Renewal Update: January 2023

Pay attention to your gauges! 

As many of you know, I had the pleasure (and sometimes terror) of teaching Driver Education at Fennville and West Ottawa High Schools for a total of 10 years early in my teaching career. I still remember a lot of the phrases I repeated in the car and in the classroom during that time. “Pay attention to your gauges!” was one of those oft-repeated phrases. I would emphasize that everytime you start your car, take a moment to check the gauges and warning lights. How’s your gas tank? Oil pressure? Is the engine running as it should? Temperature good? Are fluid levels where they need to be? How about the tire pressure lights? Are any warning lights remaining lit? How about that pesky “check engine” light? Is it lit? Ignore these gauges, lights, and warnings located on your dashboard and you risk your safety,  your arriving at your destination when you plan to get there, not to mention the additional cost and time of having to fix something that could have been easily maintained earlier and more cheaply. Do you regularly check your car’s gauges and dashboard?

Churches have dashboards, too.

All organizations have their dashboards with gauges and data of various kinds that indicate if that organization is healthy, performing well, and tracking well toward their desired outcomes and destination. 

Like any organization, churches do well to pay attention to their dashboards of gauges and data, too, to know if we are on mission, living squarely into our vision, embodying our values, progressing, growing, moving intentionally as we follow the Holy Spirit’s leading in our personal and communal lives together as a church. What are our metrics, our gauges, our data points that we might use to assess our health and wellness relative to our mission and renewed vision as a renewing congregation?

The Old Metrics: 3 B’s

Growing up at Niekerk CRC, I still remember that on each side of the front wall, flanking the pulpit area, there were wooden boards designed with trays to hold numbers that slid in and out and changed from week to week. There were the weekly Psalter Hymnal numbers for the songs we sang at each service slid into the slots. Other lines of numbers included offering amount, attendance numbers, and such. And some of these were meant to be a reflection of how we were doing as a church. They reflected a certain kind of metric to gauge the congregation’s health. 

These data points reflect the old metrics that were formerly, and even until recently, used by many churches for assessing a congregation’s health and direction. Today these old metrics are often indelicately referred to as “Butts, Budgets, and Buildings.” How many people do you have in worship? How big is your budget? And, what building projects do you have going on? Each of these used to be seen as indicators, as the gauges and metrics of a congregation’s health. This was the dashboard. Are these still the right metrics for us today, especially at Gibson Church as we seek to follow the Spirit leading us deeper and further into our renewed Vision? Will these inspire us today, or will they demoralize and discourage us with even some measure of guilt, shame, and frustration?

The New Missional Metrics: E3 Practices

I think we can do better for ourselves, and I’m not the only one. Just recently, Amy Schenkel from Resonate Global Mission, one of our denominational agencies, posted a brief piece on the CRC’s online “Network” space used for sharing and exchanging ideas amongst members and churches in the denomination. The piece was entitled “Missional Metrics That Will Encourage Your Church.” I was intrigued and inspired by Amy’s piece as it suggested gauges that had much more to do with personal spiritual growth, and tied to specific missional goals and focus. The metrics she suggested sound way more like our E3 Practices we have adopted as a congregation in living into our renewed vision for Gibson Church. 

These new gauges focus on each of us:

    • Encountering God Daily in reading and listening to his Word, and in prayer and listening and responding to the Holy Spirit
    • Engaging the Church in an intergenerational relationship, and faithfully participating and giving of my time, talents, and treasures to Gibson and the Kingdom
    • Entering the World by befriending someone on a journey to God, or blessing someone in need or oppressed locally and beyond with my time, talents, or treasures.

These metrics will give us some data points that will paint a much better picture of our health and direction than the 3 B’s formerly so popular. 

Checking our gauges 

After discussing this with our Vision Implementation Team (VIT) and Volunteer Admin Team (VAT), I have developed a quick dashboard check of our missional metrics using the E3 Practices as the base, along with a few additional related questions to each one. We will do well to check our dashboard gauges regularly, like checking our vehicle dashboard when we get behind the wheel. Currently, there are 6 core questions, and 6 related questions on this dashboard check. They can each be answered by checking a simple “yes,” “no,” or “help” to start us out. 

Beginning in January, we’ll begin taking monthly checks of our dashboard. We’ll take just a few minutes at the end of a worship service to each respond anonymously to these questions on a paper chart. There is no judgment, nor guilt associated with anyone’s answers. But, again, our anonymous responses, when collected and tabulated, will provide us with a measure of data points that will paint a picture for us of how we are doing and where we are going. The results and resulting picture will be shared with you all each month as we continue to take these checks and track our health and growth each month. I hope you’ll join me in being eager to see what checking our gauges with these new missional metrics will tell us, and how they will point us in the future toward pursuing our Spirit-given, Spirit-led renewed vision for Gibson Church.

Please continue to lean into our renewed vision, and pray thanks for all that the Spirit is doing in us and among us. The Spirit is moving at Gibson! And, continue to pray for the Spirit’s continued leading, equipping, and giving all that we need to continue to faithfully and courageously follow where the Spirit is leading as we follow joining God’s mission in our neighborhood and world. 

Pastor Rod