The simple word “why?” is arguably enough for this post about the image below, yet I will allow myself a single paragraph for a little elaboration.  I tend to exist in realms quite distant from those who need and use forms like this, so it struck me squarely upside the temple (would you believe “pierced my left ventricle”?) when I saw it.  I ask why? because I question the purpose of this form . . . but I also have other questions.  Who receives this information?  What is done with it, and yes, why?  In a large church organization, I think people in staff positions might keep records like these in order to get a handle on things, or to keep thumbs on the pulses of their groups . . . and I don’t doubt that, in so doing, some folks feel purposeful.  The purpose might well run deeper than fiduciary business.  “How healthy is our ‘flock’?”  “Who is slacking, and is s/he spiritually slipping?”  Assuming we accept both the institutional and underlying spiritually based purposes of a card like this, do we believe it truly adds value?


One thought on “Why?

  1. Comments received/shared via Facebook follow here:

    David Dorrell Overthink? 😀

    Dusty Jackson I understand where you are coming from and agree with the process behind what you are saying. It is hard to line up attendance tracking with the Bible. Yet there is some validity in it. For instance, if you also keep track of baptized membership it would be very helpful in confirming whether or not the membership is mostly present. We looked into this at our church once and had found that we had a discrepancy because many people had moved away and never reported anything. Keeping track of membership is for strengthening the body by being able to check on those not in attendance and to see whether or not they are having corporate worship somewhere else.

    Otherwise I agree with you. What is the point of knowing where everyone sits!!

    Doug Roorbach Just an easy way to count all who are there–such as in the nursery–who might otherwise get overlooked Agree with Dusty about the reasons for wanting a head count.

    Brian Casey Thanks for your comments, Dusty and Doug. My vantage point tends to be non-institutional and based in smaller groups where such records would be silly, but I’ve been there in the past. I haven’t completed an attendance card in 25 years myself, figuring I didn’t want it to be a card that caused someone to notice that I was present or missing! Your comments make sense from the “inside.”

    Other than the “spiritual” concern of how certain sheep in a flock might be doing or whether they are moving along somewhere else, can you both see fiduciary implications here?

    David Dorrell As a banker, I’m sure you are aware of the direct translation of the word fiduciary. All my bankers have come to equate it with “overreach”. Now, they’re talking government regulatory overreach. But, like a cancer (or the scriptural yeast?), it has a tendency to permeate every aspect of our lives. Big brother.
    Just a narrow perspective and I tell myself that I’m as guilty of overthinking it as the ones I originally thought were overthinking. But that has become the constant of modern life. A continual questioning of the morass of entangling issues that bounce around our consciousness. Facebook, for instance…

    Brian Casey Overthinking seems to be a pitfall of mine, according to most people and even me sometimes!

    I wasn’t being very specific with my use of “fiduciary.” Thanks for bring more meaning in. There is an implied trust relationship, I suppose, between pastor-types and flock-types. But that opens at least two cans of worms I can think of, so I’ll quit there.

    David Dorrell I sense more than a little similarity here.

    Randall Smith We briefly discussed attendance cards and trackers regarding the Church Growth Movement in my class one day, and I think that in general, they are a good thing, but not because I would focus on the number itself to measure what’s “working”, but rather just as just one way to measure how many people are in certain areas to measure what is growing. Of course in places like the nursery and the children’s ministry areas numbers like that should always be taken, but that’s primarily for safety reasons as far as I’m concerned.

    Maybe I didn’t make that distinction very well, but it is a fine line anyway, and there is a good way to use this information and not-so-good ways (it can give way to pride, which isn’t a good thing at all).

    Brian Casey It takes good people like you (and a couple others above) to identify and use the good aspects. I think I question the tendency to measure in the first place. It strikes me as businesslike. If the “return on assets” is better in the young marrieds class or in the balcony, then we invest more there. It just bothers me….

    Dusty Jackson Brian Casey I think if that is how it is being used, that is wrong. The Holy Spirit felt it important enough to have reported in Scripture the numbers of converts on Pentecost (see Acts 2:41).

    Brian Casey Dusty Jackson That’s an interesting mention. I wonder if the Parthians sat in the balcony and the Alexandrians, on the portico. 🙂 Do you recall any numbers reports after that one? Even if there are some I’m not recalling, it seems different, doesn’t it, to report the # of converts on “Day 1” as a part of redemptive history than to do spreadsheet analysis of weekly attendance at so-called “services.”

    In addition to my growing aversion to such things, I should probably acknowledge a glut of spreadsheets and numeric information in my work life these days. It’s not a lot of fun for me, although I can crunch numbers OK, I guess. Plus, stats can lie, so I can sometimes poke holes in logic based on numbers.

    Enough math for the evening for me…. Thanks for your thoughts.

    Doug Roorbach I tend not to read sinister motives into wanting to know what areas of a church (or other organization) are more-used or are attracting more attention. That data may be useful in responding to the people who “vote with their feet.” In other words, I see it more as being actively watching and listening to peoples’ reactions and thus being equipped to be appropriately responsive. That’s probably naive on my part; I’m sure that your fears of the possibility of misuse of such data-gathering are well-founded.

    Brian Casey Really appreciate the “present company excepted” at the end. (I was worried for the first few seconds, before I got there.) I tried — but maybe did not succeed — not to deal in motives!

    As you point out, data can be very useful. I’m more and more persuaded that it’s an overarching difference in vantage point that has me seeing these kinds of things differently from most. Thanks for reading and sharing your vantage point, too.


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