It's the end of February and the beginning of March. This is a time of year that, in a way, marks the beginning of spring. Yes, I know that spring technically doesn't begin until about March 21st. I also know that we can have some terrible snowstorms in March. Still, somehow, once we get past February and start March, it seems like we've passed a significant milestone in the year.
For United Methodist pastors, the end of February marks something else. It marks the date on which the annual statistical tables have to be done. There are three of them, coincidentally named Table 1, Table 2, and Table 3. As you know I'm the pastor of the Wheatland Parish, which is comprised of three churches. That means I have to fill out three of each of these forms, one for each church. Three Table 1s, three Table 2s, and three Table 3s.
This is annoying. I write and talk a lot about how much I love my job, and I do, but I don't love this part of it. I don't know any pastor who does. I have yet to talk to a pastor who enjoys filling out Table 1, Table 2, or Table 3. And I have to fill out three of them. It goes to show that even the best job has its down side once in a while.
It shows something else, though. It shows that, just because we don't like doing something, it does not make that something unimportant. Much as pastors might complain about filling out statistical tables, they are important. They're important as a measure of where we are compared to where we've been.
Now, please understand something. I am not saying that everything about a church can be measured by numbers. There can be and are good things happening in churches that are not measured by Table 1, Table 2, or Table 3. Also, I'm sure, there can be and are bad things happening in churches that are not measured by Table 1, Table 2, or Table 3. Just as you cannot tell everything about a baseball player by looking at his batting average, his home runs, and his RBIs, you cannot tell everything about a church by looking at the statistical tables.
On the other hand, a baseball player's batting average, home runs, and RBIs do tell you some things. And a church's statistical profile tells you something, too. We may not be able to learn everything about a church by its stats, but we should try to learn the things that we can learn from them. If we don't, we'll miss out on a chance to learn, which is something we should never do. We should always try to learn as much as we can. As Linus once told Charlie Brown, learning may not be everything, but ignorance is nothing.
So, I'll keep filling out Table 1, Table 2, and Table 3. I'll probably never love it. But I hope we can all learn from it.