Terry's post about a recommendation that churches measure their divorce rates over time to measure how well the church is doing spiritually. Now, to start, I would agree fully that how marriages are doing is an excellent measure of a church's vitality and spirituality; if a believer does not understand that his marriage reflects on Christ's relationship to the church, something is very wrong.
That said, I've got two big reservations about using statistical methods in the church. The general problem is that those who use them a lot in a corporate setting know very well that they tend to be applied in an impersonal, "hands off" way. Management loves these in great part because it allows them to "do something" without really interacting with the people involved. Disaster often ensues because the statisticians and managers don't realize that what they've found only correlates to the real problem--but is not the real issue. To get at the real issue, they've got to get themselves on the shop floor, or (perhaps better) out to the smoke shack. (I don't smoke, but I do a lot of good quality engineering with the lovers of cancer sticks)
Now consider that the goal of the church is to enter into close--really intimate in a way--relationships and make disciples of all nations. The "hands off" approach is generally a problem in a corporate setting; it can be a disaster in a church. It often distracts the deacons and elders/pastors from what they really need to be doing; again, making disciples.
Regarding the proposal specifically, it falls into the problem of measuring outputs instead of inputs; a divorce is not a cause, but is rather the result of years of poor decisions by one or both spouses. The husband decides he doesn't need to be discipled, or to disciple his family. The wife looks elsewhere for spiritual leadership. Without discipleship, that wonderful part of marriage gets neglected. One or the other looks elsewhere, and then things go rapidly downhill from there. Church members who have said "hi" to them for years, or decades, are shocked.
While at the church, this couple has had three different pastors, ten different boards of deacons, and has interacted with a number of people that is four times the current membership. Statistically speaking, how do your sort it out? There are simply too many variables.
You sort it out, of course, by remembering what our Lord tells us to do in Matthew 28; make disciples. If one desires statistics to be used by church leadership to evaluate how the church is doing, ask the pastor how many members he's gotten to know well. How often is he a guest at their homes, and vice versa? Ask the deacons the same thing, and then.....
....ask the members. Put simply, if you want a statistic that you can use to improve your church (and reduce the divorce rate), count the number of members who are actively discipling their families and each other, and have the pastor and deacons guide that effort.
Sometimes, it really is as simple as.....the Gospel.
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