A few weeks ago, my high school ministry hosted a Parent's Night Out at our church in order to raise money for our summer trip to my denomination's youth gathering. Over the course of 3.5 hours, 17 high school students and four adults watched nine kids between the ages of five and 11. We played games, made crafts, read stories, and decorated cookies. At the end of the night, my students totaled our proceeds, exhausted. We raised $190, which means that each teen and adult who attended that night earned approximately $3 an hour.
If you measure the success of the night based on how much we earned, this event was far from successful. In fact, it probably would have been a whole lot easier to just ask each trip participant to pay an additional $10.50 and forget this event all together. But sometimes, numbers don't tell the whole story.
In this case, $3 an hour or even $190 for the night don't tell the story of a high school freshmen and a five year old who spent the entire night together, having bonded over the fact that they share the same name. Nor do these numbers tell the stories that our pictures from the night capture: Of smiles on the faces of both the big and little kids alike; Of secrets shared and connections made between two groups of people who rarely get the opportunity to interact in any meaningful way. Nor do these numbers tell the story of grateful parents, thankful for a night off during a busy holiday season or of how our church's high school teens willingly served them.
Too often, we in the church allow numbers to tell our story – even if they're not telling the whole story, or even the right story. Yet, it's often the story behind the numbers that actually speaks to who we are as a community of faith; As a place of belonging where connections are fostered and valued between people of any age simply because God designed us to be in relationships with each other.
Sometimes the value of doing things – even fundraisers – can't be measured in numbers. Sometimes, $3 an hour just doesn't reflect how truly priceless a night's value really is.