Many things in ministry are measurable – attendance, professions of faith, baptisms, contributions, etc. On the other hand, much of the fruit of ministry is immeasurable and beyond our capacity to quantify and report. But this doesn’t get us off the hook and does not release us from the obligation to focus on fruit. We should use “measurables” where we can, and use “describables” where we cannot measure, and hold each other accountable for fruit. Most importantly, the recommendation [of the recent "Call to Action" report] says we must act on this information and adapt to better fulfill the mission.
Describables are subjective, and so open to interpretation. It seems to me that accountability for a subjective perception is very tricky. It requires a level of trust within a relationship that allows for complete transparency and honesty. I feel personally that Melissa and I have that kind of relationship with our District Superintendent (DS), Dwight Chapman. We trust him and he trusts us, and we know that as negative issues arise that need to be addressed, he holds us accountable respectfully and with much grace and dignity.
At the same time, I know that some of our colleagues, for whatever reason, do not feel like they have that relationship with their DS. And absent that relationship, accountability seems to fall exclusively onto the measurables, regardless of the (perceived?) describables.
How can the UMC release our Superintendents so that they can develop more of those trusting, open, and honest relationships with pastors?
How can we create a distinctive UMC ethos that allows for itinerant preachers to describe the describables to a DS, who will then in turn share them with a Bishop, in such a way that the health and vitality of local congregations continues to flourish?
And finally, is there a place for "indescribables" in assessing a congregation? As cliché as it may sound, aren't there truly some things you cannot describe, but must experience in order to fully appreciate? Aren't there some facets of congregational vitality that "you know it when you see it," and the best way to assess it is to go there and participate in it?
I have been fortunate in my ministry. I have served with Superintendents with whom I felt a good rapport and a healthy trust. But I have heard enough anecdotal evidence from colleagues to know that my story is not universal. And to be fair, if a DS has to go to 50-plus congregations in order to sample the describables, let alone experience the indescribables, that takes up an entire year of Sundays!
As usual, I am just kind of musing here. Thinking as I type, if you will. So I hope that you read it in that frame of mind, and respond accordingly. Thanks!