Happy Birthday inaspaciousplace.wordpress.com! You are one year old! 330 Posts. 48,389 “Views all-time,” 1,597 “Comments.”

Actually, I am a little late with my birthday greetings.

My first post at wordpress.com was on April 2, 2010. It was Maundy Thursday. But, even late, birthdays are a good opportunity to step back, look at life and evaluate.

How do you evaluate a blog? In fact how do you evaluate anything, particularly anything that purports to be “ministry”?

A lot of energy in churchland these days goes into figuring out how we might assess what we are doing. We seem to be constantly filling out evaluation forms – personal ministry evaluations, parish statistical evaluations, spiritual growth evaluations.

How do you evaluate “success” in the church?

You could go purely by numbers. Count ASA (Average Sunday Attendance); look at the ASG (Average Sunday Giving); examine the BBoD (Budget Balance or Deficit?).

WordPress makes doing numbers relatively easy. If I click on “Site Stats,” I can discover immediately the number of “Views Today,” on my blog. I can find out “Total Views” for each month and year I have been posting at wordpress. The counter also tells me my “Average Views per Day” (88 in 2010; 212 per day so far in 2011), and the “Average Views Per Day in Recent Weeks” (usually around 200)

Do these numbers actually tell me anything? What is the value of counting?

Recording numbers of attenders in a church, or even dollars in the offering gives little useful information. Spectacular Average Sunday Attendance and high Average Sunday Giving in a church may be primarily attributable to a legalistic mindset that mandates every Sunday attendance and tithing without question. If ASA and ASG are motivated by legalism they are questionable signs of good health.

The thing that is missing in the numbers is the quality of interactions taking place between the people who are counted in the ASA. Simply keeping a record of ASG without consideration of the “Givers'” income, expenses, or other financial commitments does not tell us much that is useful about the life of the church. Looking at church budget simply in terms BBOD without considering how much the community may be stretching to extend itself financially beyond the church or what factors may have contributed to a decline in financial support, tells almost nothing about the nature of the community’s health.

The problem with numbers by themselves is that there is not enough story to help explain the numbers. An apparent decline in numbers may be due to a variety of complex factors over which the organization being evaluated has little or no control. A statistical improvement may occur in response to many factors, not all of them indicators of health.

Purely looking at the “Site Stats” on a blog communicates very little.

What is the level of conversation being generated by that blog? What is the nature and the tone of that conversation? Is the conversation respectful and open? Or is the conversation angry and demeaning? How many different individuals are participating in the conversation? What variety of opinions is being shared?

There are blogs out there in blogland which record heavy traffic and attract many comments. But all the comments come from the same point of view. There is no real conversation as blog participants simply support one another in their preconceived notions and prejudices. Is a blog with many comments but no real challenge to the ideas on the blog, really a healthy place of valuable exchange of ideas?

Perhaps the whole exercise of evaluation is pointless. Why are we counting?

If we are counting simply to flatter the ego of the person or organization being counted, it is simply an exercise in vanity. If we are counting in an attempt to make the person or organization being counted do a better job, the motivation is suspect and the strategy is of questionable effectiveness.

Do we do “ministry” in order to be a “success,” to make a big impression? Or, do we do the things we do in “ministry” simply because it is in us to do these things?

Authentic ministry comes from an inner call of the Spirit. It is not concerned with outcomes, measurable effects, or quantifiable statistics. True ministry is carried out in response to the movement of God’s Spirit, not in an attempt to improve the bottom line. The bottom line is in the hands of God.