Originally posted Aug. 6, 2012, at Toolbox for Faith. Republished with permission of the author.
I learned the background of the term “benchmark” when I was in Colonial Williamsburg and visited the cobbler’s shop. The cobbler would place a person’s foot on the bench and mark around the foot to form a pattern to make the shoe — hence, the word benchmark.
I was reminded of that visit this morning as I listened to a sport’s show on the radio while driving to work. The sports writer and novelist, Frank Deford, was discussing what was the best era in sports. His answer was simple — the” benchmark” for most people was when we were “young and innocent.”
That started me thinking about benchmarks for the church. So many people start off their comments about their church with, “I remember when we averaged (fill in the blank).“ The benchmark for them is a number from the past which is usually remembered better than it really was. Perhaps Deford’s comments about young and innocent could be applied here.
I hear others say, “Why can’t we be like (fill in the blank) church?” This benchmark is usually the largest church around. Finance committees benchmark the budget by dividing by 52 as if all Sundays were created equal.
Each time I fill out reports for our judicatory, I am taught the benchmarks of average attendance, baptized members, communing members, financial gifts, people added or subtracted from the roll of members and people in Sunday school.
The better benchmark for me is mission and ministry. What are we accomplishing as a congregation to make a difference for Christ in our mission field?
Since I have been doing this new thing called Interim Ministry, I have been reading different articles and books to get a perspective on what others recommend as the role of the interim. What’s most intriguing in those articles and books is what is not there — an emphasis on mission and ministry.
I feel that is the key because that binds a congregation together. When we are making a difference for our Lord in our congregation and our community, we become united. I believe this is the best benchmark we can use.
Find a link to John Wertz’s blog Toolbox for Faith at Lutheran Blogs.