St Jude’s used to be a big church. Several hundred adults used to meet every week and several hundred children came to Sunday School in the afternoons. More recently it had fallen on hard times (somewhat of its own making) and as people had aged without new people being introduced the congregation was, to put it inelegantly, dying off.
There was no doubt about it, St Jude’s was still a busy church. There was lots to do, and although only around 70 people came regularly to the morning service there were probably around 90 people who met across the parish for various activities throughout the week. This included children.
The problem at St Jude’s was that like a frog in a saucepan of water on the ring of a gas stove, it hadn’t noticed that it’s days were numbered. The only area that hadn’t declined was their organisational structure. They still had all the structures in place to run a church of at least four times the size, and each post was filled, praise God, which meant that each person involved was very busy, very tense, very combative or very put upon depending on their personality, and very tired. They had some sense that things were not right at St Jude’s (who was of course the Patron Saint of Lost Causes) but they did what had to be done to keep the show on the road.
When each person’s contribution was added up it came to 525 person-hours of administration, management and preparation each week (the time it takes to make 21 cars). This time was spent to support 300 person-hours of shared public worship and activity by 90 adults and children. This incredibly inefficient ratio of time invested in management to time expended in worship (525/300=1.75) represents the church on a knife edge. It means that on average every person (including every child) is investing an average 1 hour 45 minutes for every 1 hour of public worship experienced.
Once the time spent/time gained ratio goes above 1.00 the alarm bells should ring.