Image: Intellectual Reserve

First and foremost, this article is probably for a select few, but as I feel it is my duty to make even the most esoteric of areas accessible to all, I will do my utmost to provide intrigue!

If you have served as a ward clerk or in any sort of leadership capacity, you are familiar with the nonsense that is the fabled “reporting month.” For the uninitiated, in a reporting month, the various leaders of organizations submit a certain set of metrics to the ward clerk, which then go up to the stake, to Salt Lake, etc. These numbers aren’t trivial, either, as they are used to assess how units should be organized at a stake and ward level, and even play a role in a ward’s funding.

However, the reporting mechanism is absurd and is a relic of another time that has ignored the real-time reporting tools available to us in 2019. I grew to shake my head at it over the years I spent as an elders quorum president, which was the first time I experienced it. You see, while numbers are submitted quarterly, the submitted numbers are not quarterly in nature. If, for example, I were to submit home teaching numbers, it was only the numbers for that month, not the quarter. Considering one such reporting month was December, you can imagine my dismay as our home teaching and attendance numbers always dropped that month due to the holidays. It didn’t matter if October and November were excellent months from a numbers standpoint; the infernal quarterly report only cared about the current month. This was a terrible and inaccurate reflection of the status of my quorum’s attendance and outreach efforts.

This same mechanism has applied to sacrament meeting attendance numbers, which directly affect a ward’s budget. Thankfully, a few steps are being taken to remedy that, even if the quarterly report continues to exist. In a November 1 letter, the Presiding Bishopric of the Church laid out a new system in which sacrament meeting numbers will be tallied and reported weekly.

Beginning in January 2020, ward and branch clerks will count sacrament attendance each week and record it electronically using Church record-keeping tools (known as LCR – Leadership and Clerk Resources).

The clerks count all individuals in attendance – members, non-members, visitors. This isn’t a measure of membership attendance, but of attendance, period.

The quarterly report will continue, however, it will now be an average of sacrament meeting attendance and will be automatically calculated based on the records kept each week. The letter stresses that the “average will no longer be based on attendance during the last month of the quarter only, but will include all weeks within the quarter. Attendance updates may only be made to the current quarter and the previous quarter.”

Yippee! It’s a sensible and ostensibly minor update, but it’s about time we started measuring numbers in ways that adequately reflect attendance on an ongoing basis. As a bishop, wouldn’t you rather see a full readout of weekly attendance throughout the year and look for certain trends? Or what about overlaying your speaker topics onto the report to see if attendance spiked the week following a particular great set of speakers the week prior?

I’m first in line to criticize an over-reliance on numbers in the Church, and we’ve moved away from a lot of that. Nevertheless, metrics and analytics have real power, and ward and stake leaders would be wise to embrace them. The Lord has blessed us with tools to help us serve better and focus on the one, and sometimes those tools are as straightforward as improved sacrament meeting reporting.

Naturally, it is my prayer that the quarterly report be done away with altogether or becomes, at the very least, an average of the relevant data being reported. Of course, all of this is dependent on clerks and organizational secretaries being diligent with filing their reports.

Speaking of which, when was the last time anyone took attendance in your second-hour meetings? This is purely anecdotal, but I haven’t noticed it since before the shift to two-hour meetings. Is my ward failing or is this endemic to the Church?