In the last two CT Blog entries, we have talked about why tracking salty service is so important and about the God-flavor that salty servants give off in the world. But how can a congregation actually measure their effectiveness at encouraging disciples to become salty servants?
We are asking every congregation to count the number of persons weekly in worship who say that they have joined Jesus in Salty Service to persons outside their congregation for at least one hour the previous week. From that we will be able to calculate the percentage of a congregation’s worship attendance involved in the missional practice of Salty Service. Our hope, of course, is for this percentage to grow over time. Again, we are not aiming at a perfect accounting, but neither do we want “ministerial guess-timates!” Rather the hope is that by drawing attention to the importance of each disciple being involved in regular salty service, congregations will have an increasing trend in this area of their ministry, because people will see it as a ministry priority.
Unlike measurements for the other four practices, worshipers will be asked weekly to self-select whether they have met the criteria of “Salty Service.” Their self-selection will not be as verifiable as the other practice measurements. But again, the goal is to focus on and encourage Salty Service, not gain absolutely accurate numbers.
Many persons who self-select that they have been a Salty Servant this week were involved in church-sponsored ministries. They may, for example, be part of a mission trip, be part of the congregation’s monthly volunteers in a soup kitchen or teach English as a second language classes offered at the church. Persons may also be involved in ministries that are not church sponsored. A person may choose on their own, for example, to tutor at a local school, to repair a toilet for an elderly neighbor, to work with the community Red Cross, to take part in a community taskforce planning an Earth Day event, to spend time intentionally cultivating a relationship with an unchurched person or to take part in a beach cleanup day.
The gathering of this measurement will have to go hand-in-hand with communicating to worshipers what is meant by “Salty Service.” This will require the pastor and/or liturgist regularly shaping people’s understanding about what is meant by “mercy,” “justice,” “earth-care” and “relationship building” ministries. Perhaps a sermon series on Salty Service could be preached. Local examples of salty service opportunities will need to be regularly announced. Opportunities for people to share how they are being a Salty Servant will create Salty Servant role-models in the congregation. The intent is that over time, being a Salty Servant will become as fundamental to being a normal Christian as attending worship, being involved in an intentional discipling group, being an agent of Christ’s love to others, and tithing.
By the way, if you have a creative idea about communicating the expectation that all disciples are called to be Salty Servants, please email me. And if you have a sermon about Salty Service that you are willing to share, send it to me. We will post these resources on our websites to inspire others.
So how can these people actually be counted each week? In smaller congregations, it may make sense simply to have people lift their hands and count them. Some congregations have a tradition of registering attendance on an attendance pad in the pews. If this is actually working in your congregation (and it’s not in many!), you might ask people to mark the pad in a particular fashion if they would like to indicate that they have been a Salty Servant that week. Some congregations have sheets in their bulletin or worship folder that everyone is asked to fill out and turn in; if so, a place on these could be created for persons to check. One issue that may need to be thought through for either attendance pad or bulletin sheets is the fact that often people fill them out as a family; if they are being filled out for a family, some way of indicating how many in the family were Salty Servants that week would have to be devised.
One suggestion has been to have a Salty Servant ticket in the pews and have people put them in the offering plates as a way of self-selecting. These could then be counted and placed back in the pews for next week. If your congregation would like to try this idea, you can download a Salty Servant ticket from either the MVS website or the Congregational Transformation website. (Of course, you can always create your own ticket, too.)
Once you start taking count, you might consider once a month letting people know the number of persons in your congregation and the percent of your worshipers who are involved in Salty Service. As these numbers go up, be sure to celebrate this and let some of the people tell what they have been doing.
Since this is new for us all, leaders are encouraged to experiment and see what works best for your congregation. Perhaps you will come up with a new idea that you can share with me; I’ll be glad to pass it on to other congregations. Over the next year, as congregations around the Conference seek to track and encourage Salty Service, we will be learning a variety of ideas that seems to work best over the long haul.
Dr. Jeff Stiggins
Office of Congregational Transformation