All across our country, school districts are in an uproar over metrics. In Albuquerque, New Mexico, they are short 200 teachers for this week’s first day of school. Why? Because the state has adopted a Metrics system which evaluates teachers on the performance of their students in standardized tests. Perhaps, the United Methodist Church should observe this mess before we wade deeper into using metrics (statistics, such as the change in church attendance) to evaluate pastoral performance.
I don’t have a problem with accountability. I have a problem with lazy metrics. In an ideal world, supervisory personnel would frequently visit each classroom and observe teachers first hand. Testing would only be done as an aide to the student, as they seek master the material. Teamwork would be encouraged, not replaced by metrics driven competition. Recognizing the flaws of lazy metrics, some professions are investing in evaluative systems based on peer review. Current advances in sociology and organizational theory are pointing the way towards accountability processes which develop the passions that are latent in all good teachers and preachers.
The United Methodist Church desperately needs to recover its call to spread scriptural holiness across the land. Keeping the main thing, the main thing (that is, the love of Christ), is likely to become more difficult if we continue down the metric road. Pastors will fight to be placed in situations where numerical growth is easy. They will, like some teachers, give up on the Gospel and learn to teach to the test.
The driving passion of the Wesleyan movement in post-colonial America, was reaching marginalized people and providing them with Christian fellowship, the sacraments, and social healing. The question wasn’t, how do we get more members, but how do we address the particular needs of the people in this particular community. Wesley’s metrics weren’t helped by his tendency to stand by the coal mines as the shifts were changing and preach to the miners filing by.
To be fair, the current public education system in New Mexico is broken. The legislators and governor needed to do something. I wish, they could have had the resources and courage not to do the lazy thing. The cycle of poverty in New Mexico, and in other states, needs to be addressed using the best methods available. Community development and parental participation need to be addressed.
The thing is, we are in a better place to do the right thing in the United Methodist Church. Transitional process needs to be taught. Pastoral accountability needs to be based on teamwork and involvement in the community. Peer review needs to replace metrics. Supervisors need to supervise proactively with compassion, not simply wave sticks and carrots. Most of all, the task of sharing the Gospel needs to be made central.