over.  In each of these areas, it is important to take stock of the “broad view” and the “focused view” as well, because if one were to compare our numbers with the extent of our 90 year history, with a period of thousands of members, large budgets, and a leading impact in our community, it might seem that we have “just about lost the game.”  I would encourage you though, instead of wondering if we’re ever going to return to that level of prominence, to instead focus on how this present church can and should catch fire with the Spirit.  If we focus on that, God will fulfill whatever purpose we might serve in this day and age.

“So with all that blathering, what’s the score, Mattox?”  (Oddly, I heard that in the voice of my High School football coach as I got finished with that last paragraph.)   In the area of membership, we started the year with 377 “professing members” (a figure which does not include children [such as my own son and daughter] who have not yet confirmed their own baptism).  After the removal of 9 beloved members (all by death), and the addition of 9 (2 by profession of faith, 3 by transfer from another denomination, and 4 by transfer from other U.M. churches) we are, well……tied.  But, when you factor in that we also received 6 “baptized members” (those are children who have not yet professed their own faith to the congregation after going through confirmation), I’d be willing to say “advantage UUMC.”  (That’s a tennis term.)

With regard to worship attendance, our 2011 worship average was 115, 2010 average was reported to be 130, and 2009 was 132.  In 2012, our worship average was 118, with a high of 196, and a low of 88.  In this case, an improvement over the previous year’s average should be celebrated in light of the larger trend.  We have rebounded, but not back to our previous “norm.”

I’d love to put finances in the “win category.”  As Karen reported last week, your generous gifts exceeded our budget by 15%.  We paid 100% of our apportionments through a couple of special fund drive efforts and the diligence of the newly re-Christened “Parking Pharisees.”  Though our pledged income was almost $12,000 under budget, our non-pledged income was almost $40,000 over budget!  This shows our finance committee that we are receiving new gifts from new givers, and this is something to celebrate.  However, though I celebrate the year’s success, viewed in the fairly focused span of the past 3 years, we aren’t exactly “winning.”  We seem to have had a “roller coaster ride” with finances since 2009.  In 09, the total income from pledging and non-pledging members was $209,923 and $121,663 respectively.  In 2010, the figure changed dramatically to $238,040 from pledging members and $55,114 from non-pledging members.  In 2011, we continued on an upward trajectory from pledging members ($258,999) and declined slightly in non-pledging gifts ($43,611).  For 2012, we declined sharply in pledged giving ($219,001) and rose in non-pledged giving ($70,423.)  Do these trends show us anything?  What do we hope to achieve in 2013?  Pledges and previous support have led the Church Council to approve a budget for $274,334.  I’m confident that we’ll win again in 2013.  Hopefully we don’t have to approach our game like the Seattle Seahawks and have a mad dash of scoring in the 4th quarter!  (Especially since that effort still fell short in Sunday’s game vs. the Atlanta Falcons.)

Though “impact on and visibility in the community” is not quite “quantifiable” like the other facts and figures, I would propose that this area is measurable, and from my perspective is another “win” for our congregation.  We’ve created international partnerships with other University Churches, have been profiled in the Tulsa World for our Courtyard ministry, improved our web presence, thrown an awesome Halloween block party, cheered on Marathoners during worship, and through the service of our people in entities like Kendall-Whittier, Inc., we’ve shaped our community for the better.  I encourage you to let people know that you are part of this church, because that’s how we’re most visible and impactful—through you and your actions!