The UMC is a connectional Church which means a number of things. So clergy are appointed by bishops and not hired by local congregations, each local church pays apportionments which fund global ministries, clergy benefits are grouped together in order to get a "group rate" and many other points of connection. In many ways you might say the UMC is one big group working on the same mission. Each church is a local 'franchise' of the larger Church so even if one local church closes the larger Church is not at huge risk of collapse. Unlike say the Crystal Cathedral
which when it closed so did that entire Church.
I love the connection of the UMC, it is in part why I am a UMC minister. In light of a recent book, You are Not so Smart
(of which I hope to blog about for a few posts in the coming days) has made me wonder if the thing that makes the UMC strong and global is in fact the very thing that is leading to the recent rise of the church freaking out about "metrics".
Some would say the rise of concern of counting the butts, baptisms and bucks is connected to the trend of a dying denomination. Perhaps. Some would say the rise of counting metrics is in response to a world that is driven by numbers and economics more than generations before. Perhaps. Some might argue that we might not even care about these metrics if the church was blowin' and goin' and able to meet budgets across the board. Perhaps.
I wonder if the metrics buzz is a result of the connectionalism.
In You are not so Smart, there is a chapter titled, "Social Loafing
" in which argues that we have a misconception about group work. That is we believe that when we are joined by others in a task, we work harder and become more accomplished, however in reality, once we are a part of a group, we tend put in less effort because we know our work will be pooled with others'.
Could it be the fact that the UMC has pooled our efforts together for so long that we who sit in the pews believe we do not have to work as hard or give as much because it will be pooled together and either be diluted or 'covered by' other people who are giving and working.
This overall thought that our individual slacking or lackluster work has then become the catalyst for a church in demise. We all think someone else is going to cover the bill or pay the apportionments, but in reality no one is.
So our Church goes into decline.
We loose money and staff and members and then we have a negative feedback loop.
In a time when 1 in 4 Millennials
do not associate with any religious tradition, if members of the UMC want the Church to survive then we ought to be aware that our social loafing is no longer going to cut it.