Month: June 2008

That’s Not My Ruler … Measuring Success

Sitting in a D.Min. seminar more than 15 years ago I recall thinking through how success is measured for those in ministry – particularly for pastors. All of my fellow students either pastored very large churches or served the staff of very large churches. Our little church had less than 100 active members and a weekly attendance of maybe 50. Listening to the markers on their rulers meant counting “butts and bucks.” I would never survive the resultant pressure for success in that setting.

About the same time I was asked to write an article for leadership magazine for our denomination. I remember using the metaphor of the ruler to suggest we really needed to think how we measure success in ministry.

More than fifteen years later my friend David and his cohort at George Fox came up with a list looking for the marks on the ruler that may indicate success in the future – not “butts and bucks.” David gets one of the grand compliments for a blog post. He is picked up by Todd Rhoades at Monday Morning Insight as seen at Backyard Missionary. Todd is now with Leadership Network. Now if those folks forging the rulers for success in the future will take heart of David and his peers work we may get somewhere.

Here are some of the lines on the would-be ruler,

1. The number of cigarette butts in the church parking lot.
2. The number of adoptions people in the church have made from local foster care.
3. The number of pictures on the church wall of unwed mothers holding their newborn babies in their arms for the first time.
4. The number of classes for special needs children and adults
5. The number of former convicted felons serving in the church
6. The number of phone calls from community leaders asking the churchâ??s advice
7. The number of meetings that take place somewhere besides the church building
8. The number of organizations using the church building
9. The number of days the pastor doesnâ??t spend time in the church office but in the community
10. The number of emergency finance meetings that take place to reroute money to community ministry
11. The amount of dollars saved by the local schools because the church has painted the walls
12. The number of people serving in the community during the churchâ??s normal worship hours
13. The number of non-religious-school professors worshiping with you
14. The number of people wearing good, free clothes that used to belong to members of the church
15. The number of times the church band has played family-friendly music in the local coffee shop
16. The number of people who have gotten better because of free health clinic you operate
17. The number of people in new jobs thanks to the free job training center you opened
18. The number of micro-loans given by members in your church
19. The number of churches your church planted in a 10 mile radius of your own church

Reading with Fitch and Holsclaw

Recently I committed to review several books for I intended to get about four books over the course of a year. I received Pete Gall’s My Beautiful Idol and wrote a couple of posts. Not long after I received about five books. I will get to them slowly. Not only do I have my usual reading for sermon preparation and study – not to mention those the new reads from the always recommending David Phillips. I am reading a friend’s DMin project as his “reader.” I will be reading quite a bit over the next few months helping him get to the end of that journey. As if that was not enough …

Today begins an online adventure, could be construed by some as a nightmare. I became familiar with David Fitch on the recommendation of his book The Great Giveaway. My brother Paul wrote a series of posts reviewing Fitch’s book. (You will need to scroll through these posts as they are not linked in one post – shame on Paul.) And, since some think Paul and I are joined at the hip, if not the brain, you would find much of my own response to the book there as we talked a great deal about the book during his read. (Email him about the “wonder twins” association from some years ago.) One of the many blog feeds in my Bloglines account noted an online course David would run this summer with Geoff Holsclaw titled, “Readings In Postmodern Theology.”

I queried David about the course as we had exchanged emails over ETREK and possibilities at Northern Seminary. He sent along the early version of the syllabus and I was hooked. I ordered the books and began reading. When Paul, a philosophy minor in college, referred to the reading as dense, I knew I had bit off a bit.

The reading will be challenging but lines up with my reading of a few authors who attempt to appropriate some of the benefits of postmodern philosophy for theology like James K.A. Smith, Pete Rollins andJack Caputo.

As I have time, I will try to post some of my reflections on the reading. What have you read that might be helpful? What are your thoughts on the idea of reading postmodern theology?

Paying for What Is Free

One of the fellows who works out at the gym in the early morning asked if we knew of a place to recycle plastic bottles. He noted the number of water bottles he had lying around. We provide drinks during the school year for “Lunch Spot.” As a matter of preference we provide bottled water. Many students prefer the water to soda. We have been holding on to the empty bottles in hopes we could find a place to recycle the plastic. We are still looking.

Last week Fox News reported a trend away from bottled water and back to the tap. The numbers that I found in the article and a related post on Wikipedia noted in the Unites States we spent $16.8 billion in 2007 and consumed 8 billion gallons of water in 2006 (projected to increase by 10 % in 2007). You can read the Fox piece here.

Dobson’s Increasing Marginalization – Stems from His Own Words

Last week I listened to the now (in)famous radio broadcast of James Dobson taking after Senator Obama. I read a number of references to this interview and most expressed the sentiment they wanted people to know Dobson does not speak for them as Evangelicals nor as Christians. Scot McKnight offers some of the same kind of observations and questions I would have. He did it better here.