Estimating Effectiveness

This past week, our staff and several volunteers were working hard on the “End of Year Reports” required by the General Board of Finance and Administration of the United Methodist Church. In many ways, it is a laborious task of which we tend to question the value. However, as I usually tabulate some of the figures that would give us something of a barometer of our effectiveness, it reminds me that one of the gifts of the United Methodist Church is that we are accountable to other churches in our connection—and that spending some time calculating costs, income, and program effectiveness gives me a good view of the “big picture” of our church’s place in time and context.
The “numbers game” is not everything—but it is something, and what it has shown me over the past three end of year reports that I have been involved with at UUMC is that we’re showing slow and steady growth. We haven’t had an “explosion” in attendance or membership, but we have outgained the losses that we have mourned. Our church average church attendance is up from the previous two I have reported—from 118 last year to 122 this year. We have also gained 16 members and lost 8 to death in 2013, leaving us with an end of your membership tally of 385.
Our Sunday School attendance continues to decline, but we have added new opportunities for small group fellowship and learning during the week. One particular area that is kind of fun to report on is the number of people that were reached by our efforts in the areas of outreach, justice, and mercy. Since we don’t “take a roll” at every event oriented in this regard, I simply go through the newsletters from 2013 and reconstruct how many people were impacted by the various activities that meet that definition. I always count the participants in the “number of people reached” since we are also touched by grace in the midst of doing this kind of ministry. The numbers are inspiring—for example, through our support of Kendall-Whittier Food Pantry we are reaching approximately 1600 in 2013 with the grace of a bag of groceries. I had dinner tonight with a couple who had received food pantry assistance, and they told me—“you can’t believe how big a deal that is, to have your groceries taken care of and knowing, ‘now I’m going to be able to buy the bed bug treatment we need—because we got our groceries covered.” There are 1600 stories out there like that because of the food pantry that we provide for here at UUMC. Another 1600 people were reached in 2013 by our KWI G.R.O.W. (Gardening to Reach Out and Welcome) program staffed by a part time garden interpreter who shows Kendall-Whittier Elementary Kids how much fun it can be to grow nutritious food. Virtually every kid in one of the largest and most poverty stricken schools in Tulsa is reached by our provision for that ministry happening right across the street from KW Elementary. I could tell a story about each and every one of these awesome efforts we have made as a church this year, but let me just review with you what happened and how many we reached in a large number of efforts in the area of Justice, Mercy, and Outreach: Caroling-35, Project Noel-90, Thanksgiving dinner-25, Finals Pancakes-50, Kids Sunday School pb&j for KWI-10, Sampling party-120, Marathon singing-400, Carnival-350, Blessing of the Animals-40 (animals and people J), Love is an Orientation-75, Undies Sunday-50, Coffee in front of the church-300, Furniture Fest-300, Roundup-100, Chinese Fan Dancing-30, Narcotics Anonymous-100, Adult Children of Alcoholics-40, Project Transformation-115, Taste of Kendall Whittier-10, KWI Grow Garden move-10, Wesley Foundation Golf Tournament-5, Happy Children’s Home Fashion Show-5 , Wesley Foundation speaking engagements-200, Choir Shows at Methodist Manor-300, Finals Pie Night-60, Handbell Fest-113, Lecture Series-200, Souper Bowl 60, Shrove Tues. Pancake Supper-60. Some of those figures are obviously estimates (like how many people saw us singing as they ran by in the marathon) but they are at least quantifiable events. They total up to be 6448 people reached by our work in the area of outreach, ministry, and justice. Obviously, I may have missed something, so if I did, let me know! Some other numbers are harder to quantify—how many people are touched by a facebook posting of a picture or story that someone has shared? How many people have opened the Bibles that we placed in door hanging bags along with an invitation to check out our church during Christmas or Easter? How many people are engaged by our website or given hope by the quote on our marquee in the courtyard. It’s hard to say—and a good reason to keep scattering seeds wherever we can.