Mission Engagement Blog Post - Year in Review
December 3, 2020
By Rev. Kris Mares, Uwharrie District Missional Engagement Associate
This time of year, when local churches think of “missions” we often think about providing gifts for children in need, putting together Christmas meal boxes, or gathering cold weather supplies such as coats, hats, gloves, and blankets. Those are the easy and fun things to think about.
Hardly anyone thinks about statistics. Nope, thinking about year-end data is not normally a part of our Christmas outreach plans. Yet this is precisely the time of year to think about it. In January, all local churches are asked to complete a year-end statistical form. Did you know that? Churches report on current membership, number of baptisms, worship attendance, income and expenditures, number of small groups, and yes, mission/outreach activities. And if your church is like other local churches, we scramble and think back and give a “best guess” to the number of volunteers for each project, the people helped, the number of items given. Generally speaking, local churches are good at planning the front end of a mission/outreach opportunity, and not as good at considering the back end of the project.
So yes, as the stockings are hung, the meals are distributed, and the gifts are shared, now is exactly the time to begin thinking about how you will report your next year’s activities. Now is the time to make plans to document the efforts of your local church as you reach out into the community to share the love of Christ.
Why? Numbers and stories matter. There are countless times throughout Scripture where we read an accounting of the people. Numbers matter. They help accurately tell the story of how many. Numbers also help when an opportunity for grant funding might arise. Grantors want to know the numbers - how many people are impacted through serving others or being served. Numbers don’t tell the whole story though. Behind each number is a real person who has a story, feelings, hopes, and dreams. The numbers tell the quantity and the stories of the people involved tell the quality. Numbers speak to the mind. Stories speak to the heart.
Start planning now for how your local church will tell your story of community impact through the quantitative (numbers) and the qualitative (stories) data. A simple spreadsheet may be all you need. Have columns across the top that might read Date, Project, # Volunteers, # Served, # Items given. For each outreach/mission event, identify one person who is responsible for keeping track of the data. Their only job should be to count the people (and/or items being collected) and to tell a story. The story might be a volunteer who was deeply impacted by the project; maybe s/he can email a reflection of their participation and why it was impactful. The story might be from a participant; the data collector might simply write down what the participant said about the impact of the ministry on their life. The story might be a reflection of what the data collector witnessed during the event - lively meal time conversation between people who just met, a small child helping another small child, an elderly neighbor teary eyed after a shared hug. These stories paint a picture of community and relationships that the numbers can’t give.
So, enjoy your tree trimming and COVID-19 safe carol singing! Then, over a steaming cup of hot cocoa in the quiet aftermath of Christmas Day, plan for how your church will tell the 2021 story of mission and outreach in your community. In January 2022, you’ll be really glad you did.