Measurement has been a troublesome thing for the church for two thousand years." That's how Jim Mellado of the Willow Creek Association responded when I asked about measuring congregational success. "It's incredibly hard to measure transformation in a heart," he continued, "and that's what we're all after."
No matter how you state the ultimate goal of your ministry, it is difficult to measure the things that truly matter.
When I began writing this, oil was still gushing into the Gulf of Mexico from a drilling accident at the Macondo site. It was being described as the worst environmental disaster in history because of the widespread effect on the Gulf and its shoreline. Now the oil has stopped flowing and the most intense cleanup work is complete, but the incident is far from over.
Several storylines remain, including investigations to determine causes and assign financial liability, and debates over what restrictions to impose on future offshore drilling.
Measurement is an important subplot in this story. In the weeks after the blowout, two measures received a lot of attention: the number of days that it took to cap the well and the amount of oil that had escaped into the environment. The first was easy to quantify but of little value to anyone except the media. The second, the amount of oil, was much more difficult to measure and hotly debated. It caused me to wonder: Does it matter? Apart from sensational headlines, how does the quantity of oil from Macondo make any difference for the future? The official government estimate is that 4.9 million barrels leaked into the Gulf, but apart from the size of the fines assessed, this measure has no impact on the most important issues for the Gulf Coast.
What actually matters going ...