The New Parochial Report
It's the time of year when Episcopal congregations begin completing the Parochial Report, basically a collection of numbers (especially about money) that is used to compile statistics, figure the amount of money your parish and diocese will need to send to the respective diocese and international church. I'm sure other denominations have these types of reports. The official phrase states that this information is used in the planning of mission.
Certainly, numbers are helpful. They give us a portion of the vision of the whole. They provide input for statistics which can show trends and all sorts of numerical information that has a place in the ecclesiastical world.
That said, a place is certainly not the whole. Numbers are simply that - numbers. And for all the numbers we have, I'm still convinced no one really pays attention until all the numbers are screaming red and at DefCon 4. Sadly, some pay too much attention to their numbers, assuming that a large attendance number and an even larger income number makes them a successful church.
I am stunned every year that the Parochial Report in a church with such savvy, imaginative people, can't either be expanded to obtain more information about what truly makes communities the church or renamed something more appropriate, like the Annual Report on Money and Attendance. And since no one in the Church governance asked, here's what I'd like to see on the Parochial Report:
1. How many services did you hold this year? And by services, we mean including those times you prayed as a community in Church, in the hospital, and anywhere else people were in need of time with God. Did you as a priest do all the services, or have you invited laity to be prayerful leaders?
2. While your pledge income is helpful, how many hours were donated by parishioners? Include hours spent visiting those who were sick and in prison, the time donated preparing meals for those who were hungry, and the time spent simply being present with those in need.
3. How many of your parishioners are members of the local country club? How many are living paycheck to paycheck? How many are or have been homeless? Do they share time together as equals in your faith community?
4. How many people do you have in your books as members? How many actually attend on an average Sunday? By how much do you inflate that number? (The last question is for those who think bigger is better).
5. How many people have wept in your Church this year and been welcomed to do so? How many have laughed with abandon and been shielded in their joy?
6. Is your parish active on Social Media? (Active means at least one post on Facebook and Twitter every 4 days and a website that does not have the Christmas service schedule on the site in February).
7. List at least five (5) outreach ministries of your church. Do you know the people whom you serve by name? How did you discern these ministries? How many of these ministries have been developed in the last two (2) years? Do you serve those within your congregation in need, as well?
8. Who did your parish pick to win Lent Madness?
9. Do you know the reasons those listed on your parish prayer list are on the list? Is there a group intentionally praying for these people each day/week/month?
10. How many times have you heard someone in your parish say, "But we've never done it that way before"? How many times have you courageously and fearfully done it the new way, anyway?