Sunday, August 22, 2010

Before you quote statistics...

In a short piece on the Associated Baptist Press site, Roger Lovette (he's the chirpy looking chap on the right) talks about a group of 13 pastors of various ages who've all been dismissed from their churches.   In the middle of his article he writes: 

The best statistics tell us that 1,600 ministers are dismissed or forced to resign every month in America. Leadership magazine reported more than a decade ago that nearly 23 percent of all ministers will be forced out before their careers end -- and that 67 percent of those affected will face forced termination more than once. Various indicators suggest these percentages have continued to climb. The Barna Institute says that in the United States a pastor is forced out every six minutes.

I've posted on here before about the 'best statistic' above, except that when I last read it, it was 1,500 pastors burning out every month.  I guess someone has now concluded that since that stat is supposed to be a few years old, another 100 pastors needed to be added into the mix.  

In a month of 30 days there are 43,200 minutes.   Now if a pastor is forced out every six minutes, as Barna's figure is supposed to claim, in a month that's a total of 7,200 ministers leaving their churches.  Does something strike you as a little odd here?   Barna's figures are four and a half times more than the 'best statistics.'    

I keep reading about these 1500 or 1600 pastors doing something every month, and the more I read it the more irritated I get.   Use statistics by all means - I do it in my job all the time - but for goodness sake check your facts.   As Bradley Wright points out in his book, too many statistics are badly read, poorly reported, and go on to perform a statistogynistic (think misogynistic) role in life.  Let's start nipping the worst of them in the bud.  

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