Thursday, December 2, 2010

What Counts?

Sister Beck, in the recent Worldwide Leadership Training, said:

"What counts for the Lord? Is it going to be the meetings? Is it going to be the numbers? […] Or is it going to be the caring?"

As I've thought about this comment, I've reflected on the role of statistics – or the role of what I keep track of -- in my church life. On my mission, statistics were a big deal – how many proselyting hours, how many discussions – though they were less of an issue to my mission president than to his predecessor, who reportedly regularly made transfer decisions based on statistical performance.

An as a leader in the ward, I've often focused on statistics – home teaching, attendance figures, and other measures of activity.

That said, I am not a 100% person. I'm not a 100% home teacher. I'm not sure I've ever been. But I do know and see the families assigned to me who will let me come. I could probably see them more often; I certainly could minister better.

I'm not 100% at scripture reading, meaning I don't read every day. But we read most days in a week as a family (it was much easier during our seminary sabbatical last year when we could read in the mornings; now that I have another child in early morning seminary we're back to reading before bed, which is always more challenging). And I do know the scriptures, and I am in them often, and learning them more.

I can track my tithing faithfulness; I can measure my performance against the key worthiness elements of the Word of Wisdom. But more importantly, I can see blessings for paying tithing and I feel the nudge toward (and the blessings of) the non-worthiness elements of the Word of Wisdom.

I'm glad we no longer collect statistics on temple attendance. I can remember we used to do it in all sorts of ways. The temple has always seemed to me the ultimate in private worship and service. Nevertheless I do have a goal for my own temple attendance, and, more importantly, I can feel when I haven't been in while – I can tell that something is missing in my life.

Bishop Edgley visited our stake quite a number of years ago. In a priesthood leadership session, he put up some statistics on two stakes – one with a very high activity rate as measured by sacrament meeting attendance, temple worthiness (number of endowed members who held recommends), percent of age-appropriate Melchizedek priesthood holders, and so on, and one that was far less active. He then asked us to guess where these stakes were. As it happens, they were both our stake, split statistically between active and less active members. He taught us about the need to minister to the active and less active. He then taught us something that has stuck with me: The Lord does not use statistics since he can read our hearts. But we use them as indicators of where we might look for improvement in ourselves.

I doubt – Sister Beck's comment notwithstanding – that there will be a retreat from the collecting and reporting of statistics, nor do I believe there needs to be. But I hope Sister Beck's comment, like Bishop Edgley's from years ago, will remind us of the proper perspective: in the end, each of us needs to do the best we can. Each of us needs to take the next step, whatever it is. And to the extent we can minister to one another and help one another to take those steps, that's a good thing.

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