My E-pistle last week about our 2011 year-end statistics has received a lot of responses. Several persons wrote quite defensively to explain why their churches have not received any new members by profession of faith. Others wrote to report how they are making efforts this year to reach new people for Christ. Some wrote to question the whole idea of “numbers” because they don’t see numbers as a good way to measure the movement of the Spirit. Others wrote to say it is high time we held one another accountable to those kinds of numbers. Lots of replies, and lots of careful responses. Thanks for all of your responses.

My own response would be to say that when I go to my physician for my annual check-up, I receive lots of reports and numbers. He measures my blood pressure, my weight, my height (he says I need to be 2 inches taller for my weight), my cholesterol levels, etc. Lots of numbers. No one of those numbers is the whole story of my health, but my doctor uses those numbers to diagnose and prescribe remedies to improve my health.

In the same way, no single number can measure the value, worth, or spiritual health of a congregation or our Indiana Conference. Perhaps many numbers and many measurements together can help us to evaluate, diagnose, and prescribe. I believe that the church – in its congregational form, in its conference structures, and in its denominational formations – is a body, a part of the Body of Christ. Just like my own physical body needs to be healthy, so the church in its many forms needs to be healthy. That is what those numbers attempt to measure.

Since some of our year-end numbers for 2011 were not as good as I would like them to be, perhaps I should also share some “good numbers” which tell a great deal about the health of our Indiana Conference. Here are a few:

  1. In response to the terrible tornado damages and lives lost in southern Indiana this spring, United Methodists in Indiana have already given over $338,000 through the Indiana Conference to help with disaster response! That is a very generous response, and I know it does not begin to measure all of the direct responses of our churches and members. That number tells me our Indiana Conference has a healthy sense of compassion.
  2. Bonnie Albert, our Volunteer in Mission Coordinator for the Indiana Conference, reports that once again our Indiana Conference has had a huge number of persons participate in VIM trips to help others – literally all over the world. Our Indiana Conference not only leads the North Central Jurisdiction (which includes 10 other Conferences), but our Indiana Conference VIM numbers are larger than the total numbers of all the other conferences combined! That number tells me that our Indiana Conference has a healthy sense of hands-on mission participation in helping others.
  3. Nick Yarde, our director of camping and outdoor ministries for the Indiana Conference, reports that this past camping season included 3,293 students attending, which was an increase, and it fact it was the fourth consecutive increase in Sr. High attendance. Nick reports “We already have more Sr. High registered for this coming summer than we had last summer!”
  4. Even more significantly, Nick reports that last summer 511 students made a first-time commitment to Christ in our camping ministries, and another 146 students responded to a cal to ministry. Those numbers were made possible because over 1,200 adults from local churches volunteered as counselors in our summer programs, and over 9,400 people participated in a retreat in one of our seven camping facilities throughout the state of Indiana.

We have lots of other “good numbers” to report – and to celebrate how God is at work through the Indiana Conference of The United Methodist Church. Makes me proud to be a United Methodist, doesn’t it make you proud?