Over the past few decades there has been a lot of talk about dropout statistics especially among youth in our churches. Statistical data is always complicated to determine what the numbers really say. Some defenders of statistics argue that we should just simply trust the numbers; of course this is their argument until someone uses their statistics to support a different conclusion.
Recently Timothy Paul Jones posted an article at Family Ministry Today, The Infamous Dropout Statistic: Where It Came From And Why It’s A Problem. Timothy Paul Jones makes some good points about how most of us are prone to exaggerate data to somehow hope to give stronger support to our cause. A good reminder to this pastor to speak factually when using numbers and to give clarity when a statistic is not factually supported with data.
His article was a confirming piece for me in this way.
It is natural and even considered normal to use data to support or debunk a matter of interest. A decision to do something or reform a matter is only an honorable thing to do when it is in response to matter of obedience to your master.
There is no one I know who is not bothered by dropout rates of church goers. But if statistical data is the support for or against an issue, then we are likely willing to do nearly anything to change the trend or defend our ministry. If we are to “trust the numbers”, then we are at danger of giving our allegiance to another.
As an unconverted idolater, I’m a slave. As a follower of Christ, I’m a slave. Either position, I’m a slave.
This puts me in a vulnerable state of mind. I can only love one slave master. Now, I must decide to obey one or the other. It is right that a slave of Christ would grieve over dropout rates. After all, the under shepherd is charged to pursue the lost sheep. It is right that a slave of self seeking ways would grieve over dropout rates. After all, his paycheck is dependent upon a growing base to support the ongoing work and future pay raises will only come from a larger bottom line.
When I hear talk of change, or innovation I have a tendency to cringe. Usually because that kind of language is an attempt to get people to buy a product or buy into a philosophy.
I’m not one who is afraid of change. I’ve grown to embrace a life of change. There is always a need to change. But not how most want to push for it, or why thy want it.
If I am to be a well informed and responsible follower of Christ, then I must always be on a reforming path. I will be on a life long journey of putting my old slave master aside and redirecting my heart to obey my new slave master.
Because change is never ending, I have to use statistics carefully. They may be properly used to expose a problem, but they must not be trusted to offer a trustworthy solution. Statistics might give positive support for a wrong action or ungodly philosophy. I must discipline myself to obey Christ, my slave master, regardless of statistical data. My slave master did not charge me to be innovative with his work or ministry, he has called me to obedience.
How does it go? Welcome, creative and innovative genius or good and faithful servant.