renewing the church united methodist church

Pollyanna Principles for The UMC

Several months ago, I read the post The Pollyanna Principles for Social Change, which lead me to The Pollyanna Principles. From the website:

The Pollyanna Principles

The Ends:

1. We accomplish what we hold ourselves accountable for.
2. Each and every one of us is creating the future, every day, whether we do so consciously or not.

The Means:

3. Everyone and everything is interconnected and interdependent, whether we acknowledge that or not.
4. “Being the change we want to see” means walking the talk of our values.
5. Strength builds upon our strengths, not our weaknesses.
6. Individuals will go where systems lead them.

While these principles were not primarily designed for religious organizations, I believe that there are clear correlations to the United Methodist Church. My response to each of the above principles in light of The United Methodist Church:

  1. Whether it is worship attendance, budget, baptisms, confirmation, small groups or some other metric, whatever one measures in the local church becomes that around which efforts focus for continued development. Ultimately we should be holding ourselves accountable to the mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
  2. Each person that is part of any United Methodist congregation has influence in the future of the denomination. While the official decisions from General Conference prove influential on a macro scale, the experience and sharing of any local community shapes the understanding of the entire denomination for that area. For example, a church that is thriving and individuals are sharing good news with their neighbors will create a future for the denomination in that area that is positive. In the aggregate, the denomination is shaped.
  3. Related to point 2, the joys and concerns are shared. As in the body of Christ, “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it” (1 Corinthians 12:26).
  4. If one hopes to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world, one must live as a disciple of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
  5. This is true for the UMC as for nearly any organization.
  6. There is an interesting connection between individuals and systems. In connection with point 2, individuals can influence a system, however ultimately it is most likely that someone will guide others in the way that they have been guided.

What are your thoughts, feelings or opinions about all this?

7 replies on “Pollyanna Principles for The UMC”

My only concern is how do you measure the metric of “making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” Is that simply members? If it isn’t, then how do we measure that? I think members is a good enough proxy, but I know there are others who disagree for a variety of reasons. However, I haven’t heard of an alternative measure. If a church is growing in members (witness), mission including apportionment payments (outreach) and individuals in leadership (nurture), then I would think that is a healthy church that can be measured. Other measures are more subjective. I’m willing to accept those during a Para 212 viability discussion but those shouldn’t substitute for objective criteria.

Creed – You raise an excellent point here. One that I don’t have an answer to. How do you measure disciples? It does seem to be much more subjective as evidenced by the fruit of the spirit as lived out in the lives of people.

Yes, this is the challenge. If we cannot meaningfully describe what “success” looks like then making progress toward that goal is not going to be easy, to say the least.

I’ll note the John Wesley often saw reducing members as a step forward for his societies.

I am reminded of what Ken Blanchard said so long ago…”you get what you measure.” While we can argue and debate what “transforming the world” looks like, I think we as the Untied Methodist church need to determine what the indicators are and then hold both pastors AND congregations accountable for them.

In the West Ohio Conference, we have something called the “Acts 2” criteria that focus on 6 elements of growth the early church experienced and what we should use an indicators of a healthy church…

They are:
– Professions of Faith
– Baptisms
– Growth in Worship Attendance
– Growth in Membership
– Faith Forming Groups
– 100% Apportionments Paid

They are looking for an improvement versus the previous year and still a bit “fluffy” in my opinion, but aren’t bad as a way to measure the “internal health” of a congregation.

I would argue that it would be helpful to index these measures vs. external factors (like increasing/decreasing population, per captia income and such) to level the playing field between rural, suburban and urban, but they are not bad.

On the other hand, I also think we need to add “transformation”-type metrics. For our specific church, Elberon UMC (an urban church in Cincinnati)…# of meals provided to the community is very important in our attempt to end hunger within “5 blocks of the church.”

John also makes a good point that sometimes reducing “membership” is a healthy step and it needs to be considered that some congregations and even churches need pruned for the broader church to grow.

My question is this…it is one thing to measure. It is another thing to hold people accountable. What would you recommend to make accountability work as a pastor?

Eric – At first I was not understanding the 100% apportionments paid as a characteristic of the early church, however I remembered that there was indeed a collection taken for the church in Jerusalem. That could definitely be a form of apportionments. I like these criteria. You are right to suggest that a connection with the surrounding demographic is important. I like the example from Elberon UMC with a metric tied to a particular goal.

I appreciate your question. Although the metrics above are good for the congregation 50% of them only happen once for an individual (profession of faith, baptism and membership) You can’t really hold anyone accountable for something that happens only once in their life. I want to be able to hold people accountable for those things which they are actually looking forward to in their life. I don’t want to hold people accountable to things that they “should” be doing, if they don’t see the merit in their own life. Some of these are going to be subjective – I felt God’s presence in a real way this week; I know God to be a forgiving God. But the idea of metrics is that they can be measured. Hmm…

Any other thoughts, feelings or opinion?

I think the challenge in any sort of metrics is using them for what they are meant to be…they are outward indicators of inward health. Think about them as vital signs for the church. How can we assess if people are spiritually progressing in their faith?

So…baptism, profession of faith, membership are one sign of growth. Now, how can we see if they progress beyond the initial step…small group participation, serving on some sort of service work, giving, and other can be other indicators on an individual level and then be laddered up to give an indicator of broader church health.

Another church in Ohio, Epiphany UMC, has five commitments of their members: 1) be in worship weekly unless they are sick or out of town; 2) participate in two discipleship classes/events per year; 3) participate in two organized acts of service; 4) invite at least one non-churched family per year and 5) continue to grow toward the tithe.

It has helped provide another indicator of health. Are they perfect, nope. Does it help everyone embrace the reality of their own church health…yep.

So…let’s stretch this idea one step further. If we could get to an aligned set of inward and outward “vital signs,” should they be collected on a conference-wide basis, publicize as part of the conference reports and used to assess both pastoral and congregational performance. Taken one step further…how is this used to improve the appointment and funding processes?


Resurrection has similar expectations for members, without the invitation for unchruced family – that is a good addition. These are quality indicators. I like what you suggest about getting the congregation on board with improving the health of the overall church. This would be a great outcome and if the outcomes were clear than it could be more easily bought in to by average congregants. I like the idea of conference reporting. How do you determine between the pastoral and congregational performance?

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