A closer look at the UMC Call to Action Part 4

(This is the fourth part in a series taking a closer look at the United Methodist Church’s (UMC) Call to Action Steering Team Report.

The first part is here.)

In this post, I take a step back and look at the Report’s bigger picture.

“Increase the number of vital congregations”

The Report repeatedly emphasizes a quantifiable goal: to “increase the number of vital congregations.”  We see this goal stated on pages 14, 23, 26, and 29.  The last sentence on page 23 indicates the urgency:

Anticipated resources and the urgency to increase the number of vital congregations require a near-term reduction in scope and scale of general Church work to regain momentum.

The current webpage (screenshot) containing parts of the Report has this introductory sentence (emphasis in original):

Extensive research analyzed the factors that made our churches vital and vibrant. The biggest concern? There are so few vital churches.

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A closer look at the UMC Call to Action Part 3

(This is the third part in a series taking a closer look at the United Methodist Church’s (UMC) Call to Action Steering Team Report.

The first part is here.)

In this post, I examine the bias of the Report’s vitality index. Specifically, I’m looking at how often the vitality index finds congregations vital. (This assignment of vitality takes place prior to the analysis that discovers the “drivers of vitality.”)  The Report’s stated goal is to increase the number of vital congregations.  If we’re trying to increase the number of vital congregations, it’s only fair that we make sure everyone is starting in the same place.  If a clearly identifiable group is in fact starting out behind other groups, fairness requires us to deal with this imbalance before we start any great initiatives.

What does the Report say about how often different kinds of churches are called vital?

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A closer look at the UMC Call to Action Part 2

This is the second part in a series taking a closer look at the United Methodist Church’s (UMC) Call to Action Steering Team Report.

The first part is here.

Correlation by itself does not imply causation

(Wikipedia’s article on this subject.)

For correlation, I’m going to use a description from John Allen Paulos:

There are various kinds and various measures of statistical correlation, but all of them indicate that two or more quantities are related in some way and in some degree, not necessarily that one causes the other (Beyond Numeracy: John Allen Paulos; “Correlation, Intervals, and Testing”).

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A closer look at the UMC Call to Action Part 1

UPDATE (2012-01-04): this entire series available as PDF here.

Abstract

The United Methodist Church’s Call to Action Steering Team Report (the “Report”) is an attempt to increase congregational vitality throughout the denomination.  The Report claims to be “predicated upon sound and accurate understandings.”  In this series of blog posts, I argue that it displays basic problems in statistical analysis and interpretation.  These problems culminate with the Report’s “vitality index” calculating that a predominantly white congregation is eight times more likely to be vital than a predominantly Hispanic congregation.

I conclude with some more general observations. Continue reading